A Series of Lovely Paintings
“I felt strange and somewhat rude as I walked in behind the point and honor – I was a man walking into what was so much like a famous painting that I almost had to laugh. But, if you’re lucky, that’s what a lot of quail hunting is – a series of lovely paintings that we walk into and out of all day long.”
Gene Hill, from My Respects to Mr. Bob
I believe that is my all-time favorite literary quote about quail hunting. I lifted it from Hill’s contribution to “The Bobwhite Quail Book” by Lamar Underwood. The edition I own was published in 1981 by the Amwell Press to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Grand National Quail Hunt in Enid, Oklahoma. It’s a mint, limited-edition, slipcased copy that I found while perusing a thrift store. I paid a dollar for it. Sometimes even I get lucky.
This particular copy is number 61 of 500 and signed by Underwood, who was the longtime editor of Sports Afield and a die-hard bird hunter. And “The Bobwhite Quail Book”, first published in 1980, is one of the best collections of quail hunting sporting literature ever put together. I think it’s still in print today, but early editions are fairly rare.
And it’s also something of an artifact in that it represents something that is – for the most part – long gone, at least outside the rather cloistered world of bird hunters. I’m not even sure you could publish a new book like this today. In today’s slick, frenetic, lifestyle-branded world, words - thoughtful words - about hunting sometimes seem a little archaic, a little too 20th-Century parochial. Of course, those very qualities are what draw many of us to quail hunting and dogs in the first place. It doesn’t always have to be “extreme,” right?
So those of us enchanted with such things must seek our literary solace in musty old pages and in what stories we can find among our online kindred. I sometimes find it difficult to convey to even my deer hunting-but-non-bird-hunting friends what it is I find so appealing, so haunting about hunting quail behind dogs.
So I must rely on quotes like Hill’s to paint the picture when my stammering words seem so inadequate, because it so perfectly encapsulates what it is we seek in this obsession with gundogs: those moments of utter perfection and ethereal beauty that flash-burn themselves into our consciousness and leave softly ghosting images that stay with us long after the moment – and the dogs themselves – are gone.
Do you have a favorite quail-hunting quote?
Chad Love writes for Quail Forever (Pheasants Forever’s quail conservation division) from Woodward, Oklahoma. He is a lifelong quail hunter and “bird dog guy” who also writes for Field & Stream, including the magazine’s “Man’s Best Friend” gundog blog.
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