Posts Tagged ‘bobwhite quail’
Monday, November 5th, 2012
Having had very successful swings in southwest Nebraska the previous couple years, starting off Rooster Road Trip 2012 in the McCook area gave reason for optimism. The two big takeaways? We underestimated the impact of the historic drought on pheasant populations, and thank goodness for bobwhite quail.
There are still pheasants around – we moved at least one bird at every field – but work for our lone rooster we did. The dry weather has left quality cover scarce (and many fields were hayed or grazed under emergency guidelines from the U.S. Department of Ag to help producers) and good scenting conditions for dogs are even scarcer. Throw in the fact that birds are scattered in this second week of the season, there hasn’t been a significant weather game changer, and you’ve got a recipe for a good, old fashioned hard hunt. But when you’re a predominant public lands pheasant hunter, you get used to battling something: the crowds, a foot of snow, insert next factor here. Considering the emphasis Pheasants Forever and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission place on improving habitat in this region, southwest Nebraska is poised for a ringneck rebound once the drought breaks.
While pheasant numbers aren’t what they’ve been the previous couple years, quail in this part of the state appear to have weathered the drought in highly reproductive fashion. The local hunters we talked to corroborated our eye witness reports (and seven public lands bobs in the bag); saying covey numbers seem to be up. Jerrod Burke, the District V Commissioner with Nebraska Game and Parks, and his 14-year-old son, Logan, joined the Rooster Road Trip to highlight Nebraska’s public land hunting opportunities, and the elder Burke says the opportunity for “mixed bags” – including bobwhites and prairie chickens – is one reason this area of Nebraska should remain on the traveling pheasant hunter’s list of places to cut the dogs loose. Burke’s polished Gordon setters, 5-year-old “Abbie” and 9-year-old “Willie,” helped prove his point, holding rock steady on multiple coveys found along brushy crick beds with nearby food sources. These were all public land coveys, and we left plenty of seed for next year.
If you don’t like competing for public hunting spots, southwest Nebraska may be for you – in three consecutive years of hunting in this region, we’ve ran into three other groups of upland hunters. That’s right, three. And this year, we crashed at the brand new, fully furnished cabins the Medicine Creek State Recreation Area, an outright steal at 80 bucks per night, and a great place to grab some quick shuteye before a long drive to Iowa and the second stop for Rooster Road Trip 2012.
Monday, November 5th, 2012
The opportunity to hunt quail in Nebraska and Kansas has been one of my favorite aspects of the Rooster Road Trip over the last three years. As I’ve blogged about many times, I grew up hunting ruffed grouse in the “Northwoods,” and when I encounter a covey of bobwhites I can’t help but draw similarities to ruffs. Both birds only give you a split second opportunity and their flush is often heard before viewed.
There are definitely unique aspects of bobwhites too. A bobwhite’s covey rise is a whirl of motion challenging the wingshooter to select a single bird without falling into “flock shooting,” in which you simply look at the entire flock without properly aiming at an individual bird. “Flock shooting” will almost always result in a miss.
However, it’s the sound of a bobwhite’s covey flush I enjoy most about the bird. Unlike the chainsaw-like explosion of a ruffed grouse or the cackling bad-ass attitude of a ring-neck, a bobwhite covey sounds like twenty throwing stars whirring threw the air if an army of ninja warriors had just entered the scene to fight Chuck Norris. (Obviously, Chuck Norris could triple on bobs with one shot).
So with each visit to “quail country,” my affinity for bobwhites grows more intense. As today’s Nebraska hunt produced more coveys than ring-necks, my mind started to wonder about the public land quail hunting version of the Rooster Road Trip. I can pretty easily come up with Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas as four states on a hypothetical Quail Forever “Quail Quest,” but the fifth state is a bit debatable. Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas, Arizona, Mississippi and Alabama are all conceivably doable based upon geography, but I have not personally experienced a quail hunt in any of these states.
What do you think the fifth state on a “Quail Quest” would be for the best public lands quail hunt?
Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
Results are in from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s 2012 April Rural Mail Carrier Survey, with the statewide pheasant index slightly higher (up 2 percent) compared to 2011, and the bobwhite quail index up 175 percent compared to last year.
Indices were also higher in most pheasant regions, except for the Sandhills (down 41 percent) and the Southwest (down 8 percent). Bobwhite indices continued to improve following the devastating winter of 2009. The statewide bobwhite index was 175 percent higher in 2012 compared to 2011, and regional indices were higher everywhere except for the northeast region.
Jeff Lusk, Program Manager for Upland Game with Nebraska Game and Parks, cautions that percent differences comparatively can be misleading when relative abundance is low – regionally and statewide – as that leads to large percentage changes. Still, good news is good news for upland birds and upland hunters in Nebraska.
Thursday, November 10th, 2011
There’s little doubt South Dakota rules the roost when it comes to pheasants. But if you throw all the upland game birds in the mix, what state offers the single best opportunity for the upland bird hunter?
Top Contenders for the title of “The Upland Hunter’s Mixed Bag Capital”
- California. The top producer of valley quail is also complimented by roosters in the Sacramento Valley.
- Colorado. The best pheasant state secret also features quail and chukars.
- Idaho. A climb up Hell’s Canyon can produce pheasants, quail, ruffed grouse and chukars.
- Iowa. The longtime pheasant powerhouse also features quail in the south, a few pockets of ruffed grouse, and a smattering of Huns.
- Kansas. The #2 pheasant producing state is also the #2 bobwhite quail producing state. There are also respectable numbers of greater prairie chickens to chase and it’s the only state in the country with an open season on lesser prairie chickens.
- Michigan. A top tier ruffed grouse state also boasts the top woodcock harvest in the country and ringneck opportunities in the southern farm country and “thumb” region of the Lower Peninsula.
- Minnesota. The top-harvesting state for ruffed grouse adds a top five pheasant harvest, a smattering of sharpies, greater prairie chickens and Huns.
- Montana. Big Sky boasts pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, sage grouse and the best Hungarian partridge numbers south of Canada.
- Nebraska. Cornhusker country produces top tier pheasant and bobwhite numbers, along with significant sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie chicken populations.
- North Dakota. Another top tier pheasant state accompanied by Huns, sharpies, a few greater prairie chickens, and even a few ruffed grouse.
- South Dakota. The king of the ringneck also offers greater prairie chickens, sharpies, Huns and even a small population of huntable bobwhites.
- Texas. Lots of space for ringnecks, some chickens and four species of quail to hide.
- Wisconsin. Like Michigan, cheese country is a top tier ruffed grouse and woodcock producer in the northwoods and delivers respectable pheasant numbers in farm country.
Okay, so the question IS NOT “what state is your favorite to hunt?” or even “which state are you from?” The question is this: What state offers the best mixed bag for the upland hunter?
Thursday, July 14th, 2011
“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.
Saturday, November 13th, 2010
While the Rooster Road Trip had fun mingling with fellow pheasant hunters at the Longspur Pheasants Forever chapter banquet last night, we wanted nothing to do with them today. Nothing personal, just trying to avoid the crowds and find a few nice, quiet places on this Kansas pheasant and quail hunting opener.
And crowds there were around the Norton Wildlife Area just west of town – more in a few square miles than we’d seen all week in four previous states. To escape, we pulled out the Kansas Hunting Atlas and zeroed in a cluster of yellow Walk in hunting areas to the north and west. Our primary goal was to escape the hoopla, with the secondary goal of flushing a covey or two of bobwhite quail. I really like how, unlike other states, Kansas lists an index of what species you’re most likely to find on specific pieces of property. Quail were a possibility where we were going.
The first area looked okay, but we weren’t competing for spots and decided to be a little picky. Turned out to be a good call, because the second walk in area we came to had it all – quality cover, a bordering harvested corn field and a few brushy draws that could hold bobs. The dogs were hot right off the bat, and a rooster flushed wild. As we came over the hill on the backside of the piece, about 10 pheasants were out feeding in the field and busted us. One ringneck stayed tight in the grass, and Bob St.Pierre put the Rooster Road Trip on the board in Kansas. Bob also has the distinction of being the only one in our three man crew to bag a rooster in every state. Roosters in 5 states in 6 days? That’s select, if not exclusive, company.
Minutes later, we worked a draw on the edge of the tract. “Is that a quail?” Bob said as a loner buzzed through the brush and landed 15 yards in front of me. Before I could rush up to re-flush it, the covey busted on Bob’s side. Two dozen quail scattered every which way. These were the first quail Andrew had seen in the wild, and he was amazed. A few shots rang out, and I mixed the Rooster Road Trip’s bag for the first time.
As we drove around our next spot, we could hardly believe how hundreds of hunters were pounding an area just 15 miles away, and here sat multiple areas of prime hunting ground with no hunters. The landowner (remember, Walk in hunting areas in Kansas are privately owned, as landowners receive payment to open the land to hunting) had seen us at the banquet and stopped to say hi. As nice a guy as you’ll meet, he said he was happy to open the property for the public to enjoy. There were plenty of pheasants out there, he said, and come back in the spring for turkeys.
A week on the road, hunting and driving hard, has us feeling good about a successful public land tour, but looking forward to returning to our families. There is no place like home. Except maybe Kansas on the pheasant opener.
Monday, April 26th, 2010
A Pheasants Forever project I’m working on just required me to rate wingshooting opportunities in terms of difficulty using a 1-5 scale (one being “easier,” five being most “difficult”). For example, I rated sage grouse a “1,” and ruffed grouse a “5.”
The obvious flaw, of course, is that days in the field aren’t (thank goodness) as black, white and standardized as this system. Bird maturation, hunting pressure, weather, bird hardiness, flush style, flight speed, time of season, location, shooter expertise and much more play a part in this infinite debate. As in “What’s more difficult, shooting a ruffed grouse on a 60 degree bluebird September 20th day or bagging a rooster pheasant on a snowy, -20 degree wind chill December 20th?”
I rated chukars and ruffed grouse as 5s; bobwhite quail, prairie chicken, Huns and sharptails as 4s; and pheasants as a 3. There’s no winner in this argument, but I’m open to being challenged on my scores so let’s have a little fun with it. Here are my ratings, go ahead and blast me with yours!
Ruffed Grouse *****
Prairie Chicken ****
Sharp-tailed Grouse ****
Hungarian Partridge ****
Mountain Quail ****
Mearns Quail ****
Gambel’s Quail ***
Scaled Quail ***
Bobwhite Quail ***
Ring-necked Pheasant ***
Mourning Dove ***
California Quail ***
American Woodcock **
Blue Grouse *
Sage Grouse *
Spruce Grouse *