Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Running Quail

Tom wheeled around, shouldered his gun, and dropped the singleton hen just as she crossed over the thick native grass and into the fringe of the hayed field behind me.  It was a nice 30-yard shot... but I cracked the action on my gun and hustled to her landing spot, since the little bob didn't look like she would be DOA.

We were hunting singles from the fourth covey we had flushed that morning -- a hell of a tally in two hours on public WIHA in western Kansas.  I had Dottie, my senior pointer on the ground, and Tom was running his young shorthair Sadie.  Dottie has never been much of a dead hunter -- a fault that I might have corrected, but never did -- but she'll often point dead or wounded birds, which is good enough for me.

This bird was proving elusive.  After tossing my hat on the ground to mark the spot, we broadened our search.  At about that time, Dot went on point again, 15 or so yards from the last point we saw the bird.  Bingo.  Or not.  After repeated kicks and sweeps of the thick native grass, we failed to recover the little bobwhite hen.

This process repeated itself a half dozen times over the next fifteen minutes, more or less backtracking over our original trail.  We began assuming that this wasn't our wounded bird, but other singles that we had walked over.  But again, no flushes.  About that time, Tom said that he heard something rustling through the grass (being half-deaf, I had to take his word for it, but I had my doubts).

About one minute and 10 yards later, a wounded hen quail emerged from the thick grass, and Sadie quickly apprehended her.  I marked the spot and measured it from where she went down -- 105 yards away (as the crow flies).  The tracklog above shows my tracks (in yellow) and Dottie's tracks (in red), along with the downed and recovered locations.

That's pretty amazing to me.  Pheasants will run your ass to the next county if they're wounded.  And in the open country of West Texas, I've recovered bobs that were 40-50 yards from where they went down.  And a wounded scalie can be a ticket to a track meet.  But this was a bobwhite quail and this was thick, brushy grass along a creek in western Kansas.  And in virtually any country, it's my experience that quail are more likely to find the nearest thick clump of grass or hole and hunker down.

Either way, it's an amazing testament to that little bird's will to live.  So, question for the group: how uncommon is a 100-yard bobwhite quail find?  Any amazing tales?

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