The Great Quail Hunt

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A ten-year-old boy sprang to his feet, the big day was here. As his toes touched the cold floor he could barely hold back his joy. This is the day that he had waited for most of his life. This was the day when he was going to get to quail hunt with the grownup members of his family.

Opening day of any hunting season in the South is special and this opening day of the Tennessee Quail season was going to be the very best ever.

He had spent many hours listening to his father and grandfather talk about gun safety, correct gun mounts, and great pointing dogs. These were all lessons of much importance but today, yes today, he would get to step into a different world; the world of the quail hunt.

Today he would get to carry his own shotgun and walk beside the great bird hunters in his family.

How many nights had he dreamed about this very day, about this very moment? There was no way to count. Today memories would be made. Stories of great shots made under huge covey rises of birds reaching for the sky’s, as their wings thundered, lifting them upwards and forward for nearby cover.

As he reached for his boots and hat, the boy slipped on his brand new hunting jacket—a smile crossed his lips as he imagined the weight of a limit of Bob Whites in his game pocket. As he closed his eyes, he could smell the fried quail along with gravy and biscuits being cooked by his mother and grandmother in the kitchen after the hunt.

Yes, sir, this was going to be a special day indeed. A brand new box of twenty gage seven and a half shot sit on his dresser. He reached and took the box slowly opening it with the care of a surgeon performing an operation. One by one he transferred each shotshell to the loops in his hunting jacket. Each one in its proper place, ready for the day's hunt.

He wondered if it would be enough. Surely with as much practice time that he had behind him shooting cans and such, he could collect a limit of Tennessee’s finest before sundown with just one box of shells.

He could hear the dogs barking out back in the kennels as his Dad and Grandad loaded everything up in the truck. They knew that today was their day too. A day that had long been awaited by hunter and four-legged companions as well.

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As he stepped out into the brisk October air, every sense seemed to come alive as the fall breeze knocked some more leaves off of the big Red Oak in the front yard.

“You ready to go Boy?” His dad exclaimed. “Better get in the truck before we leave you here with the ladies of the house.” The truck was warm inside and it lunged forward as his grandad let out on the clutch. A short drive down the farm road and the old truck came to a stop. Dad and grandad both moved like clockwork having been together for many hunts over the years.

Each man knew what the other would do as they let the dogs out of their boxes and grabbed their gear.

Sadie was a saddleback slick-haired pointer while Wimpy was a, sure enough, setter dog. Both had not gone far from the truck when ole Wimpy pointed on a covey. Sadie honored his point and backed him from a few feet away.

“Steady boy,” said grandad as he motioned for the lad to move forward. “Load a shell in son,” said Dad. The boy moved forward under the watchful eyes of both dogs, his dad, and granddad.

One step, then another, then another, gun to shoulder, Grandad right behind, one more step and all of a sudden the ground shook as it came alive with the covey rise of a lifetime. Birds were everywhere, the sky was filled with these fast little brown whirling tornados.

Then they were gone. No shot fired. No bird for the great dogs to retrieve. Tears filled the eyes of his father as he walked up to his son. As he knelt down beside the boy and placed his hand on his shoulder he said, “Son, on the day that Bob White Quail stop scaring the breaches off of you on a covey rise that’s the day to give up bird hunting. Now let’s go find you another covey. But first, let’s thank the Lord for this wonderful day.”

The quail never have stopped making me feel that way and I never will never stop hunting them, even if it’s only in my dreams.

God Bless and Good Hunting

Garry Mason