From a dead run, one of the dogs slams to a stop. Its head whips 90 degrees right, dead into the moving air, and its tail stands stick straight. A second pointer sees its teammate and turns to stone.
The hunters walk in closely behind the dogs, fully expecting everything that’s about to happen but no more prepared this time than the previous or next.
And then all hell breaks loose, when half a dozen frantic–and tasty–quail erupt from the brush like so many Roman candle shots.
In roughly three seconds, experienced shooters get off clean shots and maybe knock down a bird or two. Everyone else either misses badly or doesn’t even get a finger to the trigger.
Once the dogs clean up any downed birds and everyone who needs to do so has reloaded, the dogs go back to work, and the hunters remind themselves to breathe again.
In some Texas households during the past century, those old-fashioned Jack-in-the-Box toys were more; they were quailflush simulators. No matter how many times you turned that handle and listened to that silly, tinny song, the flipping lid and springing jester always made you jump at least a little.
Quail make you flinch. Older hunters might tell you otherwise, but even those who’ve witnessed 1,000 flushes still mutter a little expletive–perhaps not even audible–when those tiny wings rocket from the cover.
On the bright side, Texas does have some regions this year in which quail are doing reasonably well. On the other side, it’s not that many regions, and most of those positive notes are preceded by “despite prolonged drought conditions.”
Working against hunters although not necessarily against the state’s bobwhites and blues, nearly all of Texas is private property. Unless you happen to hold the deed or lease rights where a local population happens to live where rainfall has been adequate and food is plentiful, you won’t have access to all those coveys.
Devoted quail hunters don’t let a few down years pull them from the game. Instead, they tend to see their little glass as half full and look at each slow season as a step closer to a good one.
This season will be another great one for all avid quail hunters, many of whom also will get lots of chances at lots of coveys.