Quail Hunting Tradition
confidence in his aim.
The next step was getting the guys into birds. I believed that if Jeremy and Shane experienced the thrill of following dogs on the trail of wild quail and, perhaps, shooting a few, they would be as hooked on quail hunting as I am.
As the Conservation Department’s quail biologist, I know plenty of good quail hunting places, many on conservation areas. I was fortunate, however, in that I was one of the winners in the Department’s annual lottery for special quail hunts on the Dan and Maureen Cover Prairie Conservation Area, which is near Koshkonong, south of West Plains.
The late Dan Cover created a 745-acre quail haven that he and his wife, Maureen, donated to the Conservation Department in 1999. Dan had encouraged the Department to create opportunities like the special quail hunts for the public to enjoy one of the best pieces of quail real estate in Missouri.
After my name was drawn, I was allowed to pick one day for hunting. I chose Jan. 2. That’s the day we were all in the field with the dogs on point.
As we waded slowly into the native grass, a single bird erupted. The dogs lunged forward, and the boys raised their shotguns. Jeremy, with lightning-fast reflexes, shot twice as the bird rocketed out of sight into the brush. Shane never got his gun fully mounted. He said the flushing bird took him totally by surprise. I guess it would have been nearly miraculous if he would have taken the first quail he’d ever flushed.
Although neither Shane nor Jeremy downed any birds, we had a great day in the field. We averaged a covey every 1.5 hours, plus a pointed turkey that gave us all a surprise. It was enough to implant the quail hunting bug in both of them.
Jeremy later told me that he liked bird hunting better than deer hunting because he didn’t have to sit around and wait for the game to come to him. Shane said he also planned to include quail hunting in his future and to introduce his children to the sport.
Those were just the kind of reactions I was hoping for! More importantly, Jeremy’s 4-year-old son, Austin, asked if he could go quail hunting.
With these new recruits, I’m fairly certain our family quail hunting tradition will continue. Year after year, I’ll be out in the fields with my sons-in-law and grandchildren. We’ll cover lots of miles toting shotguns behind the dogs, and we’ll certainly harvest more than a few quail.
We’ll make memories, have fun and spend lots of time together outdoors. Although it’s a lot of effort, creating a family quail hunting tradition in Missouri doesn’t really seem like work at all.
Go Quail Hunting
Many Missouri conservation areas have excellent habitat and lots of quail. When I’m planning a family quail hunt, I look for areas where hunting pressure is light. Quail become more difficult to find and flush as they experience more hunting pressure.
I have studied quail outfitted with radio transmitters and watched as hunters and their dogs walked right past them. Some quail hold tight in heavy grass, some run at the sound of approaching dogs or hunters, and some head deep into woody thickets that dogs seldom penetrate. Other birds flush “wild” as soon as they sense danger, and the hunters miss all the action.
It’s not impossible to harvest quail on heavily hunted areas, it just takes a little more time—and different strategies—to locate coveys.
For information about quail hunting in your area, call your regional office at the phone number listed on this magazine’s “Contents” page or visit the Conservation Department’s Web site at www.missouriconservation.org.
Each October, the Ozark Regional Office conducts a drawing for 18 hunts on the Dan and Maureen Cover Prairie Conservation Area. Each hunt is limited to four hunters, and the total bag limit is four quail. Call (417) 256-7161 for more information.