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Published on: Nov. 15, 2011

traffic, but the traffic it does see is moving 60 miles an hour— a deadly hazard for dogs. I’ve trained my dogs to come to my whistle, but I still want them in sight. In a matter of minutes, the dogs run all the way down the north woods’ edge, all the way to the road and along its edge, and all the way up the closest swath of grass.

“Good dogs!” I praise as the dogs run to me and then turn and start down the overgrown fencerow to the west. Fifty yards ahead, Wendy, my oldest dog, out of a dead run, spins to a stop and points at the base of a modest-sized Osage orange growing out of the fencerow. Belle, seeing Wendy point, also locks on point—what quail hunters call “honoring.” I tell both dogs “whoa,” a command that gives me control over their pointing instinct.

“Okay, Mark,” I tell my hunting buddy. “Cross through the fence here below the dogs and position yourself on the other side directly across from the dogs. That way, if the birds fly through, you’ll be in position to shoot if birds fly either left or right.”

I hold Mark’s gun then hand it to him after he fights his way through the thick cover and crosses the fence. With Mark in position, I walk in front of the dogs. Nothing flushes. I walk further and stomp in the brush. In the light snow that still covers the ground I see no quail tracks. I give the dogs their release command and, with tails wagging a fast beat, they nose their way into the cover.

Nothing flushes.

Sometimes my dogs point animals other than quail, such as squirrels or rabbits or mice. I call these false points. Some hunters reprimand their dogs for these points, but I don’t. I just never shoot any game over my dogs other than birds.

The dogs have slowed and are now carefully hunting the fencerow cover, which extends close to 300 yards. Mark stays on one side, me on the other. As we walk, we check each other’s pace so we’re not ahead or behind one another. Hunter orange hats and vests help us keep track.

Fencerow Blues

Mark and I and the dogs work up and down the fencerow— twice—and find no quail. So we walk to the south cornfield— the spot the 20-bird covey calls home. This area has a

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