Saturday, November 19, 2016

Quail Hunting: Wish We Could Have Shown Roux a Better Time....

Picture courtesy of Quail Unlimited
      This is it....Roux's first wild bird hunt, bobwhite quail hunting in NW Oklahoma.  She is still just 18 months old.  Barb and I have worked with Roux for 9 months now, obedience, ranging, pointing, and retrieving.  Everything is always as you want it in a controlled environment, but in the field life is often much different.  I told Barb we're just going to have fun this fall.  We'll get some birds, but Roux will be far from perfect in her first's a learning process when they're this young. 
      We ventured NW to Fort Supply WMA about 189 miles from Oklahoma City.  I have hunted here many times in the past for deer, turkey, and quail.  It can be a very good quail area provided you find birds not harassed by other hunters near the road.  One thing I had discovered this trip is that quail season begins on November 12th, but is suspended for the first 9 days of deer gun season which begins November 19th so this cut down our number of hunting days this trip from 9 to 7. 
      We had originally planned on watering up at the Corps of Engineers Campground on the lake and then boondocking further south, but when we arrived the new off season rates for full hookups and our 50% discount with the Senior Access Pass was a deal just too good to pass up.  On the lake with full facilities, 11 days.....$99 !  Darned near boondocking prices.  To top it off there were only about 5 campers in the entire 107 site CG.  We are still only about 3 miles from our hunting area.   Due to the influx of windmill power being introduced to the region Fort Supply also offered not only their own RV Park, but propane service and a small laundromat as well. 
      We arrived two days early with the time dedicated to setting up a good firepit and cutting lots of wood.  I outfitted my 12 ga. Browning Citori O/U with improved over modified chokes shooting #7 1/2 shot for our anticipated flush fest.  Quail are covey birds, usually holding in circles tightly, and will flush in groups of 8-12 when initially found.  The flush is therefore a 360 degree event.  This will result in some hectic initial moments, but the key is to pick ONE BIRD and sight on him.  Second chance flushes result in singles and doubles as a rule.  I had been nursing my left knee due to a torn meniscus back in spring that I re-injured about 2 weeks ago.  It was getting much better when the night before opening day I was revisited by my old friend, GOUT!  A couple of Indomethacin with dinner and breakfast the next day and I was ok. 
Picture courtesy of Quail Unlimited
      The first few days resulted in lots of other hunters and dogs, but we managed to keep to our own.  We mostly hunted broken, open cover with a mix of cottonwoods, elms and fields.  We found no birds in the planted fields.  We didn't venture very far from camp and found only a couple coveys, but the flushes were wild and many times the birds were nearly out of range 'coming off the ground'.  Roux did find the birds, but by the time she 'locked up' the birds were up.  I did manage to pick up a couple of birds each day, but no cornucopia.  Roux had some decent work, ranged well, and picked up the idea pretty quickly.  We did have to stop occasionally to get sand burrs out of her pads that would give her fits.  I always fed Roux once at the end of the hunting day after she's settled down for a bit.  Over the years I have been in the habit of supplementing my dogs with some heated wet food mixed with their dry for the fat content.   Roux did not care for this and was quite happy with her normal dry Blue Buffalo.  Anybody need 11 cans of Blue Buffalo Salmon & Chicken? 
      We continued to hunt around this area through Monday before moving on with the same sporadic luck.  Some hunters were finding some birds, but nobody was slaying them.  We decided to try our luck at Cooper WMA, just down the road.   This area is very much open sandhill, sage country.  We did manage to get up another covey here and a couple of singles, but still very 'wild'.  Roux could not get them locked down before they flushed often at about 30 yards.  I felt bad for our pup.  She was working her butt off and doing a good job ranging, searching, and answering the whistle.  I just wished we could show her a better time. 
      The middle of our week resulted in very warm temps (84+) and dry, windy days; not good at all for finding birds.  In fact Wednesday through Friday the weather resulted in a RED FLAG CONDITION for fires so we couldn't light up the fire pit for those days either.  I decided to cook up what few birds we had harvested so I tried them stir fried with Broccoli, Asparagus, and Sesame Seeds......with some fried rice it turned out pretty darned good. 
          Unfortunately we never really found more than a couple of coveys all week.  By the end of the 5th day of the season nearly all of the other hunters had left the area.  We hunted the last 2 days virtually by ourselves.  With the unseasonably dry heat and wind we decided to cut our losses and just relax.  Who would have thought we'd be using RV A/C in mid November, but it would NOT last. We got a few birds this week and did enjoy watching Roux 'do her thing'.  She will be quite the bird dog.  All training for the future.
      This entire opening week was an adventure in patience and exercise.  Roux worked her butt off and mommy/daddy enjoyed the Aleve and Liquid Carbs next to the fire each night.  We got some birds, but hoped to do much better.  We did see many deer, including several very nice Whitetail Bucks (probably 6 and 8 pointers).   The last couple of days (gun season opener) we just relaxed around the camp fire pit as the winds turned to the north and temps dipped into the low 20s at night and only 40s during the day.   Our camp entrees this trip included Cudighi Broccoli Casserole, Cajun Fish Fry, Spaghetti, Quail Stir Fry, Basque Lamb Salad, and Whitefish Tacos to name a few
      Unfortunately, sometimes the worst comes out in those that pretend to be sportsmen. Our last two nights in camp were not relaxing.  The local game warden had a serious issue with several of the campers near us about something we didn't know anything about.  He had stopped by once earlier and asked about them, but we didn't know them.  He did take pictures of their RV and truck plates.  However, later Friday night, and probably way too many beers later, one of them shot a stray cat that had been hanging around the campground just to kill it.  We really kept to ourselves after that till we left and kept a close eye on our own furbabies.   We do plan on contacting the warden and local sheriff on our departure. 
      We steer our course south now to share the Thanksgiving Holiday with our grandson.  Our peer grandparents are fantastic cooks and we can't wait to enjoy the fellowship at their table.  We will return to the NW in a couple of weeks to once again pursue game birds.  Pheasant season awaits! 

"If you turn your imagination loose like a hunting dog, it will often return with the bird in it's mouth" 
                                                                         William Maxwell

WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi

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