By Maggie Boineau
We were fortunate in being able to book a last-minute quail hunt at Back Woods Quail Club in Georgetown, South Carolina, where we have enjoyed membership for many years. The weather was delightful, with partly cloudy skies, a meager chance of rain, and temperatures hovering around 70 degrees. Unfortunately, two previous quail hunts had been canceled because of inclement weather, so we were thrilled to have the chance to hunt one of our favorite game birds.
Equipped with my favorite shotgun, a Beretta Silver Pigeon IV over-under that I purchased at Back Woods several years ago, I was super excited about this hunt. To get the most out of owning such a fine gun, I had it professionally fitted by Ken Podraza, the founder of 2XL Shooting Sports, who has more than 30 years of experience in the shooting world.
Meanwhile, my husband Trippett was equally excited about breaking in his brand-new Fabarm Autumn 20-gauge side-by-side (SXS), which he purchased at Back Woods Quail Club last fall. Trippett has wanted an SXS for many years and is an experienced wingshooter. I would describe him as a traditionalist, which may be why he had his eye on an SXS. In my opinion, he has the skills to be successful no matter what gun he holds in his hands.
Meeting our guide and his dogs
Many people say that over-under shotguns are easier guns to shoot and may give shooters a distinct advantage, which is why competitive shooters use them instead of side-by-side shotguns. With an over-under, the barrels are stacked, but with an SXS, the barrels sit next to each other. Some shooters feel that the vertical shooting plane of an over-under makes for an easier second shot.
When you think about the characteristics of an excellent quail guide, you would be describing Bruce Parker. His easygoing demeanor, his love for and patience with the dogs, and his expertise made our hunt fun and memorable. Our conversations were light-hearted and informative. Best of all, I enjoyed the stories shared by all that always make us smile. Hunters are cut from the same cloth.
Jack, a 2.5-year-old German wirehaired pointer, typically hunts with his sister, Jill, but today he was sharing the field with Pebbles, a 2-year-old German shorthaired pointer. Jack worked the first half of the hunt solo, which pleased him. He was all business, sometimes disappearing into the tall bluestem grass, which was dry from weeks of no rain. This made it challenging for Jack to smell the birds, but he did fantastic work despite the dry conditions. We patiently let him work the field as we hung back, giving him time to find birds as we took in all the scenic beauty of this February day afield.
And then the rain came...
Out of the blue skies, gray clouds started to form, and the rain began to pour with only a little bit of warning. It was an excellent time to take a little break and grab some rain gear, but within 20 minutes or so, the skies cleared again, and we resumed our hunt. Bruce had our birds picked up. They would later be returned to us, cleaned and ready for the kitchen or freezer.
Jack and Pebbles were happy about the refreshing rain showers, and it was pretty remarkable how excited they became! The rain had improved the scent conditions, and the two were flushing birds much more readily than Jack had done during the first half of the hunt. We managed to shoot 12 more birds. At the end of the hunt, our take of 22 birds put huge smiles on our faces. I will be the first to say that Trippett shot more birds, by far.
Of course, the reward of the hunt is feasting on delicious birds and having enough to pack away for another memorable day, when stories of the hunt will be part of the celebration.