[October 9, 2019] My boyhood friend Wilson (who lived next to me until we were 12 years old) and I were dragged out of bed early before daylight. It was the first day of the quail-hunting season and a dozen of my dad’s friends to teach us the finer points of successful bird hunting.
I’d been dove hunting many times with my trusty old 410 shotgun. The shotgun had been a present to my dad from his father sometime in the late-1930s, and it had been part of many hunting trips and was a fixture on every bird hunt. As young boys, both Wilson and I had plenty of experience shooting dove in the air; killing one on the ground was considered unsportsmanlike.
The friends of my dad were going to teach us how to hunt quail. For bird hunters, you know this particular bird is completely different. Yes, you shoot them in the air, but quail fly up just as you approach them unseen hidden in the grass. On this hunting trip, I nearly shot my foot off when the first covey of quail surprised me with their flight.
Normally, quail hunters use dogs to rush the quail to force them out early. Hunting without dogs is better because it requires greater skill and force of personality. You have to remain focused and calm. A hunter could easily be startled and shoot themselves or another person. A few years ago, we all heard about U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney who shot his friend on a quail hunt at a ranch in Texas.1
With so many of my dad’s friends on the trip, they gave Wilson and me a crash course in proper quail hunting. In the 1960s, quail hunting was the most popular hunting sport in the United States. The experienced hunters showed us how to walk with another hunter (to reduce the chance of being accidentally shot), to properly align your shotgun without aiming, to field dress the bird, and to manage dogs (if you use them).
We learned so much that all of us went hunting every week back in the summer of 1964. The next year my family moved because my dad worked on the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and he transferred to another city. During my time as a kid, we were to move every couple of years to a new home, but I never forgot about the quail hunting trips that special summer.