Quail Hunting the Old-Fashioned Way

Quail Hunting the Old-Fashioned Way

It was a first for all of us. All of us being Sister Duvall, Brother-in-Law Rex, His Grace (aka my husband Tom, for new readers) and me. Not the first quail hunting per se, but quail hunting the Southern old-fashioned way, on horseback and mule-drawn wagons like they do down around […]

It was a first for all of us. All of us being Sister Duvall, Brother-in-Law Rex, His Grace (aka my husband Tom, for new readers) and me. Not the first quail hunting per se, but quail hunting the Southern old-fashioned way, on horseback and mule-drawn wagons like they do down around Thomasville and Tallahassee. I reckon it is about the only place in the world they still do it like this, and it is something to see–and to do.

Quail hunting at Foshalee Plantation
Quail hunting at Foshalee Plantation. "Foshalee" is an Indian word for dry lake.

Moreover there’s something gratifying and beautiful about the preservation of a sporting tradition that harkens both to a by-gone way of life and to a present-day livelihood.

Foshalee - Rex and Duvall
Sister on Darcy and Rex on Lancelot - ready to go. With names like those the horses have to be polite, which is not always easy for an animal what with dogs running every which way and guns going off. But they were steady as rocks.
Foshalee - Quail Hunting
That is Bubba on the left, who keeps count of who shoots what and in general looks after us. On the right is Robert, driving. Up ahead are the dog handler, Reid, with HG on the left and Rex on the right. The labs, Lowkey and Shiloh, wait until birds are shot and then are called down to retrieve them. They are on the constant verge of a heart attack until then. Their entire existence is about finding and bringing back that bird. You have to admire that kind of focus. Photo by Duvall

Hundreds if not thousands of folks are employed on the big plantations here. Some dating to ante-bellum days, the old places were in many cases revived by wealthy Northerners in the 1920s who wanted to come South in the winter and ride and shoot. In addition to hunting they also grew crops and farmed timber, and still do.

The bird dogs–these were all pointers–ride on the wagon in cages where they are all ’bout to bust their britches until they get out there and hunt, giving new meaning to the term “hell bent for leather,” despite their having un-hell-bent-sounding names like Bob and Sue.

Foshalee - hunting dog
Foshalee - hunting dog

Their yeoman names belie their magnificence. They streak and leap through very kind of brush and briar ’til they smell a covey of birds, then they point and hold quivering still, while the hunters walk up. When the covey flushes, the hunter shoots.

I missed and made a face. “You act like this is easy,” said Reid, meaning it ain’t.

Foshalee
Reid gives the dogs a drink, then they rest and another pair goes out. The water pitcher is a detergent bottle wrapped in duct tape to keep it from cracking. You had to know duct tape would figure somewhere in this scenario.

But honestly what I love most is being outside and watching the dogs work. Could do it all day. The thing about nature, however, is that sometimes, as they say in hunting circles, “it rains.” And then you have to put on, as the shooting crowd calls it, “rain gear.”

Foshalee
Reed and outrider Colby in rain gear

Sometimes you don’t have rain gear and you have to, to use another hunting term, “wear your husband’s hideous poncho.”

Foshalee
Yours truly in said poncho and Bono-like shooting glasses.

Not that I wasn’t grateful. (Silver Lining: I learned I could re-touch my laugh-lines in i-Photo, in case you were wondering how I took such a flattering picture.)

Just about the time we were going to call it a day, it cleared up, and we carried on.

Quail Hunting - Foshalee
Jeannette, left, and her buddy Hope pull the wagon. In front is the lion-hearted spaniel, Smut.
Foshalee
Jeannette and Hope ready for their close-ups. A finer pair of mules I never saw.

Our hunt was a generous gift from Rex to His Grace, who is kinda hard to buy for. Rex figures this trip covers His Grace’s next 35 Christmases and birthdays. For the record Sister and I, while really happy to come along, personally were not planning to be covered for the next 35 Christmases and birthdays. Just saying.

Foshalee
Rex and me ridin' through the pines of Foshalee. Photo by Duvall

The best thing, though, was a sign in the store where we stopped to get a cup of coffee. I’ll post that next time…

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