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.Β 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.

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.”

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.”

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.
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.

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…


  1. No way that picture could be you!.I wished I was there till I saw that picture of you,is that what Foshalee does to one.You were brave.Looks like terrific fun and loved your accounting of the trip.Love MW

  2. Being from Georgia and South Georgia to boot, I can say there is not another place on earth, that you can ride among those long leaf pines and know you are close to heaven. A quail hunt what a wonderful Christmas present. How many wild coveys did “you get up” ? It is a big sport in this state. We always have quail for Christmas Eve dinner.

    1. Hi Becky! I had a feeling this would hit home with you. And I don’t even remember how many coveys we got up – 10 or 15? It was pretty good! Thank you for writing, x, Frances

  3. Frances, You go girl! That looks like great fun. How many did you come home with? I took up skeet shooting, when my son did, but I can never hit the
    ‘birds’ just the ‘rabbits.’ I can’t wait for the next post.
    xo, Lissy

    1. I am impressed you hit the clay “rabbits!” To me they are harder than the “birds.” As for our bag… we are not talking about it. They were the fastest wildest birds any of us had ever seen, and they were sporty to say the least. Suffice to say we did not distinguish ourselves. πŸ˜‰

  4. Some of my very favorite people live in Tallahassee! They are dear friends and the epitome of Southern hospitality. Loved the pictures of the mules, they have such sweet faces. Still laughing over the β€œhell bent for leather” bird dogs named Bob and Sue!

    1. Hi EB – yes N. Florida people are great, arent they? North Florida seems more “Southern” to me than other parts of the state. xo

      1. Lord, that’s the truth! You don’t know what I went through trying to find grits in my old neighborhood. When I moved into my current place I was over the moon the Publix closest to me carries grits and there’s a Cracker Barrel right down the road, hallelujah!

  5. Awesome photos Frances- while shooting gamebirds isn’t my thing- the art of it is to be respected- what a wonderful gift! Thank you for the lovely pictures of the mules- aren’t they wonderful?

  6. I did this once in Southern Georgia, myself and it was truly a wonderful memory. I rode part of the time on the dog wagon and fell in love with an English Springer Spaniel named Jimbo. I figured that each quail we bagged cost us about $1000, but they sure were good! We stayed in a “cabin” but our friends stayed in the “BIG HOUSE”. Wahhhhh.
    Linda @ A Toile Tale

    1. Thank you for writing, Linda! Yes the dogs are amazing, aren’t they? And yes, those little birds are expensive… I’m going to jump over to a Toile Tale! Love that name. Cheers, Frances

  7. I can only imagine what you might/should be gifted for the next “35 Christmases and birthdays” in consideration of the inconveniences you suffered through the brush, rain and the backside view of the mules. After about an hour of such fun, I would be “pining” (yes, a pun!) to get back to the dry lodge and the wet bar.

    1. Footnote- My Grandfather would have called that view of the mules, ” The Southbound view of a Northbound train.” I guess they didn’t want to say “backside, derriere, hinny or a**” back then!

      1. HA! I love it. I hope we will keep some of these wonderful old expressions. Thanks for reminding us, Katharine. xo Frances

  8. I loved your story because I, too, am a south Georgia girl. When I was a college girl my boyfriend and another couple “double dated” on a quail hunt on a farm near Statesboro, GA. Sadly, we had no horses to ride and spent the day with cold feet and wet socks. While tromping through the tall grass, I made a terrifying mistake when I stopped and bent down to help one of the dogs get stickers out of her foot. I heard someone yell my name.and when I stood up, a covey of quail rose behind me. As I turned around, I was looking down the barrels of two shotguns aimed at the quail….and me. I never heard the end of how I caused the guys to miss their shots. Needless to say, I never hunted again.
    PS Is your sister’s name a family name? My maiden name is Duvall and my dad was from NC.

    1. Hi Dianne! Yes that’s the way we do it in Eastern NC as well. Our “quail buggy” was an old Jeep with the doors cut off. Good lord I’m glad you weren’t hurt. As much fun as it all is, there are still guns and guns are dangerous…. Yes Duvall is a family name. I thought I had told you I had a sister by that name… We are kin somehow — I think all the Duvalls are from the same place in Normandy. Thank you so much for writing, cuz. πŸ˜‰

  9. You are so precious. Love these photos, what a wonderful memory from Rex. I however cherish the FYI about i – photo touch up. Personally you are covered for the next 35 in my book for that tid-bit alone! Last time I went tryin’ to shoot these evasive little creatures we disturbed the gargantuan mosquitos nest instead and I fell into a herring run on my frantic sprint back to the boat. There is truly something very special about this kind of outing,and on horseback, wow! Rain only adds to the adventure. How special.

    1. Oh dear Laverne, thank you, I’m so glad. And I hope somewhere somehow Daddy is enjoying them, too. Love to you, Frances

  10. This is such a great Southern accounting of the wonderful event of quail hunting. Can’t wait to share this with my husband.

  11. Looks like we have some followers! There have been lots of people hunting in the T’ville/Tally area in past centuries, some had class and some had CLASS, it’s all judged by the individuals that get their hands dirty (believe it or not) but some people stand out in the crowd!… I would be willing to bet your group made a major impression on those folks down there! If heaven was made of people like you, Duvall, and my wife we would’nt have to die to go to heaven! Stay Sweet!

    p.s. That’s a great shot of the back of my head!

    1. Aww, Bubba, thank you for your kind words. We sure did have a good time with y’all and I hope we can come back. By the way, dear readers, Bubba and Robert are both good-looking from the back AND the front.

    1. I hear you Morgan. Just last night we were talking about our California quail who just will not get the memo that are supposed to fly instead run about everywhere like Chicken Little.

  12. Sam and I were so fortunate to be invited to hunt on Spring Island (S.C.) when it was still privately owned. Our photos could be interchanged ,except for Bubba….sure wish he had been on our trip….I can tell that just by the back of his head! LOL! While we (the ladies) were invited to ride on the wagon or horseback, we were not invited to shoot. And when the guys went to shoot skeet, we were shipped off to Hilton Head. We managed to do some fine hunting on our own and I still wear my wonderful trophy. Your cousin, Caroline, came over from Beaufort with her fine crew and delighted us with her fabulous version of Frogmore Stew. Thank you for sharing your trip photos (Bubba’s too, of course) and for reviving my SI memories. You brought such pleasure to my day! Cathy Carlisle

    1. Darlin’ Cathy! Thank you so much for both your comments and Duvall and I would be honored to be your sistas! I love hearing about your Spring Island trip and your “hunting” in HIlton Head. So just what was that trophy you still wear???… So happy cousin Caroline came through with the stew – Thanks for the reminder as that would be a great recipe to post come summer. Frogmore Stew may not have made it out here to California. And yes riding made me think of our dear old Alley Oop. (For the vast majority of readers who may have missed my entirely undistinguished equestrian period, Alley Oop was a pony that belonged to us and before that to Sallie Cottle Wood, and he was the best!).

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *