The flu hit me for the 4th December in a row. My son Jesse caught the virus first, followed by me, then my oldest son Ty. The symptoms include severe bronchial congestion, a mucus-filled nose and a high fever for multiple days. Ultimately, bed rest was the only antidote. My fever broke on Sunday afternoon, which gave me hope for a Monday hunt with my friend, Gary Ruppel. A week prior, we planned a quail hunt on Bob’s ranch, and I wanted to make it happen.
I needed the alarm to get me going at 4:30 am. A Mucinex pill as well as a few puffs from my Ventolin inhaler, had my lungs feeling manageable. We had some wet snow fall overnight, and that had turned the roads icy. I took my time on the drive to Gary’s house. An additional 90 minutes had us pulling into Wild Horse around 8 am.
During my big game hunts at the ranch over the fall, I witnessed 4 separate coveys of scaled quail on the land. The numbers in each covey are impressive; holding greater than 30 birds per family group. Moving into the property, I directed Gary to the cottonwood trees that are situated southwest of headquarters. We parked the truck and let Gary’s English Pointers out. Captain, Ashley and Yonder began to work out about 100 yards, then angle back into the stiff northwest wind. They cover a lot of ground in a very short period of time. As we neared a fallen tree, a large covey suddenly scattered in all different directions. The majority of the birds headed to the southwest so we took the dogs in that direction. Our collective pressure forced some the quail into, and around a lone cottonwood tree. Captain locked up on point when the bird’s sent became strongest. One quail jumped from a branch and flew with speed to the east. Just before he was out of range, I sent a single shot from my Weatherby 28 gauge in his direction. The scalie tumbled to the ground. Gary’s dogs were able to quickly locate the injured bird, allowing us to continue to hunt.
We jumped into the truck and headed back to headquarters. There is a lot of structure around the periphery of the compound, and quail were holding up in the thick cover. We decided to leave the dogs in the truck, and see if we could move the covey on our own. We walked to the most obvious spot: a large set of long, metal poles piled about three feet high. As we approached the stack of iron, the quail started to emerge from their hiding spot. When we got to about 20 yards, they exploded in multiple directions. I missed on my first two easy shots, but managed to connect on the final bird. We let the dogs out so they could do their job. Captain, Ashley and Yonder got on the birds quickly, pointing and pinning the evading quail. It did not take us long to take one half a dozen birds.
We drove to the pasture just across the highway. Just past the gate there is a water tank, and most of the bulls were drinking from it. A windmill marks an area where I had witnessed a covey sheltered amongst a set of cement cylinders. Still 100 yards from the windmill, we stopped the truck to scout the area. Almost as soon as we had stopped the truck, a large covey began teaming out of their concrete protection. We watched them fly southwest, and land over the adjoining hill. We decided to get the dogs out and pursue them. As we crested the hill, Captain, Ashley and Yonder went on point, but the covey flushed wild. They moved north toward the dry creek, and touched down near some abandoned cars. Realizing the quail were taking shelter amongst the broken down automobiles, we headed in that direction. As we approached the vehicles, the dogs locked up quickly, and the action was immediate. Birds started soaring in all directions. I did not shoot as I hoped there were hidden birds that had yet to take flight. Many of the quail had landed in the field just off the creek. We called the dogs over, and directed them to hunt west; into the prevailing wind. Gary and I walked about 20 yards apart, waiting for signs that the quail were present. Similar to a flushing pheasant, individual scalies took flight when they felt pressure caused by our pursuit. Gary and I took these single birds when the shots presented themselves. We hunted our way back to the truck, but only witnessed a few additional quail taking flight too far from the barrels of our shotguns.
I will leave the Cage Ranch quail alone until next hunting season. Hopefully, we will enjoy additional moisture in Colorado that will sustain healthy broods next year.