The quail hunt in the south was a thing of beauty. Dogs, guns, horses, fields, it was the sport of kings, but it was not exclusively for them. The Common Southerner could hunt until he passed out, and the song of the Bobwhite quail would forever resonate in his heart back then. Yes, you would show up to a hunt and see a Purdy shotgun or an AH Fox, but you would also find a man with an A5 or 1100 beaten up in his hands just as easily. The dogs would have bloodlines as beautiful as any European aristocrat and as common as mine. Carhartt pants were worn as well as bespoke pants from Stafford. Back then, bird hunting knew no bounds.
At my age, I missed most of the great quail hunts in the South. Like most things in my life, it seems like I’ve only caught the end of it. The tail of the southern towns before the start of the southward migration, the tail of truly rural Georgia, the tail of the Dixiecrats. However, around the time I was able to walk well and get away from my mom, Pop started taking me hunting with him. Pop, by the way, was what I called my mom’s dad. Granted, hunting with Pop back then was as much about drinking coffee and pie eating at his friends’ farms as it was following Dixie, his former pointer, out into the field. Now notice that everything was good for me. Whether it was pie or hunting, I was game. (Some of you may know him if you grew up on dairy farms here. His name was Jim Quintrell. If you did, please drop me a note.)
Jim was a tall man from the mountains of Fannin County, Georgia who loved bird dogs and bird hunting, and to throw the glove away I don’t think Pop ever killed a pen-raised bird. He believed that birds were meant to be wild and he hunted wild birds. Fences and trenches were where you could find a wild quail at the time. Before the advent of better tractors and many defoliants, we had hedges and fences here. Thick brambles and broom sedges grew there, and you could find rabbits and quail there.
Growing up, the wild quail died and for years I didn’t hunt quail at all. Eventually I was invited to a few hunts here and there, but they were all pen-raised birds. Don’t get me wrong, they were fun and I enjoyed them. There’s no way you’ll be mistaking them for a wild covey when they busted the blanket. The more I hunted, the more I realized that it was all about the dogs. They are the reason to go now. There are just a few things in this world as beautiful as an English setter or German short hair trapped on a bird, the grace that an English cocker spaniel shows when he flushes out the covey and retrieves a bird is much more fun to watch. than some overpaid receivers. a one-handed grip in the end zone.
Pop loved his bird dogs.
A famous story in my family is not long before I was born, Pop bought a set of shock collars for bird dogs. He was worried that they would hurt the dogs too much. One evening my parents had come over for dinner (they only lived about a mile and a half away and often came for a pie and dinner) Pop looked at my dad (his son-in-law) and said “Kenneth, how about you to put that collar on and run to the dog pens so you can tell me how much it hurts.I don’t want to hurt the dogs.
Granny immediately said, “Jim, for Pete’s sake!” You are going to kill him.
Dad ended up not being the test subject, but that’s how Pop thought about his dogs.
At this time of year, I always think about Pop a lot. Pop loved to cook. When I was little, Christmas at home was a big deal. I mean often after church on Christmas Eve there were 40 people in our house. Friends, family, neighbors, adoptive family. Looks like everyone’s been to my parents’ house. Now here’s how it worked. Grandma (my grandmother and mother of my mother) brought canned green beans and corn which they grew in their summer garden. Pop would still make chocolate cake and German fudge! I can still smell this cake and taste the fudge. These thoughts and smells can still bring tears to my eyes with memories.
You know, in the end, Pop always had time to take me hunting. He always had peppermint candy in his pocket and a pocket knife in case he needed to peel an apple or peel something I had killed. If you haven’t had a Pop in your life, be someone else’s. If you had one, have one, or know of one, let them know how much they mean to you right now. One day all the Pops will be gone.
In the end, that’s all we’re going to leave behind.
– Outdoor columnist James Pressley can be reached at [email protected]