After a 13 hour all nighter from Iowa to Oklahoma, I stumbled onto a public area on my way to west central OK and Bo found one covey in two hours of walking woolly draws and dry creek beds. It was a nice sized covey of 15-18 birds but my shooting wasn't pretty. I'm gonna be truthful, I shot 7 shells through my O/U before I knocked down a bird. I don't think Bo would have stayed with me if she hadn't been parched with thirst. Yeah, let me have it, but I hadn't slept in 30 hours and I'm not that great a shot when not sleep drunk. I did pick up a second single on the walk out and had a nice cock and hen bobwhite to take back to the truck. These were the first bob's I'd shot in more than 20 years and Bo's first ever. It was nice to become re-acquainted.
I talked to Oklahoma game staff when I arrived who couldn't understand why hunters weren't finding quail. They said they reported what they saw, the best numbers in 30-40 years, and now hunters are voicing disapproval as if the survey was inaccurate. They said hunters reported few coveys and unable to locate singles. I'm picturing UJ pro staff hunters with a stable of world class pointers not finding birds. Not exactly what I wanted to hear with the weight of a long time friend and his son meeting me in a few days expecting bobwhite hunting better than we had in Kansas in the '80's.
I headed out of town with a map of the grasslands and a "you might try over there" from the staff. This time I carried water from the truck expecting to walk for a ways and turned Bo loose along a brushy fenceline dividing public from private. She was birdy in a quarter mile and I could see the covey scurrying to get out of the brambles so they could flush. Something was miss-aligned and I dropped a hard hit double on the rise. We searched for nearly an hour for singles but couldn't find one. I think they curled across the road onto private once out of sight.
Back on the fenceline, Bo flushed another 20 bird covey within 50 yards of the last. I missed with both barrels but did pick up three singles before returning to the truck. I was anxious to hit another area to see if these two coveys were luck or there was very good hunting to be had.
It was over an hour in the new area before Bo trailed some runners into oak brush and a bunch of birds flushed through the trees. I don't know, probably 18-20 and I made another nice double.
Here I was, my first day in Oklahoma, hunting on public land with a cripped up Lab and one bird shy of the 10 quail limit. Bo was only good on three legs, but she's a smart hunter. She pushes like Hell when she smells birds, but takes it easy in between. We found a re-grouped covey of eight in the woods, but I missed a one kneed shot through the tree tops. I could occasionally make that shot when in my 20's hunting ruffed grouse, but in my 60's, it took me a half an hour just to regain a somewhat erect status. It was time for a snack and soda at the truck.
I was tempted to quit with nine quail, but wondered "when am I ever gonna have nine bobs in Oklahoma again with time to keep hunting?". There was another hunter a half mile down and across the lane from me when I arrived and I could see he had left. I heard some shooting from his way and thought maybe he left a single behind. I could see thinner cover and easier walking so I took Bo over for a look see. It wasn't long before she was birdy and pushed a single out of a small thicket. I barely clipped him with my first shot but thought I was on with the second as he disappeared around a plum thicket. Bo and I went to check and found him dead on the far side.
God I love this bird hunting life as much now as when I was in my teens. Desolate places with a tough dog that thinks I'm "normal", a hard-worn gun and wild birds. Sleeping in a tent with coyotes, hooty owls and game birds wishing a good night. Who needs money and sexy women? Well...maybe enough to get you there and some pretty comfort when you get home, but I don't think either would matter much without the birds and dogs.