The Greatness of Gun Dogs: A Georgia Quail Hunt at Dorchester Shooting Preserve

After introducing himself as our guide for the morning quail hunt, Jeff Crosby looked down at the light boots on my feet and stated, “If you have them, you should change into rubber boots.” It had been raining pretty much every other day at my home outside Athens, Georgia, and apparently the same weather had been occurring near Savannah. I didn’t have anything else but street shoes, so I stayed in my Courtney Safari boots.

I suppose that having to ford puddles and streams while we hunted the mixed pine-grass forest might have reduced the joy of being back on a Southeast Plantation hunt for bobwhite quail. However, it was more than made up for by watching the artistry of the German Short Hair pointers and the English Cocker Spaniel flushing dogs.

But, I’ve gotten ahead of myself. So, let me start with some information about the venue, Dorchester Shooting Preserve. The brainchild of owner Chuck Gaskin, the Preserve was established in 1999. Dorchester’s ‘crown jewel‘ is the 4800 acres of prime hunting habitat. This habitat includes the aforementioned mixed-pine savannah.

Situated in coastal Georgia, it also includes beautiful Spanish Moss-covered swampland – home to ducks, whitetail deer and feral hogs.

As you will see in the accompanying video interview with Dave Massey – GM of DSP – the 10,000 square foot lodge was completed in 2008. There is also a Pro Shop providing Beretta shotguns for rent and ammunition for sale.

Likewise Dave points out that lodging at Dorchester consists of ‘cabins’ that are actually Coastal Homes owned by members who make them available for visitors to the Preserve. Below is the cabin in which I stayed during the hunt; it was nicer than my home.

Dorchester also provides guests with the opportunity to shoot on their Sporting Clays course as well as their handgun and rifle ranges. Before our hunt, I took the opportunity to warm up on the Sporting Clays course.

Given that my shooting on my hunt was not great, I should have spent more time breaking clays.

But, as nice as the facilities were, they were just appetizers for the main course.

Speaking of appetizers, I cannot fail to mention the classic Oyster Boil on our first evening at Dorchester!

Watching the Artists

My morning hunt started just after breakfast Jeff arrived in the hunting ‘wagon.’

Not only did Jeff suggest that I change boots, he added that the area I had been assigned to hunt was chock-a-block full of quail and I’d need to take plenty of shotshells.

I know what you are thinking, pure “guide-speak.” But since I ended up killing my allotted 20 quail, he was proved more than accurate. Dorchester shoots 130,000 quail per year, and almost every area of the property has an abundance of birds.

When I arrived at our destination, Jeff quickly collared the first set of three dogs that would act as our pointers, flushers and retrievers. These included a reddish/brown English Cocker Spaniel named Abby.

There were also two German Shorthaired Pointers.

I would thus experience the joy of moving into quail with six extremely well-trained dogs during my morning hunt.

There were four GSPs — Ziva, Beretta, Luke and Matt — and their flushing and retrieving Cocker comrades, Abby and Faith.

Time and time again the two Pointers would lock into that classic stance seen in paintings. Jeff would then use hand signals and the command ‘flush!’ to send in Abby or Faith.

I had to constantly remind myself of the proper stance demonstrated by Robert Ruark’s grandad in The Old Man and the Boy: “He wasn’t looking at the ground where the birds were. He was looking straight ahead of him with the gun held across his body at a 45-degree angle.”

Unfortunately, not even a great shotgunner like Ruark (or his grandad) kept me from missing more than I hit, though I managed to take out some pines along the way…

As the photos and video footage indicate, the dogs and quail were the stars of our day. It was also a thrill to be around a veteran dog handler and guide like Jeff.

Hunters are sometimes hard-pressed to explain why we are so passionate about our sport. To some it seems so much like the epitome of lust for killing animals.

That, though, is far from what we actually experience. That day’s outing was a paradigm of what we quail hunters, and hunters as a group, ‘get’ from hunting; companionship – both human and canine.

There’s the heart-pounding excitement of waiting for that small bundle of energy to explode from under our feet, the hope that the feather-covered rocket will descend from a shower of feathers, the joy of seeing the day’s catch.

And, finally, there’s the deep-seated satisfaction of providing some wonderful food for our family and friends.

Yep, I’m going to keep hunting. I hope that some of those outings will be back with the wonderful folks, and especially their canine charges, at Dorchester Shooting Preserve.

 

Mike Arnold writes for a number of outlets; links to other articles can be found here.

[All photos and video courtesy of Keane Phillips and Mike Arnold.]

comments

  1. avatar jwm says:

    I always keep, amongst other things, 2 pair of boots in the back of my rig. One pair of insulated rubber muck boots with a fresh pair of wool socks stuffed into them and my lace up hunting boots also with a pair of wool socks.

    My feet get wet and cold and I turn into a sniveling little girl.

    1. avatar Michael Arnold says:

      Yep, that is fantastic advice, JWM! I guess I like to snivel, because I’m never that well-prepared…

      1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        Try a pair of Browning Featherweights. Light and waterproof. Best money I ever spent for bird hunting boots. Lacrosse and Muck for deer hunting.

      2. avatar jwm says:

        I had to learn the hard way. Frosty morning right before sun up. Every thing wet because of heavy due. And I forgot my boots and just had my sneakers on for driving.

        Feet got wet and cold and I sniveled. Fortunately nobody was around to hear except for the quail and a couple of squirrels.

    2. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

      I was just watching 1917 and was horrified for their feet. Wet socks are right up there with the end times for me.

      1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        Vic, it was called trench foot. And it was bad.

    3. avatar The Rookie says:

      I think there’s something universal about the misery of wet socks. I keep extra pairs in my emergency bag(s). Clean, dry feet are happy feet.

  2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Quail hunting is something you have experience to appreciate. Especially when it’s done southern style. My first quail hunt was given to me by a friend. It was on Love Ridge Plantation. Next was on Hale’s Place. The hook was thoroughly set. Mostly shoot on Southwind Plantation now. Highly recommend it. Excellent accommodations (book the Owner’s Retreat if it’s available.) All lodges have an open bar. All top shelf. Meals are taken at the main lodge. Breakfast and lunch are typical southern fare. Dinner is preceded by social hour. It includes cocktails and appetizers. Last time I was there dinner was prime rib with all the trimmings. The first time I went there Casey and I knocked down 15 birds first time off the wagon. Second time off the wagon 15 more. Like that the rest of the day and every time since. I also shoot quail with my friend Ray. He owns a licensed hunting preserve across the creek from the farm. Nothing fancy, but it’s only five miles from the house and 1/2 from the camp. So don’t need accommodations. Every hunter owes it to himself to experience a quail hunt. It’s so much fun I’m suprised the government hasn’t banned it.

    1. avatar Michael Arnold says:

      SHHHHH, Gadsden! Or they will ban it!!!!!

    2. avatar jwm says:

      Yeppers. I have had great luck on public land here in CA. I have a new shotgun and I’m looking forward to the start of the season.

      Flattened quail, black beans and rice.

      1. avatar Michael Arnold says:

        Y’all need to stop! I’m starving just reading about the food!!!

  3. avatar Michael Arnold says:

    By the way, Frances and I will be having pan-fried Dorchester quail, cream gravy, mashed potatoes and corn on Saturday. One of my Mom’s favorite meals. A real Southn’ feed. I cannot wait!!

    1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      Michael, Southwind also cleans, vacuum packs and flash freezes your quail. I think I have three packages left. Besides what you just described I like to marinate them for 24 hours, wrap them in bacon and grill them. Choose your sides a good white wine.

      1. avatar Michael Arnold says:

        Holy smokes. Now I need dinner for sure!!

      2. avatar Michael Arnold says:

        Gadsden, what do you use as a marinade? We have bacon!!

        1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          I just use an off the shelf poultry marinade. Italian dressing works too. Oil based not creamy of course.

  4. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    BTW Dan, if you’re listening, more of this, or anything, other than the virus. It’s getting boring. Not just here. All media outlets. We get it. You can catch it. It might kill you. Ordinary life has been disrupted. Give us something else to talk/think about.

    1. avatar possum says:

      The handle on my 54-1 left side is getting loose, don’t know why, can’t be from shooting it much,and I’m pretty gentle when I throw it on the headboard.Im thinking that spring steel clip is getting week. Dang it, looks a little hard to fix, I don’t wanna go bending around and fck it all up. I had a bicycle inner tube on it once, guess I’ll do that again.You know I think I will redneck it and go duct tape.

    2. avatar Perry says:

      1 Dan: more of this.

      Colorado just got shut down by Guv Polis. Shut down my local outdoor gun range.

      However, he encouraged us to go to the park and get some exercise. It’s right there in the Executive Order.

      So, I found a “park” for some “exercise.” Baker Draw, Pawnee Grasslands. Walked 100 yards, several times. Found a few others on (and I quote) “Federal” (2A) business.

      Actually, any national forest will do, but be mindful of the neighbors. And please, police your brass, even if it’s .22LR or steel/aluminum.

  5. avatar Hoyden says:

    Oyster roast.

    We boil the water to steam open the oysters.

    1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      Hoyden, I live about an hour from Appalachicola Bay. It’s not a dove shoot if someone doesn’t have a bushel of oysters iced down in a cooler on the tailgate of their truck. Saltines and hot sauce de rigueur.

    2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      Hoyden, you do realize you don’t need to boil water. You can place the oysters directly on a hot grill. They will steam in their on juice. When the shell pops open; enjoy!

      1. avatar Hoyden *cough cough* from the pollen says:

        We soak burlap sacks in water and lay them over the oysters that are spread evenly on an iron plate (like a shotgun patterning plate).

        It is technically roasting as it is over an open fire-although these flash modern young’uns may be inclined to a steel basket over a boiling pot heated with gas!

        I was only making the comment so folks didn’t think we dropped the oysters in boiling water like a crab boil.

        If I get the bug it was only because of a bushel of oysters I helped finish off 10 days ago along the Wilmington River in Thunderbolt GA.

        1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Thunderbolt, GA! Holy shit! My first sergeant used to keep his sailboat in a slip there when I was stationed at Hunter. I was out with him and his wife when I suggested we stop at William’s Seafood for lunch on the way back to post. That got me a promotion. Best crab cakes ever. When I retired I took my girlfriend to Savannah for a vacation. Was never so disappointed as when I learned William’s had closed.

  6. avatar RA says:

    Looks like a fantastic place to hunt. May be the perfect place to take my two daughters for a hunt sometime in the future as a “replacement” for a hunt to South Africa that had to be cancelled.

  7. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    never been to a game resort. all of the trappings sound wonderfully delightful, pretty easy to get used to, i’ll bet. some of that seems like camp opulence. but not glamping.
    i wonder if the bourgee would ever wear off.
    the dogs are the thing. me brudder raised springers, so we did upland birds in penn/ virg. then it was chessies, so watefowl. now it’s back to liver and whites. 86, he just won’t slow down.
    a good day for me is the 16ga 37 out for zion doves. they have made a big comeback.

  8. avatar possum says:

    If I could have shot quail all winter and caught crappie all summer my first wife would banned me from going to work. There needs to be more public land to hunt. To all the people whom eat meat yet look down on hunting. Well let me tell yah, I used to work at a meat packing plant, the beef were processed by hand. I’ve recently seen that most all the jobs are now done by machines. It’s a sacrilege to those cows to be ripped apart by machines, I just about pucked watching it, thinking about just about makes me puke. Nothing living should be ripped apart by machines like that. Anyway, there needs to be more public hunting lands.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      they should kill them first.

  9. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Love to quail hunt! Chukar and pheasant too. Mountain quail put valley quail to shame for sheer size.
    For a challenge, I’ll take the 12 ga. Silver pigeon.
    Otherwise it’s my Winchester 20 ga auto loader. One more shell and it’s softer on the shoulder.

    1. avatar Thomas Wolfe says:

      Quail; 28 gauge or be prepared for wry looks from the landed gentry.

      “A Man In Full will take Bobs only—with a .410” Cap’m Charlie Croker

      Oh, and sxs, none of this gas, or stack barrel, or heavens above, a pump, your Grandmother’d rise up out the grave and snatch you baldheaded.

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