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Dogs, Birds and Gunpowder

December 11, 2009

By King Montgomery

Fall slowly morphs to winter. Skies seem bluer, the air crisp and clean, the days a bit shorter and birds of every sort are flying, mostly south. Waterfowl, upland and shore birds are actively feeding, resting and just going from here to there and back again -- in small groups, or in gaggles that cast a shadow upon the ground.

Enzo, an Italian Spinone bird dog, brings a pheasant to his owner Douglas Dear. Part of the allure of bird hunting, in addition to the fine table fare, is watching the dogs work cover to find, point and retrieve game birds. (Photo Courtesy of King Montgomery)

Add the patter of dogs’ paws, the crunch of booted feet, the shrill call of a whistle or the bleat of a duck call, the cool feel of a shotgun, and the unmistakable odor of gunpowder in the air and you have some of the reasons for going afield. We’re fortunate in the Mid-Atlantic region to be along waterfowl flyways and migratory routes for a myriad of game birds. Birds stop at the marshes and wetlands, and in the fields and forests, and on ponds, lakes and rivers. 

Unfortunately, much of the birds’ traditional habitats have been destroyed, and things just “aren’t like they used to be.” But fortunately, there are hunting and shooting areas and preserves to supplement the area's meager public hunting lands, and here gunners can almost be assured on spending quality time in the field and bringing home some birds for the table.

Maryland’s Eastern Shore is a waterfowling and bird hunting paradise. The Pintail Point/The River Plantation complex along the Wye River near Queenstown is a great place to hunt for wild and released birds. Plus gunners can warm up with sporting clays at Pintail before taking the field.

The Pintail properties comprise nearly 2,000 acres, with 165 acres of fertile marshland, several acres of water impoundments and miles of shoreline along the Wye, all of which bring in ducks and geese to waiting hunters and eager dogs. Professional guides and highly-trained dogs help make any hunting experience a winning deal.

The upland bird operation provides hunters with quail, Chukar partridge and pheasant. And both operations offer bird picking, cleaning and shipping if needed.

The same habitat destruction that limits Maryland bird hunting also takes place in the Old Dominion, where quail, grouse and other birds once were plentiful. Fortunately, dozens of hunting/shooting preserves take up the slack and Southbound Shooting Preserve -- the “Best Little Shooting Preserve in Virginia” -- is one of the best.

Southbound is located near South Hill, off Route 85 just north of the North Carolina border. The preserve offers guided and unguided hunts for quail, Chukar and pheasant. The terrain is the ideal habitat composed of fields with lots of stubble, hedgerows and managed forests where all the birds can find something they like.

Hunters can stay in the lodge, built in 2001, and have private bedrooms and private baths. A full kitchen can be used by guests or Southbound can provide a professional chef who prepares gourmet meals including, if you wish, the aforementioned game birds. Additional amenities include HDTV, a poker room, computer/internet connections and plenty of comfortable spaces for relaxing.

Rene Thibault and Pat Casey can tailor a hunt for individuals or small groups. Casey, a pro dog trainer with more than 25 years experience, will help train your dog to accompany you on a hunt or at a field trial. If you don’t have a dog, you’ll hunt over champion pointers and retrievers, which, to me, is one of the best parts of bird hunting. These dogs are incredible!

There also are several large ponds where guests can fish for bass and brim, and the stables hold horses for folks to take a ride on the property and on nearby lands.

Our outdoors editor King Montgomery mostly fishes, but takes up a shotgun in the fall and winter to hopefully fill his slow-cooker with waterfowl and upland birds.  Contact him at

Issue 144: December 2009