By King Montgomery
The sky was overcast with that semi-bright, yet leaden look that usually signals something is in the air. The five of us moved up the forested hill, three of us slowly, carefully, looking and listening as we went; while two of us coursed semi-frenetically under the trees, nose down, and through the dense woods, the electronic beepers on their collars sounding off with an unnatural, but necessary noise. The English pointers loved what they were doing and it was just plain fun to watch them at their playful work.
|Fall and winter in this area means hunting -- hunting for upland game birds, waterfowl, deer, and other game species. (King Montgomery)|
Then, a dog went on point, honored quickly by the second. It was anticipation and adrenaline time as two of us moved on either side of the motionless dogs, shotguns at the ready with fingers on safeties.
"Whrrrrr!" A sleek, speedy game bird helicoptered to the sky and surged forward at about Mach 2 before the barking 20-gauge stopped its flight. Not an easy prey to find or to hit, the woodcock is a noble bird that is as interesting as it is tasty.
A light snow was falling and soon the gnarled tree and bush branches, the forest floor, and the brims of our hats were covered with a fine, white powder. The temperature had dropped considerably since morning, and it was cold. But not cold enough to deter us from harvesting a few more birds before it was time to quit and rest the dogs.
That was last January during Maryland's special weeklong woodcock season. We saw and raised plenty of birds, but never saw another hunter on this public land in Charles County. (The special late season is Jan. 16-24, 2009, but check the Maryland Department of Natural Resource's Web site before you head out.)
Fall and winter in this area mean hunting -- hunting for upland game birds, waterfowl, deer and other game species to grace our tables during the shorter, colder days ahead. It also is healthy and invigorating to be afield between college and pro football games. And it's fun.
The best ways to learn about what and where to hunt in your area are by seeking out local hunting/shooting clubs such as Ducks Unlimited and the Izaak Walton League; by consulting the Web sites of state fish and game departments; and by searching for approved game hunting preserves that usually offer birds such as chukar partridge, quail, pheasants, and waterfowl.
In Maryland, the Mason Dixon Game Outfitters near Pylesville, just below the Pennsylvania border, offers upland game hunting with a guide and dogs for quail, chukar and pheasant. Hunts are for half or full days on this crop and dairy farm where the terrain is groomed to support these birds and offer a challenging hunting experience.
The excellent guides work with German shorthaired pointers, English pointers and setters and labradors. The preserve also offers training for you and your bird dog, classes by renowned trainer Ronnie Smith, European-style pheasant shoots and youth hunting activities.
Virginia's historic Blandfield Plantation near Tappahannock opened this fall and it's a gorgeous 3,500-acre southern style bobwhite quail hunting operation. The birds are scattered in coveys throughout the scenic property along the banks of the tidal Rappahannock River.
Dogs working here include National Field Trials Champions and other award winners including English pointers and setters, and Vizlas, most trained by renowned guru Dave Pomfret, who runs the upland bird operation at the beautiful plantation. These incredible animals sure are fun to watch, and when they sense a covey of quail they stop dead and wait for instruction from the handler.
Useful hunting contact information
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
Izaak Walton League of America
Bass Pro Shops
Our outdoors editor, King Montgomery, is an avid angler and bird shooter who would rather be on the water with a good fly rod or in the field with his beloved Remington 870 20-gauge than working in an office or watching mindless television (except for NFL football). Join King and his guest Lefty Kreh for a Bahamas bonefishing trip May 24 – 29, 2009. See www.grandbahamaoutfitters.com or call 1-866-933-2426.
Issue 131: November 2008