“Hello,” said the voice on the other end of the call.
“Is this James Haygood?” I asked.
“Who’s calling?” he cautiously replied.
“James, this is Steve Burch with Georgia Outdoor News,” I said.
“Oh… Yes sir,” he responded, “This is James.”
I could hear the caution in his voice turn to curiosity.
“Do you remember going to the GON Blast at Gwinnett Center this past July?” I asked.
“Yes sir, I do.”
“James, you filled out a form and entered to win a quail hunt for two at Foxhall Resort and Sporting Club, and I am calling to tell you that you are our winner,” I continued.
“All right,” he exclaimed, followed quickly by, “Really? I won?”
James had indeed won the trip.
Then we talked about the trip and who he would have come along and share this experience with him. After all, he won the trip for two. It would be James and a guest of his choosing.
Each year, at the Gwinnett Center in July, GON hosts a three-day outdoor show—the Outdoor Blast.
We started the Blast so we’d have a place to hold the Truck-Buck Shoot-Out, where we give away the Megel Chevy for our big-buck contest. The Blast has evolved into outdoor vendors from all across the state and nation, even some international outfitters, filling more than 400 booths. With a focus on family and the outdoors, the Blast just a good sportsman’s show.
This year, GON partnered with four outfitters to take some of our show attendees on special outdoor trips.
Foxhall Resort and Sporting Club sits snug up against the Chattahoochee River just south of Douglasville and not far from Six Flags Over Georgia. Yet as close to metro Atlanta as it is, a step behind the boundary at Foxhall is like stepping back in time. While we were there, the 1,100-acre development was hosting three weddings, a massive high school cross-country event, sporting clays and quail hunts—and no one was in anyone’s way. It is a successful example of multiple use of a property, including hunting, without conflict among user groups.
Helping to keep everything running smoothly was the Head Outfitter Ryan Schneider and our chief quail guide for the day, Peter D’Ambrisi
The quail course sweeps away from the main facilities into open bottomland groomed for doves fields and quail cover, along with the occasional deer stand.
James invited his buddy Nick Burns to join us on a cool October morning. Neither had ever been quail hunting before. They were very happy to be there.
James had brought along his grandfather’s Belgium Browning Sweet 16 A5 that had been cherished and protected for the past 20 years or so.
“I’ve always wanted to go quail hunting,” he said, “Growing up, I heard all the stories about quail and dogs and hunting around Conyers and Covington, but I never had a chance to go myself. This is a real treat for me.”
It was the same story with Nick. Both friends were about to go quail hunting for the first time. We all piled into the quail trailer and headed from the Outfitters Headquarters to the quail course with guns, ammo and dogs loaded in the trailer. This is a classy way to chase birds.
Peter D’Ambrisi gave everyone a good safety briefing. We all were wearing orange, and we all understood that no one wanted to shoot a dog or pull a Dick Chaney. Guns were loaded with only two shells at a time. There were plenty of birds.
Peter put three dogs on the ground. Two setters swept windshield-wiper-like patterns across the fallow fields and stands of sunflower, millet, sorghum and milo. On a training leash was the flusher/fetcher of the trio, a black cocker spaniel named Emma. All three dogs were full of go.
We had probably gone a hundred yards before the settlers got birdy, and in a moment, we had our first point and back.
For their first bird, James and Nick got jipped. Dogs worked well, and as we walked in, a single bird flushed on que.
It left like a bullet, but it stayed low and straight; pumping for the safety of the wood line 300 yards away. It made it unscathed. But not having a shot was likely a blessing. The boys had walked in on their first point and flush. The next one wouldn’t be totally new. They would be ready.
Moments later, both dogs again pointed, and James and Nick flanked Peter as they approached to spot.
At about 15 feet way from the braced pointers, Peter slipped the lead off Emma and she dove in looking for quail. She found them.
Bluuurrr.. Bluuurrrr… Blurrrrr
The air erupted with scattering quail headed in all four directions.
Four quail disappeared in the distance seemingly un-ruffled.
James and Nick looked at each other… shook their heads and grinned.
The next point was the same scene, but the results were different on the flush. Two birds flushed, and both went Nick’s way. He raised his gun and dishragged the lead bird like he had done it all his life. He swung back to find the second quail, and at about its range, he dropped the hammer—another clean kill.
Two birds in three shots is a good average for anyone, especially a novice. They are hooked on quail hunting.
Over the course of the next three hours, they got to see dogs work, to see birds flush and fly away. Their shooting was average, as you might expect.
James took a double that was as pretty a way of moving a gun to a target as you could image. I am sure that if old bird hunters now passed on get to watch over our shoulders from their heavenly perch, they had a good time with both the great and not so great shots these guys were displaying.
Quail will both excite and humble you in their way. There is a reason the fabled Georgia outdoorsman and legendary author Charlie Elliot (for whom the WMA is named) titled one of his books, “Prince of Game Birds: Bobwhite Quail.”
Emma even got to where she was bringing birds back to James, as if to congratulate him for a good shot.
About halfway through the hunt, we took a break to water the dogs and ourselves and to put fresh dogs on the ground.
Early in the season, and when the air temperature is above 60 degrees, dogs get warm and tired earlier than in the heart of the season when they are in hunting shape and the temperature helps keep them running cool and strong.
A hunt that began at 8 a.m. was over about noon. Seventeen quail were in the bag, and it was time to go back to headquarters and prepare the quail.
This is a service provide by Foxhall, and James, Nick and I relaxed at headquarters while Ryan and Peter took care of cleaning and packaging the birds.
The day ended with cleaned birds, packaged in Ziploc bags, packed in ice inside an insulated tote emblazoned with the Foxhall logo being presented to our hunters with advice about recipes.
James had the quote of the day.
“I’m saving my money and coming back and do this again,” he beamed. “This was awesome.”
Quail used to be a hunting staple in middle and north Georgia, but wild coveys are rare now north of the fall line. Still, there is great interest in hunting these fine birds on public and private hunting preserves.
If, like James and Nick, you are new to quail hunting and want a safe place to learn what fun this is, a place like Foxhall Resort and Sporting Club is the best place to learn. The staff can guide both the experienced and the novice to a successful, fun and personally rewarding hunt. Ryan and Peter can be reached at (770) 489-4380 or online at foxhallsportingclub.com. They will be hunting quail from now through March.
The next trip from the Blast is a duck hunt on Seminole in December. Perhaps we will be taking you with us somewhere one day.