Sat & Sun, Dec 3 & 4, 2000 - Maryville, MO
The Checkcord Reader Hunt with Bob and Scott Quintilliano
For the second year in a row, the first weekend of December found me in another state enjoying a fine hunt with one of our readers. This hunt found me with Bob Quintilliano and his son, Scott. Bob's name was put in the hat by his wife, Vickie, for the drawing for this hunt in August of this past year and so he was quite surprised to learn that he would be taking a hunting trip courtesy of some guy on the internet he had never heard of!! Bob became a reader AFTER he won the trip, but that's ok!! We traveled to Maryville, Missouri to hunt with Bryan Long on his Hedge Rise hunting operation, which lays in the rolling farm ground near Maryville for the ringneck pheasants and bobwhite quail that are found in abundance in this part of Missouri. Scott had never hunted quail before and Bob had shot some birds just one time previously in Georgia. They are lucky to live in Michigan where they love to chase ruffed grouse and woodcock in the forests not far from their homes.
I arrived in Maryville on Saturday morning to meet Bob and Scott, who had arrived the previous night with Darwin, their 3 year-old male Vizsla after a long drive from Michigan. We got hooked up with Bryan after getting our licenses squared away at the local Wal-Mart (non-residents can hunt birds in Missouri for just $10.00 per day!!). A heavy snow had fallen into the early morning so Bryan suggested that we try to catch some roosters still on their roosts in some nice CRP fields that had yielded birds in previous weeks.
In addition to his in-season activties, Bryan heads up a bird dog training operation for all pointing breeds and has had a good measure of success with the dogs he has trained in both the AKC Field Trial and Hunting Test programs. We knew we were in for a treat when he put down "Jake", a German Wirehaired Pointer who has earned an AKC Master Hunter title. My GSP, Freck, Darwin and Jake began covering the CRP field, which covered better than a half-section in search of roosters that had not moved out to feed yet. Freck got off in a side ditch almost immediately and her beeper called me over to watch her work and point several hens in a minutes time that were tucked into the heavy grass. As soon as I got her corralled and back on track with the rest of the group, she slammed into a honor where Jake was pointing a hen himself just ahead of us.
We proceeded to hunt up and down the hilly terrain, which included some nice fences and a great tangled up ditch. From time to time roosters would flush wild ahead of us. The dogs were birdy almost constantly. At one point 8 roosters launched in single file from the end of a fence just ahead and out of gun range on Scott's side of the fence. Hard hunted pheasants are very tough no matter where you find them! One thing that always makes for a great trip is to get to hunt with an outstanding hunter . I have known Bryan for several years as a gifted bird dog man through field trials. This hunt gave me a chance to see him as talented hunter as well. He did a great job of always putting the gunners and the dogs in just the right spot, even though we all didn't always do our part very well!
As we then hit the far end of the field and began to swing back to the trucks we got a taste of the fun that would await us later in the day. Jake disappeared into a sumac jungle on a short fenceline and did not reappear. Bryan was sure he had the local covey nailed down in there. Bob and Scott were closest and so they walked in as a couple of the other dogs approached the thicket and began getting birdy. Just as we were about to call "rabbit" and pull the dog out of there, a covey bubbled up through the sumac and we sent them on their way with a few shots that didn't cut a feather.
It didn't look like the birds had gone far and Bryan was sure we would have some fun on the singles in the snowy woodlot just across the road. We sent the dogs ahead and for the next 45 minutes the birds had fun with us instead!! We got a couple singles nicely pointed. The picture in this paragraph shows Freck and Jake sharing a point the first single we found, backed by at least 2 other dogs. Can you pick them all out? The birds had evidently gotten a pretty good air washing on their first flush and so the dogs did not have a lot of luck picking them up on the snow. But we did find and flush a handful of these feathered rockets that usually managed to quickly put trees and brush quickly between themselves and the guns. This little episode reminded both Bob and I of hunting ruffed grouse in the hills of our native western Pennsylvania. (I knew there was something I liked about this guy right away!!)
After returning to the vehicles we drove to town for a quick bite of lunch and then set out to a large area that consisted mostly of cut soybean fields that were crossed by timbered fencelines and creek ditches. The dogs had a great time coursing the long fingers of cover, up and down the rolling fields. We must have covered the better part of two whole sections that afternoon. We had some seriously burnt out hunters and dogs by the end of the day. But, did we have a blast in the process!! In the course of the afternoon we found and shot at no less than 6 more coveys of quail and actually came close to getting a couple of pheasants in the bag. In the warming afternoon the dogs had good luck finding the coveys and singles and we enjoyed several stylish finds from Darwin, Freck and Boss, my current bird dog in training. At times the singles on the ground proved to be almost as tough to get nailed down as the rooster pheasants. More than once we actually saw birds on the ground hot footing it away into cover from a dog's solid point as the hunters got close to them. We did manage to scratch down a fe w birds with Bob particulary proving to be quite the dead-eye. This was Darwin's first quail hunt and despite being rubbed raw, thorn-jabbed and hunted down to a nub, he was really showing alot of enthusiasm for finding these fantastic little birds at the end of the day.
We returned to town for dinner and then...well, the rest of this trip is a bit of a blur for me. Upon getting into my car to drive back over to the hotel for the night, the cranky CV joint that I had been nursing all week gave way and my old Chevy wagon sat skuttled in the parking lot. So, the rest of my memories of this trip consist of the inside of a garage, a flying trip to St. Joseph in Bryan's wife's car (thank you, Susan!!) to get parts, follwed by a nice tow and repair bill and then a late night crawl back to Omaha. I know that Bryan, Bob and Scott did give it the college try on Sunday while I was otherwise occupied and that their luck was not nearly as good as on Saturday. But that's why we call it hunting, right? I know that I was quite beat from the hours of non-stop walking we had done the day before and I am not sure how much of an effort my dogs or I would have really put forth the next day myself. Before I left town on Sunday Bryan reported that another hunting group that day had luck that mirrored what we had on Saturday on another part of his lease.
I wish to thank Bob and Scott for making the long trip down to Missouri to hunt with me. (and thanks to Vickie for putting their names in the drawing!) They are the type of guys who I really enjoy hunting with. It's not so much the number of birds in the bag that matters at the end of the day, but just getting out with a couple of guys that really just enjoy watching the dogs get after the birds that really makes for nice memories. Of course, I also wish to acknowledge the efforts of Bryan Long of Hedge Rise in Maryville, MO for making this trip a success. Maryville, Missouri is located just about 2 hours drive from both Omaha and Des Moines in northwestern Missouri. They've got the birds, for sure and Maryville just seems to love bird hunters. Be sure to bring a couple of dogs to spell off each other and maybe even a spare pair of legs for yourself if you do make plans to get down there. In addition to the great upland hunting Bryan can show visitors, he also has a couple of nice waterfowl set-ups and his hunters regularly do quite well on ducks and geese in season. He also reports, as we all have been hearing, that the area has fantastic whitetail deer hunting and turkeys out the wazoo! I am glad I finally made it down to this area as it is so close to Omaha and particulary as it has much better numbers of bobwhite than we have had in most of Nebraska lately. This hunt reminded me of just how much fun quail really are for the dogs and gunners. I know I want to go try it again next year!