By Sue Curry Jones
In this issue of the Herald we are running an article by the Missouri Departments of Conservation about the quail population across the state, and along with the article is a chart that delineates areas where quail numbers are higher in population.
For me, it is sad that our local countryside, once plentiful with coveys of quail, now has a diminished population and hunting quail in this area isn’t the sport it once was.
In our family, especially during my younger years, quail hunting season was a given –– as I recall, it was the unrelenting focus of many in my family, including Dad, Uncle Howard, cousin Ronnie, nephew Jeremy, and others. It was a big deal.
It didn’t seem to matter how blistery cold it was outside, or if snow or rain prevailed…..hunting quail was a certainty, and the winter sport by choice.
But, the sport was every bit as important as the preparation, and the pre-planning received a lot of attention as well, with focus on gear, warm clothes, who had the best dog, and where the hunt would take place –– the day took special planning.
As a young girl, the fun part for me was when my Dad came home with a vest full of birds to be cleaned. No matter how many birds he brought home, the ritual was always the same.
Before personally cleaning up or eating dinner, Dad would grab several folds of newspaper, a few utensils, a pan of water, and take a seated position on the bottom step of the basement staircase. There he would spread out the newspaper, and start the task of cleaning the birds.
And, as always, I took my position on the floor at his feet, to watch the process.
At first, the task of cleaning birds was likely fascinating to me, especially as a youth, but over time, our 15 or 20 minutes at the bottom of the basement steps became something very special.
As he was cleaning birds, Daddy would talk about the hunt, a special shot, a funny incident, or how well the dog worked to find and retrieve a bird. Or, the bird never found. And with every word and every story, his face expressed contentment and peace. He had enjoyed the day, and it showed on his face.
I will always remember the smile and sense of satisfaction he had after quail hunting.
In my later years, I only hunted with my Dad a few times, but I will always remember walking through the field with him witnessing his love for nature, the experience and expertise he shared, and how Jack, his Pointer hunting dog, would work the field. The last time we hunted together, I was in college at Drury, and it was the early 70s. And, even though we didn’t flush many birds that day, it was still a great time. A wonderful memory for me.
In years since, while living in South Carolina, I made it a goal to take my son Michael hunting, and we started the adventure when he was in middle school. Except we didn’t go quail hunting, we went dove hunting. The most notable hunt we made together was in a peach tree field near Chesney, the dove were plentiful and continued flying over our position in intervals. Michael and I called it a ‘dove frenzy.’ It is fun when you have that many birds to chose from. We easily snagged our limits and it was a memorable day for both of us. We still reminisce about it today, sometimes taking opposite sides about who made the best shot, or which one of us took home the most birds.
Making special memories with our children, family and loved ones is important, and many trips or occasions spawn those wonderful memories that are always special and dear.
But in looking back, it becomes apparent that sometimes the really outstanding moments in life don’t always occur during a well-planned vacation –– many times it may be the commonplace daily life events that create our most precious moments.
Those wonderful memories we embrace for a lifetime.