What do bobwhite quail do all day?

A male bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) walks swiftly from its roosting site.

Jerry and I became even more fascinated by bobwhite quail while spending the winter training on a quail plantation in southwest Georgia.

First of all, they are tiny…..and weigh just 6 oz. Like ruffed grouse, they are perfectly plumaged as to be practically invisible, even when looking straight at them. We discovered that they are as wily and evasive as grouse, too. To avoid dogs and hunters, they run fast and far or they burrow in/under a clump of wiregrass or other cover where even the most tenacious Labrador or cocker spaniel will have difficulty with location.

We adore the distinctive “bob white, bob white” whistle. Perhaps most of all, though, we never tire of the exhilaration, fast action and flurry of wings when a covey rises.

Bobwhite quail fly into heavy cover after the flush.

But we wanted to know more so Jerry spent hours studying the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy website. Tall Timbers is located outside Tallahassee, Florida, on a former quail plantation. It is widely regarded for its research and as a resource in the areas of fire ecology and wildlife and game bird management of the Southeastern Coastal Plain.

One of the cool things they researched during a hunting season was “Patterns of Bobwhite Covey Activity.” Workers radio-tracked four coveys of quail continuously, recording their location and activity level every 15 minutes from daylight until dark. They overlaid that data onto weather data collected on the same 15-minute intervals at the Albany, Georgia, airport.

Generally, coveys ranged no more than 200 to 300 yards during a single day and 10 to 15 acres throughout the season.

A female bobwhite quail is hard to distinguish from among fallen pine needles.

And the daily habit?

Second hour of daylight: Covey moves off their roost and enters into period of peak activity. This high level of activity lasts for 1 to 1½ hours and then tapers off.

Midday:  Very little activity for 3 – 4 hours. Coveys often move to heavier cover to loaf.

Around 3:00 pm:  Activity levels start to pick up. Coveys usually have periods of feeding and then going to roost.

The research project also proved that quail covey movements were influenced by weather.

•    Active in cold temperatures and conditions with high humidity and light winds.
•    Inactive in hot temperatures and conditions with low humidity and high winds.
•    Inactive when raining.
•    Very little activity when the wind was from the east.
•    Activity levels tended to increase the day before a change in the weather suggesting that quail can sense an approaching weather event.

Revised spring field trial schedule

Two local clubs have changed dates of field trials. See changes in bold below. We’ll post further updates as soon as we can.

Chippewa Valley Grouse Dog Association
Open Shooting Dog, Thursday, March 28
Don Didcoct Amateur Shooting Dog Classic, Friday, March 29
Open Puppy, Friday, March 29
Open Derby, Saturday, March 30

This trial is cancelled. The club might re-schedule to the first weekend in April.

Grounds:  Eau Claire County State Forest, near Stanley, Wisconsin
Contact:  Brent Sittlow (952-221-3455)

Minnesota Grouse Dog Association
The Shooting Dogs starts on the first day and, with the exception of the puppy stakes, the rest will follow in sequence. The Open Puppy always starts on Sunday morning.

Friday, April 5 – Sunday, April 7
Open Shooting Dog (one-hour braces), Open Derby, Amateur Shooting Dog, Open Puppy

This trial is postponed. It will begin on Friday, April 12.

Saturday, April 13 – Sunday, April 14
Open Shooting Dog (half-hour braces), Open Derby, Amateur Shooting Dog, Open Puppy

This trial has to be moved due to the postponement of the first trial. It might be held Saturday, April 27 – Sunday, April 28.

Grounds:  Rum River State Forest, near Mora, Minnesota
Contact:  Scott Anderson (651-338-4921) and/or check out www.mngda.blogspot.com.

Moose River Grouse Dog Club
The club will hold three stakes and run them in order.
Friday, April 19 – Sunday, April 21:  Open Shooting Dog, Open Derby, Open Puppy
Grounds:  Douglas County Forest, near Danbury, Wisconsin
Contact:  Sig Degitz (715-374-2289)

Directions to each trial grounds are here.

Another champion: Houston’s Blue Diamond

CH Houston’s Blue Diamond (Houston x Forest Ridge Jewel) is posed by his owner Ross Leonard, on left.

Congratulations to Ross Leonard for handling his setter male, Houston’s Blue Diamond (call name Sam), to first place in Region 4 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship held recently near Berea, Kentucky. Most of these horseback trials are dominated by pointers and this was no different—18 pointers and eight setters competed.

Sam was whelped in 2006 out of Houston (via frozen semen) and Forest Ridge Jewel at the kennel of Paul Hauge. This was a repeat breeding for Paul…and for a very good reason. The first litter in 2004 produced multiple champion and extraordinary dam, CH Houston’s Belle. Sam is a handsome dog with a blocky head and the distinctive “Houston” mark around his left eye.

Sam was one of five puppies. Two of his siblings, Fireside Fleetwood and Fireside Blue Zephyr, are also field trial winners.

I developed and trained Sam for Paul that first year—on the North Dakota prairie, in the grouse woods and in Texas on bobwhite quail. Ross bought Sam from Paul in 2007 and, after furthering his training, has successfully competed in various field trials.

Landcruiser Scout wins RU-CH at Eastern Open Shooting Dog Championship

RU-CH Landcruiser Scout (CH Can’t Go Wrong x CH Houston’s Belle)

Landcruiser Scout, five-year-old setter male owned by Mike and Patricia Cooke of Rochester, New York, was recently named runner-up champion at the Eastern Open Shooting Dog Championship. Four setters and 28 pointers competed in the trial which was held near the Virginia and North Carolina border. Scout is trained and handled by professional Jeanette Tracy.

What a family! Scout is out of a litter of six males and two females that Paul Hauge, Jerry and I co-bred—CH Can’t Go Wrong x CH Houston’s Belle—in 2008. Two litter brothers are champions in horseback field trial competition, CH Ridge Creek Cody (Larry Brutger, St. Cloud, Minnesota) and CH Houston’s Blackjack (Frank LaNasa, Isanti, Minnesota).

In addition to delivering Scout on his way to field trials in Pennsylvania that spring, Jerry met Joe Zimmer of Chamois, Missouri. Joe’s dog, Fritz, is a winner in walking field trials.

Congratulations to Mike, Patricia and Jeanette!

Sights of southwest Georgia

The most common sight here in southwest Georgia is Jerry out working dogs…and when he’s training Northwoods Vixen, our young pointer, it becomes one of my favorite sights.

There is very little about southwest Georgia that resembles home. The woods and lakes of Minnesota seem far away—not only in miles but in cultural differences. Obvious anomalies include no snow and no SA convenience store on every corner. The agricultural landscape consists of peanut and cotton fields and vast groves of large pecan trees; no corn or soybean fields in sight. Sometimes it’s even difficult to grasp that this is part of the United States and people here vote for the same president.

Other basics are different, too. For example:

•    Rather than neighborhoods and communities full of beige vinyl-sided houses, here the majority of homes are adorned with brick, usually some shade of red brick. Architectural features such as shutters and front porches (complete with rocking chairs) are ubiquitous. Few homes have garages and even less has basements.

•    In the upper Midwest, not many broadleaf evergreen plants grow. The landscape here looks green even in January due to the plethora of big live oaks and many shrubs including camellias, kalmias and hollies. Turf grass is even green in winter.

•    Winters are very mild with highs in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Snow is extremely rare. It’s now spring and the sunny, crisp days are more reminiscent of falls days in the north.

•    Speech varies from an incomprehensible dialect to typically southern expressions. Truly, I have, quite politely, asked people to repeat themselves because I haven’t understood one word they said. Almost everyone uses “you-all” although, with their drawl, it becomes a single syllable word pronounced like the two-masted sailboat, the yawl.

Even so, Jerry and I have loved living here. We have met some extraordinary people, all of whom exude graciousness and warmth. Many are courteous to a fault with lots of “Ma’ams” thrown into the conversation.

Even more than normal, our meals are highlights of our days as we eat what locals eat. We’ve had grouper and shrimp from the Gulf, catfish, BBQ, biscuits, grits, cornbread, hush puppies and pecans in bars and pies. From nearby Florida, we’ve eaten terrific grapefruit, tomatoes and strawberries. Jerry has even tried and enjoyed sautéed turnip greens.

The dogs, seemingly, like it here, too. Each has a spacious kennel run (5’ wide by 10’ long) and an elevated dog house that is just the right size—cozy yet large enough to allow for air flow on warm days. Not one dog has become ill with intestinal problems, tick-borne diseases or other issues. The training opportunities on wild coveys of quail and, when necessary, on liberated Johnny-house quail have been excellent.

Here are some of our favorite sights of southwest Georgia.

A classy aspect of most plantations is a simple, understated entrance.

Southwest Georgia, and particularly Thomasville, is the center of quail plantation country. Highways (Plantation Parkway), art festivals (Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival) and businesses (Plantation Propane & Petroleum) are named in their honor. Quail plantations themselves have names, too. Many are Native American in origin—Seminole, Cherokee, Osceola and Kickapoo, while others are evocative:  Sunny Hill, Twin Oaks, Mistletoe, Longpine, Dixie.

Evergreen azaleas are in full, glorious bloom now. Azaleas belong here in the piney woods of the Red Hills region and prove it by happily putting out hundreds of flowers on a single shrub. The most common flower color is deep pink but I’ve seen shrubs with blossoms of light pink, peach and white.

Elements for a successful burn on a quail plantation include: one guy on a four-wheeler with drip torch that ignites the brush, water supply in yellow container and furrowed row that serves as a fire break.

Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) is the dominant plant of the once-extensive southeast forest that originally (pre-Euopean settlement) comprised an estimated 90 million acres. The stands were rich in numbers of vascular plant species—second only to the tropics—and relied on the natural phenomenon of lightning-started fire for management. Fire continues to be important but now must be set with special permits.

Thick bark on mature longleaf pines makes them resistant to fire.

Some of the nation’s most prestigious shooting dog and all-age field trials—the Masters, Continental, Florida, Free-For-All and the National Open Shooting Dog—are held during January, February and March in this part of the country. A huge draw is the opportunity to run on wild bobwhite quail.

Pots of herbs and a garland of cotton adorn the front of Liam’s Restaurant in downtown Thomasville.

Brick-paved, downtown Thomasville is charming and lively. The buildings have been completely renovated and all now bear a plaque noting the original business name and date. Benches and large container gardens full of blooming petunias and pansies line sidewalks and lovely wrought iron signs mark the streets. In homage to its quail plantation heritage, bronze statues of sporting dogs and 12 bobwhite quail are in various locations. Jerry and I discovered some terrific restaurants:  Jonah’s Fish & Grits, Sweet Grass Dairy & Cheese (& wine!) Shop, Liam’s Restaurant, Savannah Moon Bakery & Café and Grassroots Coffee Shop. No trip downtown is complete without checking out Kevin’s, a very classy store with hardwood floors and old glass cases that sells premium firearms, outdoor gear, sporting apparel and fine china and crystal.

Jerry and I developed an affinity for native longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), the stately evergreen that dominates the landscape in southwest Georgia. The longleaf has a unique start to life. Up to about six years of age, most of the growth takes place below the ground; all that shows above is a very cute, dense cluster of needles that looks more like a grass and, in fact, is termed the “grass” stage. Those needles also protect the young plant from fire.

Mornings in the piney woods are beautiful and May, our Labrador retriever, and I loved the daily walks around our place.

I was surprised but happy to see one familiar tree even though it bloomed about two months earlier than at home. In mid February, red maples (Acer rubrum) became noticeable due to the spectacle of red flowers along bare branches. Tiny samaras soon formed. Red maples have a huge range—among the most abundant and widespread of eastern trees—from northern Maine to the southern tip of Florida.

Spring field trial dates for local grouse dog clubs

Dogs, handlers, judges and friends gather after the derby stake at the Minnesota Grouse Dog Association trial held last April.

Listed below are spring field trial dates for the Minnesota & Wisconsin grouse dog clubs. For complete information about costs, specific times and other information, please contact the club official indicated.

These spring field trials are always a good time. Without the drama and competition of the championship stakes, they’re usually a little more casual. Plus, it’s great to get back in the woods after a long winter and to see good friends.

Hope to see you this spring!

Chippewa Valley Grouse Dog Association
Open Shooting Dog, Thursday, March 28
Don Didcoct Amateur Shooting Dog Classic, Friday, March 29
Open Puppy, Friday, March 29
Open Derby, Saturday, March 30

Grounds:  Eau Claire County State Forest, near Stanley, Wisconsin
Contact:  Brent Sittlow (952-221-3455)

Minnesota Grouse Dog Association
The club will hold field trials over the first two weekends in April. The Shooting Dogs starts on the first day and, with the exception of the puppy stakes, the rest will follow in sequence. The Open Puppy always starts on Sunday morning.

Friday, April 5 – Sunday, April 7
Open Shooting Dog (one-hour braces), Open Derby, Amateur Shooting Dog, Open Puppy

Saturday, April 13 – Sunday, April 14
Open Shooting Dog (half-hour braces), Open Derby, Amateur Shooting Dog, Open Puppy

Grounds:  Rum River State Forest, near Mora, Minnesota
Contact:  Scott Anderson (651-338-4921)

Moose River Grouse Dog Club
The club will hold three stakes and run them in order.

Friday, April 19 – Sunday, April 21:  Open Shooting Dog, Open Derby, Open Puppy

Grounds:  Douglas County Forest, near Danbury, Wisconsin
Contact:  Sig Degitz (715-374-2289)

Directions to each trial grounds are here.

Northwoods Birds Dogs    53370 Duxbury Road, Sandstone, Minnesota 55072
Jerry: 651-492-7312     |      Betsy: 651-769-3159     |           |      Directions
Follow us:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed
©2017 Northwoods Bird Dogs  |  Website: The Sportsman’s Cabinet