Quail season has always been a very special time in my life—I’ve been hunting the little game birds since I was old enough to hold a shotgun. Back in those days, my dad had ordered a pair of Remington 1100 shotguns, one in 20-gauge and one in 12. At the time, he used the 12-gauge and I the 20. We spent a great deal of our time at the Shipp Ranch, owned and operated by our dear friend, Col. Evan B. Quiros. The Shipp was located east of Laredo, Texas, and was absolutely inundated with game of all types, including quail.
Our time spent at the Shipp Ranch was unforgettable. We knocked around the Shipp on a regular basis, always hunting something. If game wasn’t in season, arrowheads were on the menu. During the winter, quail was my game of choice—even over deer. Our quail hunts often involved some fascinating characters. I came to know gunsmith Jimmy Clark, Col. Charles Askins and Bill Jordan very well. The stories told during those hunts were extraordinary.
I recall the number of coveys we’d run into at the Shipp seeming endless. We all tagged out, virtually every time we hunted. At the end of the day, we would all partake in the field dressing of the birds, then retire to the Shipp headquarters, where Col. Quiros’ chef would generally have a good pot of beans and barbequed cabrito with fresh flour tortillas ready for us.
These great meals were always accompanied by more stories. I kept my mouth shut and listened. Tales spun by Col. Quiros, Col. Askins and Bill Jordan were spell binding to a youngster like me. All three had made many excursions to Africa, and all three had taken virtually every big-game animal imaginable.
One of the more interesting statements I will never forget came from Col. Askins. He had hunted all over the world, had seen action in World War II—along with some interesting work in Vietnam—and had been a federal agent with a couple of different agencies. During one of our quail hunts, he confided in me that if he could only hunt one species of game, it would be quail. This left a significant impression on me.
As I grew older, trips to the Shipp Ranch became less and less frequent. I was still able to find good quail hunting in New Mexico, where I have resided off and on for years. New Mexico offers several species of quail, including Scaled, Gambel’s and Mearns. At one point I finally raised a wonderful German Shorthair pointer and had a blast chasing birds near the Gila National Forest. This was a treat as we had never used dogs in South Texas. The brush and cactus were just too hard on a dog.
I had switched to the Remington 1100 in 12-gauge at one point, but later decided the 20-gauge was the better choice for quail. I still own and cherish that pair of guns, and still use them for various purposes. These days, I often carry a Beretta 28-gauge over-under, which does a splendid job on quail and dove.
As I get longer in the tooth, I find my hunting excursions become less recurrent. Yet, just a day or so ago, while coming through the ranch gate, I jumped a very large covey of scaled quail. I had no shotgun, but regaled in just watching them file under the fence, then gather in the brush near an arroyo.
I must admit, the sight did get my juices flowing.