A few years ago, if I read the title of a newspaper article that said, ‘A week of shotgunning,’ I’d probably think the author had a drinking problem. But instead of pregaming a WVU football win or chugging cheap swill during Wednesday’s Mountaineers men’s basketball game against Gonzaga, my upcoming week of shotgunning has a much different meaning.
It began Friday as I silently walked through the woods of Smithsburg, Md., looking for grey squirrels. Every time I visit my girlfriend’s parents, I love to take a stroll around their property and knock squirrels out of trees or off deadfall. Recent times have been even sweeter since I’m walking around with my family Harrington and Richardson single-shot 12-gauge. Rather than come out with a solid harvest, I instead was skunked – something I haven’t dealt with on this property since last year. But, that’s part of it when you’re hunting them solo.
I took a break Saturday and Sunday, but that’s only because I’m celebrating my birthday and deer hunting – also, you can’t hunt squirrel on the first day of gun season in Maryland – but I get back into it early Monday morning as I hit the road en route to Oklahoma for a bobwhite quail hunt with my friend and former colleague David Schlake. My first stop is Hillcrest Wildlife Management Area outside of New Cumberland for a sunrise pheasant hunt. This will also be a first and hope that being without a dog I’ll be able to kick some up alone. I have a delicious roasted bird recipe in mind, utilizing a West Virginia cornbread stuffing recipe thought up by Mike Costello and Amy Dawson of Lost Creek Farm.
Regardless of what happens, because of an impending cold snap and winter weather system rolling through the midwest and into West Virginia, I’ll quickly divert south to see my parents – dropping the bird off for storage – and head to Lexington, Ky., to stay with my buddy Connor. The next morning, I’m up early to continue to trek to Dallas where I’ll link up with Schlake for last minute preparations before we hit the road for western Oklahoma.
From Thursday to Sunday we’ll be chasing quail in the sand dunes region behind his Old Hemlock Setter, Sage, a bird dog born just up the road from Morgantown near Bruceton Mills. The outlook looks great, albeit wildly cold at night and in the mornings. As I type this, it’s currently 32 degrees with a daytime high of 51 and a nighttime low of 32. While we’re there, temperatures will peak at 55 degrees on Sunday, and the coldest night will be our first with a brisk 21 degree drop. But that’s why they make warm sleeping bags and wind shedding tents. The bird outlook is good, too. Schlake noted he saw plenty of birds in recent weeks near where we’ll be hunting.
I’ll be running that H&R some days, but will likely start out with the Browning BPS 12 gauge that I’ve been borrowing from my girlfriend’s dad. That Browning helped me get my first sea duck and woodcock, and almost got me my first mourning dove, so the odds are in my favor to get my first quail.
I hope to come home with a story of a bountiful harvest to tell you all about, but I’m sure even if I come away from Oklahoma without a single bird to my name I’ll be able to share something.