Bringing Back the Bobwhite

bobwhite quail

I wrote the following article about five years ago for LandViews magazine and it is reprinted with permission of Farm Credit of Northwest Florida.

I want to take a moment to congratulate the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission for its initiative to bring back the Bobwhite Quail. This is a cause that everyone can support.

For example, some of my birdwatcher friends think it’s a great idea because it will help this beautiful, native species become more abundant in the wild. Many older folks long to hear that two-note whistle that gave the bobwhite its name.

I like it because eventually it will make my life easier—and less costly. Like every modern day quail hunter, one of my biggest expenses is paying for the quarry itself. Not that I mind, of course. If I wasn’t spending money on quail to hunt, I’d probably just blow it on the mortgage or groceries or some other frivolous purchase.

The real problem is that there are some folks out there who just don’t understand us New Age bird hunters. My late father and my wife come to mind immediately.

To be fair, I should point out that my father’s quail hunting career lasted from the late 1930s until the late 1960s. Back then, quail outnumbered lovebugs, and bringing home 30 or 40 in a day wasn’t unheard of (unless the game warden happened to be listening).

Naturally, by the time I got interested, quail had become harder to find than squirrel feathers. Pretty soon, I realized that a successful hunt would involve my checkbook as much as my shotgun.

To my father, the part about buying the quail was perfectly fine. He loved them fried with rice and gravy, and he understood as well as anyone how much the population had declined. Quail, per se, were a perfectly legitimate purchase in his eyes. What he couldn’t understand was why we turned them loose.

“Let me get this straight,” he said after my first put-and-take experience. “You already had the quail caged up, and you just let them go?” (That’s when I had to explain that, no, we actually hid them like Easter eggs to make it more sporting.) I honestly didn’t know if he was going to laugh or cry.

When he regained his color, all he could do was ask how much I paid for the birds. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we paid about the same for flight-conditioned live quail as you’d pay for birds that were dressed and ready to cook. Nor did I get into the part about putting out 100 birds and only shooting 50, effectively doubling the price of each.

When my father paid for quail, he expected them to look like this.

When my father paid for quail, he expected them to look like this.

Speaking of cost, that’s the part my wife doesn’t quite understand.

“Here’s the way I see it,” Mary said. “You paid for a dog. You paid to have the dog trained. You paid for a fence to contain the dog because the dog isn’t trained to actually do anything but hunt birds. And, now you have to pay for the birds so the stupid dog can have something to hunt?”

She said all that like it was a bad thing.

All I can say is more power to the FWC. You have my permission to spend as much of my tax money as necessary on this mission. If Mary has a problem with that, she can take it up with the Legislature.

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