An epiphany, for sure, but one that also caused me to whiff an easy shot in front of a gallery of fellow hunters, outdoor writers, and conservationists. (That's my excuse, anyhow.) No matter -- we all knew there would be more coveys before our afternoon ended.
Dr. Dale Rollins is one of the world's premier authorities on quail and quail habitat. The land we were hunting was the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch, situated in Fisher County, Texas. It's basically a 4,700 acre research laboratory with a mission of helping find ways to sustain and grow wild quail populations.
Click on the jump to find out.
Dr. Rollins leaves no stone unturned when it comes to studying quail in their native habitat. Throughout the year, he and his team track grazing cattle with GPS devices, and they track bird dogs with Astros that track birds fitted with tiny telemetry collars and leg bands. They study vegetation, controlled burning, insect, snake, predator and raptor populations -- all in the name of ensuring the populations of "Gentleman Bob" don't decline more than they already have.
Dr. Rollins patrols the ranch in his custom-built quail buggy, which he proclaims is the "pride of the Texas A&M fleet," a nod to the school where he's a professor and Texas AgriLife Extension Service wildlife specialist. Without exception, he's accompanied by his merry band of research assistants: Annie, Doc, Babe, and Ellie, who ride on the rumble seat of the buggy. When it's time to locate a covey, Dr. Rollins simply says, "I need a volunteer." One or two dogs pour off the vehicle and start hunting, and those that aren't on the ground watch intently. When their cohorts go on point, the four-legged passengers lock up and honor those points from the buggy. It's a sight unlike anything you've ever seen.
Field and Stream's shotgunning columnist (and fellow Midwesterner, I might add) Phil Bourjaily was down at the Quail Ranch doing a profile for the F&S Blog. Click here to read about his experience.
We were introduced to Dr. Rollins through Rick Snipes, who serves as the RPQRR's board chairman, and is a tried-and-true quail man if there ever was one. Rick retired in the mid-1990s and bought a ranch near Aspermont, Texas. Ever since then, he's worked to make every square inch of it hospitable to quail -- and he's done a simply amazing job. Rick was also an "early adopter" of the Astro, realizing quickly how it could keep track of his big-running pointers.
Our Texas trip left us with fond memories and a renewed commitment to protect the wildlife resources we enjoy so much. It's pretty satisfying to know that in at least a small way, Garmin's products are helping to sustain our quail hunting heritage for future generations.