Interest in quail hunting has waned across the continental US over the last few decades as populations plummeted to historical lows. Despite the drastic drop in available birds to hunt, die-hard quail hunters continue their search of Mr. Bobwhite, often on shooting preserves.

Interest in quail hunting has waned across the continental US over the last few decades as populations plummeted to historical lows. Despite the drastic drop in available birds to hunt, die-hard quail hunters continue their search of Mr. Bobwhite, often on shooting preserves.

Recently I traveled to Wil-Nor Outdoors, LLC, a bird hunting preserve near Dittmer, Missouri. The owner, Bill Kunz, has been in business since 1982.

“Quail populations were already declining at a rapid rate,” he said. “I began to experiment with pen raised birds and placing them in well managed food plantings before a hunt,” Kunz said.
“Exercising the birds to keep them fit proved to be a key to preserve hunting success,” Kunz explained. “No one wants to hunt birds that don’t fly well. Our longevity in the business is proof of our success with good birds.”

I help with Kunz’s website. Fortunately we resolved his problems quickly and I happily obliged to go into the field and film a quail hunt with two Wil-Nor clients.

Guide Mitch Lee and his spectacular Brittany, Polk, were already working their way down the first milo strip in the field when I arrived. Father and son team Randy and Garret Bone followed along with shotguns at port arms.

As I entered the field, I could see that Polk had pointed a bird. Mitch walked in behind the rock solid dog and flushed the quail. As if by numbers, I heard the report of the shotgun, saw a puff of feathers and a bird tumbling to the earth.
Polk had the quail held softly in his mouth scarcely after it thumped the ground. I could hear Mitch bragging on his dog. “Look at that pretty little dog with the bird in his mouth. Good boy, Polk,” he chortled.

The praise echoed for Polk’s benefit, but resonated with the hunters as they fully realized the connection between man and dog and the pure joy they derived from one another’s company.

I caught up as the hunting party approached a wood-line where numerous quail had landed after escaping on a covey rise in the milo. The elder Randy had wormed his way through the tangle of blackberry briars and brush to gain the advantage of a slight rise. Garrett remained at the field edge to cover the escape route should any flushed birds break out of the woods.

Polk caught the breeze, went birdy and within seconds locked down on point. Lee plowed through dense cover to flush the hiding quail. It vaulted skyward and headed for denser cover deep in the woods. It didn’t make it 15 yards before Randy’s gun bellowed and the brown feathered bird tumbled to the forest floor.

The Bone’s proved quickly that they were exceptional wing-shots. I laughed and confided in them that they were providing what was going to be the easiest bird hunting video ever to edit. I would not have to edit out missed shots. I wouldn't anyway. Missed shots provide lots of laughs.

As I continued to film, it became more apparent that the Bone’s ability to shoot exceeded that of the vast majority of bird hunters. I quizzed them about their abilities, but they modesty replied, “we just like to quail hunt.”

Most wing-shooters would give their right arms to shoot as well as the Bones. But, most shooters do not hunt as often or practice as often as the Bones, I’m assuming.

The Bones certainly proved to be an inspiration and as the days passed after watching their hunt, I boned up on how to become a better wing-shot. Perhaps what I discovered will help you, too.
Addressing your shooting failures on hunts will improve your shooting quickly. If you consistently hit birds with few pellets, change to a tighter choke. If you miss birds at close ranges, install a more open choke.

Don’t buy the cheapest shells. Manufacturers like to move a lot of shells. However, the promotions pushing what are often called pheasant or squirrel loads are not the best loads. Premium ammunition provides better patterns and impact, resulting in more birds down with less shots, which in the long run equals less birds you must purchase at a preserve.

Adjust your stance. Have a hunting partner check your stance for you. Ideally, your feet should be no further than shoulder width apart. The toe of your lead foot should point straight towards the intended target, or fleeing bird.

In their understandable excitement, many bird hunters shoot at birds a bit to quickly. Allowing flushed birds to gain a reasonable distance, before taking the shot, will allow patterns to work and tumble more birds. Consciously saying to yourself, albeit quickly, ”butt, belly, beak, bang,” will allow a bird to gain sufficient distance from a shooter.

I’ve heard Kunz say many times, “A bird hunter seldom misses by shooting in front of a bird.” Shooters often stop their swing to shoot at a fleeing bird, resulting in a miss. “Concentrate on the front end of the bird and keep swinging as you pull the trigger,” Kuntz advises. “You’ll see more birds fall out of the sky.”

Long time shooters like to use catchy phrases on newcomer bird hunters. More than once I’ve heard the sage advise, “Get your nose over your toes.” Shotgunners should purposefully not lean back nor bend at the hips. Take the proper stance and lean forward placing your nose over your toes.

It is wise to choose a shotgun that fits you perfectly. Buying from a gun shop rather than a box store, often solves this problem. Gun shop owners are in the business because they love it and want to help their customers all they can. It keeps them coming back.
Practice mounting your shotgun at home. Watch yourself in a mirror. Develop a proper, consistent gun mount. Practicing often will create muscle memory.

The Bone’s purchased 18 quail at Wil-Nor Outdoors for their hunt. When the hunt ended, the father-son pair game pouches bulged with 21 quail and one pheasant. They had harvested all of their birds plus a couple left over from previous hunts.
The rest of us have a lot of practice shooting ahead of us.