For years we have wanted to go on a hunt outside of our duck pond. We would like to go on an Arkansas duck hunt. Then of course there is my dream to shoot birds in Argentina. With almost all of us being teachers, we just don’t have the money to go on these hunts.
This year I went to the guys with the idea of hunting a quail preserve. This was our opportunity for a hunt after duck season was over. There are also preserves near enough by that we didn’t have to spend the night and at a price that was reasonable enough that we could afford it.
I did a quick search on the internet and found several preserves nearby. I compared the options available at each preserve, and their prices. I found a preserve that especially peaked my interest. Spring Grove Preserve near St. Stephen, South Carolina. Since Coach Taylor has a lot of contact in the St. Stephen area, I turned the number over to him so he could check the place out. Coach talked to several of his friends who live near St. Stephen. They all spoke highly of Spring Grove, so Coach got in contact with the owner to see what dates he had available. We ended up reserving the afternoon hunt on March 26.
A few weeks before our scheduled hunt we drove out to Spring Grove to check out the facilities. We found an exceptional clubhouse. Behind the clubhouse is a small pond. Sporting clay stations surround the pond and clubhouse. Everything was exceptionally nice.
The morning of March 26 was a cool morning. A nice change from the hot days we had been having. There was the promise of a great day of hunting ahead. Bernie, Joe, and I had planned to leave home by 9:30 am so that we could meet up with Coach Taylor in Kingstree by 10:00 am, in time to grab an early lunch before heading to Spring Grove for an early bird hunt.
As it is with most of our well laid plans, this plan was not meant to be. Joe like usual was running late. Bernie had to go get shells. Me, well, in a frenzy to try to get everything straight I locked my keys in my house. By the time we got everything together we didn’t have time to eat lunch with Coach, so we stopped by Hardee’s to grab a quick biscuit on the way to Kingstree. We finally got to Coach’s house around 11:30 am.
We reached Spring Grove shortly after 12:00 pm, well within time for our afternoon hunt. Upon our arrival we got all our paperwork straight. We then waited on the back porch where there are plenty of rocking chairs and even a porch swing. Bernie, Coach and I were entertained by Joe, who threw a tennis ball for Dexter, the friendly retriever who greets guests at Spring Grove, and Buddy, a young French Brittany Spaniel. For the next hour or so we enjoyed the back porch, the rocking chairs, the cool breeze, a lot of old stories and lies, and Spring Grove’s resident entertainers, Dexter and Buddy.
When the time came for the hunt we left the lodge and drove to the hunting grounds where we were introduced to our guide, Doug. None of us knew quite what to expect, we had never been on a hunt like this. After a short greeting Doug told us to get our vests, guns, and shells, and to get ready. Doug got a small French Brittany Spaniel from the truck and asked if we were loaded and ready to go. We loaded our guns and followed Doug into the well kept and thinned woods.
It only took a minute for the dog to point the first bird. Joe and Bernie pushed Coach and me to shoot first (not that it took much pushing). Doug showed us where to get, then he flushed the bird, which was a pheasant rooster. The bird flushed to my side, instinct took over, I made the shot, and my first pheasant fell to the ground. I rotated to the back and the other guys killed pheasant. When I made it back to the front, the pheasant never flushed to my side again, so I did not get to take another pheasant. Bernie and Joe each managed to get a clean kill on a pheasant, and the guys tag teamed three more.
We also got the opportunity to hunt chucker. Just like with the pheasant, I was up front when the first pair of chucker were flushed. I fired two shots from my 28 gauge side by side, putting both chucker on the dirt. At that point Doug, who did not know everyone’s name yet, pointed out, “Ya’ll better pick up the pace, the guy shooting the double is on a hot streak!” We ended up with twelve chucker. I killed five of the twelve.
Shooting coveys of quail was fast and furious. I lost count of how many quail I killed quickly, but we all had fun. I guess I was getting my fair share. At one point late in the hunt Doug, who knew us all by name now, pointed out that I certainly had shot in my gun. That was twice he pointed out my ability to take birds. I don’t remember him pointing that out about any of the other guys.
Doug is a great guide. He has a marvelous sense of humor he is also a wonderful story teller. At the beginning of the hunt you could tell that he wanted to figure out how precautious we were with guns. A pair or chucker flushed between Doug and Coach. You could see him cringe waiting for our reactions. You could also see his relief when everyone froze until the birds cleared. After a while you could tell, he figured out we were experienced gunmen, we understand that no bird I worth putting someone’s life in jeopardy, and he seemed to relax a little around us. In fact he would step in front of all of us to flush a bird.
What amazed me most about Doug was his ability to mark birds. When I mark a bird, if I take my eyes off it, I loose it. Doug would mark every bird we knocked down and still know where all of the singles went down. It was a real pleasure to have a guide like Doug.
Coach Taylor and Joe shot 12 gauge automatics. Bernie shot his 16 gauge automatic, while I, on a different note shot a 28 gauge side by side. Bernie and Coach shot high power 7 ½ s. Joe shot high power 6s. I shot field load 7 ½ s at the pheasant and chucker and field load 8s at the quail. When we go back next year I am going to try to find some high power 6s for the 28 gauge the shoot the pheasant and chucker and stay with the field load 8s or possibly 9s for the quail. I think a heavy field load in 6 or 7 ½ would be fine to shoot the big birds with a 12 gauge. The 12 gauge high power shells were too much shell for the quail. I think game load 8s or 9s would work well for quail in the 12 and 16 gauge guns.
All in all we had a lot of fun on our first upland bird hunt. We may not be able to afford to go to exotic places to hunt, but we were finally smart enough to figure out that we can stay close to home, take a hunt that we can afford, and still have fun, the Briary River Way.