By Danny Massie
As young adults my friends and I were introduced to quail hunting in Western North Carolina. Our hunts would begin early in the morning and we could hear the unique Northern Bobwhite Quail calls in the distant fields. We would fly a covey of 20 to 30 birds on the rise. It would happen so quickly you couldn’t decide where to aim with only a two-or three-second period of time to shoot before the birds were gone. The dogs would continue to hunt and find more birds. It was a challenge to shoot wild quail because they were so quick. After only a few hunts, however, I was hooked.
Times have changed and the wild quail population is just about gone. The few birds in population led me to establish the Bee Ridge Quail Farm. As a quail farmer I raise birds from day-old chicks to full maturity in about 16 weeks. The quail are raised in a flight pen that is about 12 feet wide and 60 feet long. The space provided allows my birds to gain the strength of wild birds.
The quail are released in large areas with the best habitat. During quail season well-trained hunting dogs are used to find the quail. The initial training process for a new dog is three to four months and begins when the dogs are about six months old. The dogs next complete their hunting skills in the field. A year or more is needed to complete the training of a hunting dog.
Several breeds can produce quality bird dogs. I prefer English Pointers as they are born to hunt. Pointers are very affectionate around the kennels, but all business when out in the field. My passion, other than my family, is training bird dogs and watching them hunt in the fields.
I have hunted the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for grouse, North Dakota for pheasants and Southern plantations for quail. These experiences led me to guiding quail hunts, which I have loved doing for more than 15 years. Hunting over well-trained dogs as you watch seasoned hunters show off their skills is a fun and exciting pastime. Teaching first-time hunters is just as exciting as you see them gain confidence. The sport of bird hunting provides me a year-round challenge that pays off in the field.
Hunts guided by Danny Massie are organized through DBbarD Outfitters in Mills River. The season begins in October and continues through the end of March. Packages may be customized to the number of hunters in a party, with half-day and full-day hunting options. To learn more, visit dbbard.com.