Rooster Road Trip 2016 - Upland Nation, an annual digital showcase of upland hunting on public land habitat & access projects, takes to the field November 14th – 18th. This is the first report from the second leg of this year’s tour.
After a 15-hour drive and a night of restlessness in anticipation of making our first turnout in Oklahoma, our Rooster Road Trip crew trailed the lights of Quail Forever volunteers from highway pavement onto a two-track road early Monday morning. We were hunting a brand new, 9,700-acre addition to an existing Wildlife Management Area in the state’s Panhandle for opening week of quail season.
Feathers in the Sagebrush
Winding our way through the tangles of sagebrush, plum thickets, and sandy dunes, we pulled over near an abandoned oil well pad and shut off the trucks. “Hear that?” I whispered to Josh Dahlstrom, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s graphic designer. As the November supermoon gave way to a spectacular sunrise and 35 degree temperatures, the plum thickets were coming alive with the covey calls of bobwhite quail – our motivation for visiting Sooner country. We were only minutes into our Oklahoma adventure and already the enthusiasm for the day was escalating, matched only by the excitement of two German shorthairs, an English pointer, and a Labrador retriever who understood the gravity of the situation.
After dropping the tailgates and following the dogs into sagebrush flats at legal shooting light, we were a mere 10 minutes into the hunt when “Esky,” a German shorthaired pointer owned by Pheasants Forever’s Bob St. Pierre, locked up in a mixture of sagebrush and waist-high native grass. “Flush!” yelled St. Pierre, as a pair of bobwhites flushed from heavy cover followed closely by the report of his Browning 725 20-gauge. A short retrieve to hand by Esky produced the first harvest of our trip – we were on the board and eager for more.
Throughout our time in Oklahoma, the Rooster Road Trip crew managed to move, on average, about one bobwhite covey per hour of hunting. Taking into account our time spent chasing smaller groups that broke off from the main covey flushes, we had all the wingshooting we could handle at certain points during our visit to Okie.
Large Coveys, Tough Conditions
Quail hunting in the Oklahoma Panhandle was impressive to say the least, but in my opinion, the sheer size of each bobwhite covey we encountered was remarkable. While hunting midmorning in a long ravine lined with plum thickets, sagebrush, and ragweed (preferred food this time of year for bobwhites), our group flushed two separate coveys containing a minimum of 20 birds per covey. By bobwhite standards, these are large numbers.
Was there a downside to our hunt in Oklahoma? Well, no, not really. But if there is one aspect of the hunt I could have changed at the snap of my fingers, it would have been the weather conditions. Oklahoma quail country greeted the Rooster Road Trip crew with clear skies, high temperatures in the 70’s, and very little moisture – difficult conditions to say the least for both hunters and dogs. Knowing that scenting conditions would be best during the early morning hours (mid-30’s at legal shooting time), we ran dogs hard for the first few hours until hot weather became a valid concern for the safety of our four-legged members.
Oklahoma: The Bucket List Hunt
Sitting down for lunch following our morning hunt on day one, each member of our group came to the same conclusion - quail hunting in Sooner country should be on the bucket list for all upland hunters. When combined with an incredible landscape and amazing wildlife, Oklahoma is truly a captivating place to chase bobwhite quail, particularly in a boom year like 2016.
Our experience in this state has set the tone for a great second leg of the Rooster Road Trip, and I can promise you that I will be back soon enough on my own accord to chase quail among the sage, sand dunes, and plum thickets that these amazing birds call home.
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Rooster Road Trip 2016
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Jared Wiklund is Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Public Relations Manager. Follow Jared on Twitter @Wiklund247 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.