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Upland Bliss


There are many opportunities to discover the outdoors. Obviously for many of us that involves hunting. While deer hunting is a major part of the equation, there are many other opportunities to pursue game.

South Carolina has a long history of hunting ‘birds’. For most when we say we hunt ‘birds’ we know we are hunting the Bobwhite Quail. Known as ‘birds’ partridge, bob, Mr. Bob, quail. It is the primary game bird of South Carolina.

Over the past half century the pursuit of quail has diminished along with the population of this prime game bird. There are many reasons for the demise of the bobwhite, but this story is to highlight the glory of pursuing this game bird and others across the southeast.  IMG_2622

Pursuing quail I today’s world unfortunately is a pursuit of passion. The lack of habitat and the influx of predators has decimated the wild population of bobwhite quail. As the great outdoor scribe Havaliah Babcock dubbed, “the most handsome gamebird” While there are few birds out there, there is still the enjoyment of the pursuit.

Men gather with well trained dogs to walk, amble and plod across the state to salvage a tradition of when men and boys all look forward to the opening of bird season with more excitement than Christmas morning. Donning canvas jackets and briar breeches, men and dog headed into the coverts, hedgerows and thickets looking for mister bob. Today is not very different except for the population. Birds are still available and can be found, with fine dogs. English pointers and Setters dominate the breeds of pointing dogs. While there are different breeds, these two dominate.

Those looking for good quail habitat need to look for overgrown fields, pine plantations and hedge rows. Using these tactics will help to find good populations of quail. The lowcountry also holds a lot more quail than the piedmont or mountain units. These areas with large agriculture fields will hold more population of quail than the other areas.

For those who live to hunt quail, yet there are no huntable populations nearby, there is the option if using the preserve put and take hunts. These facilities have filled a void for many hunters. Pen raised birds, canned hunts, put and take, whatever you wish to call it, for bird hunters, these facilities have kept alive a love of working dogs, and flushing birds.

Other than quail, the Carolinas have some ruffed grouse in the northern regions and during the right time of the year, woodcock become the next upland bird to hunt. For many, the woodcock has replaced the quail as the staple of upland hunting. All of the river drainages, swamps and wetlands hold woodcock during January. I must say, as someone who didn’t grow up in the prime of quail of the south, that hunting woodcock is some of the most fun I have in the outdoors. Great dogs, cold weather and a fine quarry make upland hunting in the South alive and well.