Back in January friends Bruce and Steve took me quail hunting for the first time at Pine Wing Preserve (www.pinewingpreserve.org), in Wetumpka, Alabama. That was a great experience and my introduction to hunting "partridge" in the Old South.
At the end of the hunt, after good food and beer and better conversation, George Long, the soft spoken gentleman that runs Pine Wing, gave a beautiful quail picture that is now decorating my office wall.
Following such a great experience I had to come back, and that I did on March 8th & 9th, this time with my great friends Bill Berghuis and Jim Weber, from the Kalamazoo, MI, area. We go back a long time, and have hunted perdiz (Nothura maculosa) in Uruguay several times together.
While I took advantage of being in Alabama, Bill and Jim flew down from Michigan especially or the hunt, and according to them it was absolutely worth it, starting with the great Southern BBQ at Jim-n-Nicks in Prattville, then continuing with he great dog work and good flying birds, and finishing with another fantastic, and now famous, quail and pasta dinner.
But if there was a star in those couple days it was our guide Melvin. And we almost had no problem to keep on pace with the 84 years young Melvin! And what a class act was Melvin.
He grew up during the "Hoover Days", and from a very young and tender age he had to use a flip, which is a type of slingshot without a handle, to bring home food, especially in the form of squirrels and rabbits. And I have no doubt that he must have been very effective at that since I saw him smack clay targets floating in the air and from almost thirty yards on the ground. Since he repeated the feat I can't say that it was beginners luck. One of these days when I am not traveling and I can get my hands on a good piece of discarded inner tube I will try to make myself a flip, and maybe, just maybe in about forty years I could be half as good as Melvin is.
Late in WWII Melvin served in the US Navy. I don't know what he did specifically, but I would take him to be an anti-aircraft gunner any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
Melvin told us how he got a ten point white-tail buck with his 82 last season. That off course was his 1982 Chevy pick-up, which had a very large dent on the side where that buck T-boned him.
Among his cars Melvin has a 1954 Mercedes-Benz sedan and another truck, a 1957 Ford that his dad bought for US$ 701. And he has the bill of sale to prove it.
I don't think it would be politically correct to describe Melvin's feelings on his one-time trip to California. Not to create much problem, let's just say that he repeats a lot that "that was not right."
But some of Melvin's most fascinating stories are about when he guided Bob-white quail hunting for President Jimmy Carter. His main remarks were that it was very hard and unnerving to do his work with all the Secret Service agents around and that these same agents would always say after the shot "this is your bird, Mr. President", even if Mr. President had not shot. I guess "it is good to be president!"