Quail Hunting Photo Gallery: Epic Alabama Black Belt Tour

By author of Turkey Blog with Steve Hickoff

Friends, food, fun and some words on quail conservation

Redneck Clays

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1 | Redneck Clays

Browning and CZ-USA sent along both over/under and side-by-side shotguns for our use.

We tested the guns out on sporting clays, at woods-framed shooting stations, before our hunt.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Pointing Dogs

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2 | Pointing Dogs

Southern quail culture means pointing dogs, and we enjoyed hunting over a number of great ones during our tour.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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Shenandoah Plantation

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3 | Shenandoah Plantation

What an inviting sight, eh?

Golden late-winter light. A comfortable lodge. Great food and new friends to share it with.

Shenandoah Plantation was our first stop on the tour.

When a visiting bird hunter imagines southern quail culture, Shenandoah meets all expectations.

Owned by Tom Lanier, the Union Springs, Alabama, plantation did not disappoint.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Day One

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4 | Day One

Our pre-hunt gathering at Shenandoah Plantation included a circle of friends, longtime and new.

Some of us had traveled from places like Minnesota and Maine, so the mild morning temperatures and amber morning light were a welcome break.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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Morning Coffee

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5 | Morning Coffee

Fueled by morning coffee, Andy Edwards (left), QF southeast regional biologist, and Tim Caughran, QF director of field operations, enjoy a pre-hunt laugh.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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Quail Country

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6 | Quail Country

A cool quail pin worn by event attendee Jeri Bradley Madden, marketing manager for Jon Kohler & Associates.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Quail Wagon

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7 | Quail Wagon

Sure, many of us bird hunters and dog handlers are accustomed to busting through thick grouse and woodcock cover, pushing through swampy pheasant holds, and relishing in the effort, sweat, blood and tears to your apparel.

Full disclosure: This tour of quail country is far different by design.

After departing Shenandoah where we enjoyed a huge breakfast, we were off to High Log Creek Farm & Hunting Preserve.

There, we bounced along in mule-drawn wagons, and/or rode horses, until pointing dogs nailed down a covey.

I thoroughly enjoyed this beginning to a great week to come.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Emily Snyder

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8 | Emily Snyder

You'll find graphic designer Emily Snyder listed in the masthead of your Quail Forever magazine.

She's a sure shot on southern quail, and proud owner of a German Shorthaired Pointer back home in the upper Midwest.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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English Cockers

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9 | English Cockers

English Cockers rode in the High Log Creek wagon until the pointers nailed down quail.

After, they were deployed to rush in for the flush as gunners waited.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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Mule Wagon and Horses

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10 | Mule Wagon and Horses

We rode out to High Log Creek's quail hunting fields, full of anticipation.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Bob St. Pierre

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11 | Bob St. Pierre

Bob St. Pierre holds his first quail of our hunt.

Like Emily Snyder, he's sworn allegiance to the German Shorthaired Pointer breed back home in Minnesota where he's Quail Forever's VP of marketing & communications (along with his Pheasants Forever duties).

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Quail Culture

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12 | Quail Culture

One great pleasure of any bird hunt is seeing dogs work cover. 

Yep, that's me in the Realtree hat, the CZ O/U and a High Log Creek bobwhite quail.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

 

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Ready?

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13 | Ready?

Anticipation builds as you move in toward pointed quail.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Covey Rise

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14 | Covey Rise

Bob St.Pierre takes aim at a single bird in a covey rise.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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Dog Work

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15 | Dog Work

This English Pointer is hot on the trail of quail scent as Emily Snyder watches, ready for the flush.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Horseback

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16 | Horseback

Here's my horse bud "CC" at High Log Creek.

Note the shotgun carry on this truly classic hunt.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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Lunch

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17 | Lunch

That's Jeri Bradley Madden, representing LandLeader on this hunt, making some tasty choices at High Log Creek's spread of food.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Chef David Bancroft

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18 | Chef David Bancroft

Chef David Bancroft, executive chef/owner at Acre restaurant in Auburn, Alabama, joined us at Great Southern Outdoors (GSO) that evening.

Incidentally, some of you fans of Iron Chef on the Food Network will remember David winning top honors this past December. He not only fired up some great oysters to showcase Alabama Gulf Seafood, but also cooked our quail from that day's hunt at GSO.

Chef Bancroft also had us to Acre for dinner the last evening of the trip.

Let's just say you should put this fine establishment in your plans while visiting the great state of Alabama.

If I lived anywhere close, I'd be there as often as possible.

And check out that Acre hat he's wearing.

Yep, it's in Realtree camo as he's an avid deer and turkey hunter.

Go here for more on his Iron Chef win.

(Steve Hickoff photos)

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Orca Cooler

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19 | Orca Cooler

Orca is the official cooler of both Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever.

And yep, that's Realtree camo.

Go here to read more, especially if you're a Brett Favre fan.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Pointing Dogs

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20 | Pointing Dogs

Make no mistake about it, pointing dogs are a big part of southern quail culture.

This outdoor emblem and symbol at Shenandoah Plantation symbolizes it.

Mr. Tony Gibson, Dr. Rueben Richardson and Joe Varner filled us in on the history of the region and field trialing. During our week's visit to the Alabama Black Belt region, we visited the French Press Bakery in Union Springs, Alabama, for a talk by some of the legends of field trialing.

As all three men emphasized, field trialing and bird hunting are two distinctly different things . . .

But what both have in common are pointing dogs.

(Steve Hickoff photos)

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Quail Buggy

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21 | Quail Buggy

Our day two hunt took place at Shenandoah Plantation, where many of us also stayed during the event.

We rode a quail buggy in style to the hunting grounds.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Quail Down

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22 | Quail Down

The common refrain after a successful shot – and dog command by handlers and bird hunters – is "Dead buuuuurd," "Deeeeead," "Hunt dead," and various versions of that mantra indicating to a canine hunting partner the quarry is on the ground and needs to be found – then ideally, retrieved.

This usually spells success and a bird in hand.

Here, Emily Snyder drops a Shenandoah Plantation quail.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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Logan Hinners

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23 | Logan Hinners

Senior graphic designer for Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever, Logan Hinners holds a brace of Shenandoah Plantation quail.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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Southeast Bobwhite Quail

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24 | Southeast Bobwhite Quail

That evening we were honored to attend a reception and event titled, "State of the Union on Bobwhite Quail in the Southeast," hosted by the Alabama Wildlife Federation.

The keynote speaker Dr. William E. Palmer, president/CEO of Tall Timbers, shared many insights regarding the history and management of this great game bird.

In full disclosure, Dr. Palmer asserted, "We'll never go back to the 50s, 60s and 70s in terms of what has been lost since then."The effort of course is to return quail to the landscape, both private and public holdings.

On the bright side, he detailed ways to improve the current quail management approach by habitat management ("winter burn cycles"), supplemental feeding and predation control. Translocation of quail, and developing new population epicenters for these game birds, was also discussed. 

Quail Forever's efforts will include assisting the effort by putting "dollars on the ground." During the event, positive developments toward an Alabama Black Belt Chapter of Quail Forever were in the early stages. Connect with Andy Edwards at aedwards@quailforever.org for details.

(Steve Hickoff photos)

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Gusto

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25 | Gusto

Next up, a visit to Gusto Plantation owned by Thomas Harris.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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Point!

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26 | Point!

The dogs at Gusto were aces at finding early release quail.

This sort of thing never gets old for a bird hunter and dog handler.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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R.I.P.

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27 | R.I.P.

We came on this scene in the Alabama piney woods, a burial place for bird dog "Jack" on these classic quail hunting grounds.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Shell Hulls

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28 | Shell Hulls

They run through a few shotgun shells at Gusto. These spent Winchester and Remington hulls were piled up in the quail buggy.

Federal Premium sponsored our hunt. I shot 2 3/4 inch, 3/4 ounce, 7 1/2 high-brass lead shot for the various loaner 28 gauges I used.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Quail Double

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29 | Quail Double

Howard K. Vincent, president and CEO of both Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever, proudly displays a brace of quail he doubled on at Gusto Plantation.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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Grilled Quail

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30 | Grilled Quail

If you haven't enjoyed quail on the grill, you need to put that on your list.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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Chef Hastings

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31 | Chef Hastings

Back at Shenandoah Plantation, Chef Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama, prepared our lunch from quail we'd taken.

Friends. Good food.

What's not to like.

Incidentally, Chris and Idie Hastings have a number of accolades and accomplishments found here.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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Mike Stewart

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32 | Mike Stewart

Renowned dog trainer Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels joined us for a morning quail hunt at Gusto and presented an excellent dog training clinic on Shenandoah Plantation that afternoon.

I'd shared Arkansas duck camp with Mike before, and it's always a pleasure.

I also picked up an inscribed copy of his excellent book Sporting Dog and Retriever Training the Wildrose Way. I highly recommend it.

That's his Lab "Deke" sitting politely between us.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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Become a QF Member

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33 | Become a QF Member

Are you a Quail Forever member?

As mentioned at the start of this photo gallery, QF promotes conservation through grassroots efforts, as does PF. Founded in 2005, QF aims to improve habitat, raise public awareness and educate both hunters and non-hunters. Land management policies and programs fuel this. Locally raised funds by chapter members and volunteers are retained for project use. As a result,100 percent of money generated is spent by supporters on the local and regional level. "The Habitat Organization" includes 145,000 dues-paying members and 700 local chapters nationwide.

I'm a proud member of both Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever. Become a member, or renew yours, here.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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A grand tour of four high-end Alabama hunting lodges and plantations in the state's fabled Black Belt region is something most bird hunters and dog handlers would truly enjoy. I surely did.

A visit to southern bobwhite quail country includes wide-ranging, early release coveys and recently planted birds, plus both pointing and flushing breeds. Mule-drawn wagons take you back in time. Riding a horse as another option adds to the pleasure. Quail buggy rides. Simply walking through classic quail cover is a pure delight.

Alabama Black Belt Adventures and Pam Swanner, director, did the amazing work of putting this quail hunting event together.

We were also there for reasons of quail conservation and management.

Realtree is a national sponsor and conservation partner of both Quail Forever (QF) and Pheasants Forever (PF). I joined some of these folks on this late-season tour of 'Bama quail country.

QF promotes conservation through grassroots efforts, as does PF. Founded in 2005, QF aims to improve habitat, raise public awareness and educate both hunters and non-hunters. Land management policies and programs fuel this. Locally raised funds by chapter members and volunteers are retained for project use. As a result,100 percent of money generated is spent by supporters on the local and regional level. "The Habitat Organization" includes 145,000 dues-paying members and 700 local chapters nationwide.

Please click through this photo gallery to see photos and read about our trip to Black Belt quail country.