Quail hunting was a staple in my grand- parents’ generation in
providing food for the family. I never experienced a
hunt myself, but I remember having quail for dinner.
My grandfather cleaned
and dressed them out behind
the barn, and my grandmother
would coat them in flour and fry
them up in her cast iron skillet.
In the last forty years quail hunting has diminished in the
south. Their habitat in the wild has been lost so drastically that
the season is short and the daily limit few. Quail live and nest
on the ground and their habitat is dwindling fast.
My oldest son, Grayson, 13, has
inherited my grandfather’s love
for the outdoors and hunting
sports. Wonderful opportunities have come his way as he
is developing his talent as a
woodsman. He, along with five
other boys, recently was able
to participate in a quail hunt
offered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and hosted by Quail Forever, a national organization.
The hunt took place at Babcock Ranch in Punta Gorda. This
large expanse of property has been owned by the same family
for more than one hundred years. It includes close to sixty-five
thousand acres of the last parcel of undeveloped hydric (wet)
pine flatwoods in south Florida. It was purchased by the state
as part of continued conservation efforts for future generations.
The hunt was originally going to be a boys’
weekend for my husband, Curtis, our son
Grayson, and our ten-year-old, Grant.
After some research, Curtis suggested I
come along for a family adventure together. My first thought was no. These were
going to be primitive accommodations,
meaning no toilet or running water in a
swamp with a whole bunch of stinky boys.
I was looking forward to a weekend alone.
Catching up on laundry, dishes, and mopping the floor was on the agenda. Yet the
pull to experience what my boys loved so
much changed my mind.
Upon our arrival I saw a camp house that
gave me hope of a toilet. The barking dogs
and swamp buggies gave us a hint of what
was to come. As the other participants
arrived, we all pitched our tents around
the camp house. The primitive camp site
that was originally planned was under
water. A toilet was available for nighttime,
but during the day the palmettos would
have to do.
Living Off the Land
Quail: Preserving an American Heritage
By Holly Giles