Nose to the ground and tail wagging, the setter bounded off into the tawny
grass and stopped abruptly. Facing into thick weeds, it locked up like a
statue. Suddenly, about a dozen feathered rockets exploded from the thicket and
scattered in all directions.
"We have some wild quail, but good, pen-raised birds are actually harder to
shoot than wild birds," said Keith Walker, owner of Taylor Creek Shooting
Preserve, south of Mobile, Ala. "Wild birds live in those fields and
already know where they want to go before anyone flushes them. When they get
up, they all go in the same direction. Pen-raised birds that haven't been out
in the wild too long don't know where to go. They're unpredictable when flushed
and might go in all directions."
Walker owns about 2,300 acres in two sections
near Theodore, Ala. We hunted his 300-acre property of
fields separated by pine trees and managed for quail. Walker owns another 2,000 acres of pine
savannah about two miles away.
"We offer two different kinds of hunting," explained Gene Duke, a guide for
Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve. "In some areas, sportsmen hunt over fields with
high and cut grass. The other section is mostly tall pines and looks a lot like
Shooting in the trees gives sportsmen a different kind of competitive
environment. It's very challenging because of the way the birds fly through the
trees. The shots are faster and the birds a little quicker."
As we drove up to the 1,500-square-foot lodge, we spotted pheasants walking
the brushy edges. Although the lodge offers no overnight accommodations, it
does provide excellent facilities for day use, private parties, banquets, and
"We hold pheasant hunts throughout the season," Walker said. "A pretty good number of
pheasants survive, especially if they stay around the lodge buildings where
predators won't get them. If they get out in the open without any decent cover,
predators get them."
Preserve Manages Habitat For Quail
Unlike some hunts, where guides put the birds out a few minutes before the
shooters arrive, Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve manages the habitat to enhance
bird populations and supplements wild quail with pen-raised birds. Released
early, pen-raised birds link up with wild ones and learn to fly fast for cover.
"We burn the fields and mow periodically to attract birds to our property," Walker explained. "We
also plant food plots and do supplemental feeding to keep birds on the
property. The birds we release are a cross between Tennessee red quail and bobwhite quail. They
are slightly bigger than native quail, but they fly very well and have good
wild characteristics. Some pen-raised birds of this particular cross do become
wild and survive long enough to breed. I've seen these hybrids with clutches of
young in the spring."
Wild or pen-raised, these birds presented exceptionally challenging
shooting. They rapidly disappeared into thickets and embarrassed us on more occasions that I'd care to admit. Sometimes, we
didn't even get off any shots at covey rises.
"They are big, hard flying birds," Duke said. "They are some of the fastest
flying birds I've ever seen. The trick to handling birds so that they fly well
is to not handle them. We don't want to domesticate them. We handle them as
little as possible so that when the hunter and dog approaches, they flush like
A typical guided hunt lasts about three hours. Each shooter can harvest up
to 12 quail, but they can pay for more birds if they wish. Sportsmen can book
morning, afternoon or all-day hunts. Most hunts on Taylor Creek Shooting
Preserve either begin or end with a lunch at the lodge. After the hunt, the
guides quickly clean the birds on special devices set up at processing station.
"We can't guarantee that anyone will shoot birds, but we'll do everything we
possibly can to make that happen," Duke emphasized. "In a typical season, we
shoot about 6,000 to 7,000 birds. We've had up to 15 hunts in one day, eight in
the morning and seven in the afternoon."
Sportsmen may buy an annual membership for unlimited self-guided hunts with
their own dogs or preserve dogs. The Alabama
wild quail season lasts from November through the end of February, but the
preserve season runs from October 1 through March 31.
Besides holding quail and pheasant hunts, the preserve also offers shooters
a 12-station sporting clays course and periodically hosts National Sporting
Clays Association tournaments. For more information, call 251-583-4793. Online,
For a fine selection of Upland Hunting gear, click here.