Pointing dogs

Pointing dogs, flushing birds and retrieves to hand, along with hunting with family and friends makes for a good day at Hidden Lakes Hunting Resort.

YANTIS – I consider myself lucky. I grew up with hunting as a family activity. I started before I could even carry a gun going dove hunting with my father, uncles and cousins.

It is what they grew up doing, too. They actually started as bird boys on my grandfather’s farm for hunters who came out of Dallas. According to lore, one of those groups involved the Sanger brothers of what eventually became Sanger-Harris Department stores.

I guess bird boy was my start as well, although I do not recall doing a lot of retrieving. It was more just hanging out and listening to the Knight brothers do what they did best, joke with each other.

Over the years life got in the way and the brothers’ hunts kind of went by the wayside. I continued to go with my dad, probably not as often as I should have, until he got sick and could not go again. I remember our last hunt and I remember who won the day and it was not me.

As my sons, Tristan and Thomas, started growing up the family hunts returned. It started with dove hunting, which to this day is where I think all young hunters should start, but has also included ducks, dove, pheasant, deer, pigs and in recent years quail.

Hidden Lakes Hunting Resort has always been our go-to for annual quail hunts because it is just an hour’s drive away, and in this era when good quail years have been few and far between, like this year, we are guaranteed a good hunt.

Now in its 13th year, Hidden Lakes offers as close to an old East Texas quail hunting experience as you can get. Its cultivated fields provide good cover for the birds, resulting in good dog work and challenging covey rises.

The boys and I usually make other hunts during the year, but those lack the quality time the walk around the quail field offers. Included in that is a chance to further introduce the next generation, Connor, to hunting. He has become a veteran at dove and deer hunting, and this year was making his third trip on the quail hunt. Too young and small to handle a gun, the goal is more to immerse him into hunting, hoping the close-up dog work, flushing birds and fast shooting action excites him to join the hunting ranks when the time comes.

I am a big proponent of starting youth before they are old enough to hunt. They get an idea of what happens before being thrown into the action. They also learn that hunting is about killing and going from the field to the table gives them a chance to understand to some degree what that means.

I also believe hunters need to start with small game before moving up to deer. Dove hunts, squirrel hunts or anything like that provides a lot more action than waiting for a single deer, and is more likely to encourage participation.

Quail hunting, however, is not a beginner’s sport. There are so many moving parts between hunters, dogs and the flush of birds, it is a good second step after skills are honed elsewhere.

It was a cold morning made even colder by a strong north wind when guide Daniel Cerretani drove us to the field to hunt. He dropped a pair of pointers, Star, an English pointer, and Annie, a Brittany spaniel, on the ground, along with his Boykin spaniel, Della, and my Lab, Sadie.

It is the dogs that make quail hunting great. Getting to hunt behind new dogs and different breeds and to see their differences just makes it better.

The two pointers quickly locked on the first pair of birds. When Della busted them from their cover, the birds split in two directions and were immediately knocked down. And it was the Knights doing what they have always done, joked about each other’s shooting.

We continued our walk around the field adding to our bag with mostly singles and doubles. Pen-reared birds are admittedly not as fast or erratic in flight as wild birds, but Hidden Lakes’ birds have always been challenging. This year’s crop is no exception. Our shooting was good until the dogs flushed five birds from their cover. I was the closest, and I admit I was not prepared and missed with both barrels. Fortunately, I was not alone as the boys were 0 for five as well. The good news is we were able to track them down and got a second, more successful chance.

We finished the morning hunt with a respectable 43 birds, probably letting another dozen opportunities get away.

Even better was that chef Cruz Minjarez had a lunch of fried quail, wild rice and green beans waiting at the lodge when we got back, completing for the moment that field to table concept.

Hidden Lakes still has openings during the holidays and into the spring. Along with traditional quail and pheasant, tower pheasant hunts are occasionally held.

For more information or to book a hunt, go online to hiddenlakeshr.com or call 903-383-7100.


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