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A Great Day To Hunt
Some Thanksgiving Traditions Involve More Than Food

Tuesday, November 25, 2008
by John Johnson

Some might form a sour opinion of me for admitting this, but I'd rather go bird hunting on Thanksgiving Day than participate in any sort of family gathering. Most of my own relatives, as well as my in-laws, live close enough that anybody I'd see on Turkey Day I'll encounter on at least a couple of other occasions during the year.

And since most people are bogged down with family stuff on the final Thursday in November, it's a great day to hunt.

I'll try for some pheasants in the morning. Any roosters my dogs might find will be pen-raised, but they'll have been out on their own for at least a few days and will act semi-wild. And whether that foray is productive or not, I'll switch the focus to valley quail in the afternoon.

Quail (or duck) hunting on Thanksgiving is sort of a family tradition for me, although there were many in my 20s and 30s years when I didn't get to go. Back in my youth, my older brother and I used to go out in the morning, and then come home for dinner, which was usually served at around 1 p.m. Afterward, we'd head out again for the last couple hours of daylight.

I don't recall bagging many birds on those trips, and I don't remember any spectacular (lucky?) shots or anything like that. But I do recall having a lot of fun.

One year, when I was about 14, we'd planned to skip the afternoon hunt. I was a big Dallas Cowboys fan back then, and they were playing the late game against the Washington Redskins.

Photo: Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Turkeys are the birds most often associated with Thanksgiving, but quail can play a big role in enjoyment of the holiday, as well.

The Redskins got up something like 27-7 in the first half, and I was stomping around throwing a hissy fit. Somebody suggested to my brother that him and I take a ride and look for some birds, so we went out and pounded one usually reliable quail spot and returned home. I'm pretty sure we didn't fire a shot.

We thought the game would be over when we got home, but it wasn't. There was less than a minute left and Dallas led 35-34. Hissy-fit time again I'd missed that great comeback!

A couple of years later, we almost put a big Chevy Suburban my brother had borrowed into a ditch that was full of water. It had rained hard recently, and the levee road we were traveling was extremely slick. I don't recall how he lost control of the vehicle we weren't going excessively fast or anything but I do remember the left rear wheel spinning furiously as the back end of the rig drifted toward the drink.

I have no idea how that wheel somehow regained traction and pushed us back up onto the road. I can't remember whether we shot anything, either. I was just glad to get back home relatively dry.

Chances are good that I won't get more than three or four shots if I hunt all day on Thursday. There'll be only a relatively small number of those captive-bred pheasants spread out over many acres of rice ground, and it'll take some luck to come across one or two. Quail are a real crapshoot this year we didn't get any rain last spring and the hatch was poor. I'll consider myself fortunate if I encounter one covey and get off two shots.

That'll be okay, though, because I won't be out there to put meat on the table. If food were all I was worried about, I'd spend the day at the in-laws' place, where there'll be a lot of it.

And Lord knows it won't kill me to skip a few helpings of mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie.

John Johnson is ShotgunFan's editor.

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