RPQRR Sponsors Texas Quail Photo Contest
Editor's Note: The following item appeared in the November 2011 issue of the e-Quail Newsletter and is reprinted with permission from the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch. For more information on the RPQRR or to subscribe to the free newsletter, visit www.quailresearch.org.
Shoot the Covey Rise!
by Dale Rollins
I had a bobwhite-line epiphany last month while traveling to Hebbronville [Texas] for the final session of QuailMasters 2011. It was an inspiration born out of necessity. Quail populations across Texas are on the rocks. Heat-stressed nimrods seek cooler times afield with canine companions. Bird dogs are bored, and overweight . . . maladies they likely share with their owners. What quail we have are largely adult birds, and hunting-related mortality will depress breeding bird numbers next spring. So, given such dire straits what am I recommending relative to harvest rates?
Hunt all you want. Shoot all you can. Draw a bead on every covey rise. Fire away as if there was no limit. But shoot with a shutter not a shotgun!
The idea is to encourage quail hunting recreation while minimizing kill during these quail doldrums we're in now.
Many ranchers have already decided to curtail quail hunting this year. For many hunters in west Texas (for sure) this will be "same story, 3rd verse." As such, continued participation (spelled "support") in quail hunting may (continue to) languish. Texas quail hunters have slipped precipitously over the past 30 years—from about 250,000 in 1981 to only 50,000 in 2010. Such attrition of our quail hunting base is disconcerting. This attrition concerns me as someone who directs a quail research ranch. And the impacts are felt from upscale gun stores in Dallas to eateries in Albany and Gail.
I chided ranchers in my recent Livestock Weekly column to set up and take notice. If income from a quail lease is important to them, they should be concerned as well. I cautioned them about being content to take their lessee’s money and thank them for not showing up this year? I propose such logic is myopic. What I’m proposing here will help nourish the hunters during a difficult time, and keep them motivated to stay the course. We’re getting too close to critical mass to lose any more quail, or quail hunters.
My idea is to sponsor a photo contest for quail hunters to secure covey rise pictures. Believe me when I say there are few pictures more difficult to capture than that of a covey rise. You have to be close, the birds have to flush in a wad, above the horizon (so the brush doesn't obscure them) . . . and hopefully you get quail, hunter(s) and dog(s) all in one picture. Talk about herding cats!
To sweeten the pot, and hopefully encourage participation, RPQRR will award cash prizes for the best covey rise photographs; $1,000 for first, $500 for second, and $250 for third place.
Such a catch-and-release mentality will do one positive thing for quail (i.e., minimize additive mortality from hunting) and several things for those of us who seek to sustain the legacy of quail hunting in Texas, namely (1) demonstrate our concern for the resource, (2) sustain the tradition of quail hunting, and (3) promote time afield with friends (including canines).
Everyone has a digital camera capable of doing the trick. Odds are you’ve carried it with you for the past several years, but your shotgun has always taken priority until the hunt’s over—give it a rest.
Here are the contest rules. Photographs must be:
1) submitted digitally;
2) taken during the 2011-12 hunting season (Nov-Feb);
3) taken in Texas;
4) digital photographs per se; video still frames not allowed;
5) submitted to me via e-mail [email@example.com] no later than March 1, 2012;
6) wild quail only (no released birds on shooting preserves);
7) any hunter(s) in the picture must be wearing some hunter orange (cap or vest);
8) winners must sign affidavit of authenticity;
9) maximum of three photographs per contestant, and no more than one winner per contestant;
10) judging will be done by a panel of professional photographers and members of RPQRR’s Board of Directors;
11)RPQRR retains publication rights to all winning photographs.
12) employees of RPQRR and their families are ineligible.
This is not an easy assignment, as anyone who’s tried to get a good covey rise photo will attest. Here are some tips for shooting that winning photo.
Follow your hunter and shoot your picture from behind his shooting shoulder, i.e., you’re looking down the barrel of the shotgun. Don’t try to zoom in too close to your subject, else the birds may be out of your frame by the time you snap the shutter.
Here’s another angle—shoot from one side, i.e. “parallel” to the action, or even out in front of the action (remember this is a faux hunt, don’t attempt this if the hunter’s shotgun is loaded).
Quail hunters, as a group, are an old lot. They’ve likely killed their fair share of birds during the “good ol’ days.” So why not use this year as an opportunity to take a youngster hunting? What better covey rise photo could you get than your grandson (or granddaughter) befuddled by a covey rise? Talk about a trophy!