Quail Hunting in Callahan Florida

Gordon Crenshaw

© Copyright 2020 by Gordon Crenshaw

Photo of quail hunter.

It was the first week in January 2003 when GG joined his hunting buddies Vince Stevens, Wayne Helms and Steve Billmyer in a big quail hunting trip down in Callahan Florida. Callahan is about 10 miles from the Georgia State Line on Highway I-95 just north of Jacksonville. The place was a pine tree farm of about 2000 acres that was leased to a hunting group out of Jacksonville. They had organized hunts and charged hunters who they invited to hunt. Vince and Wayne knew one of the owners from a few hunts they had made with him down in South America. He got us on this private hunting preserve.The preserve was located about 4 miles off the main highway way back in the woods. There was a big hunting lodge with 6 bedrooms. All the bedrooms had 4 double beds in them. There was a huge kitchen and living room at the front of the building. It was truly a rustic setting.

Vince was a Vice President of Orkin like GG, Wayne was the company shrink and Steve owned his own Pest Control business out in Seattle.

Steve had been a VP at Orkin before leaving Orkin and going to Seattle to start his business. GG, Vince and Wayne drove down to Callahan on Thursday and got there about 3 pm. There were 4 other hunters already there. Two were from Texas and two from Jacksonville. The two from Texas were other hunters that had met the group on a dove hunting trip to South America. All these guys were pretty well off and big shots.

The group was very glad to see each other and lots of stories were told about all the fun they had in South America a few years before. The manager Fred had the bar set up in the Kitchen and the ones that were already there had been enjoying it for a couple hours. Everybody walked around the grounds and looked at the bird dogs out back for a while before going into the lodge.

Fred had made a big fire in the huge fire place and it was warm in the cabin. There was one big picnic table just off the kitchen that would hold about 12 guys. Everyone sat around the table and continued to tell stories. It was the first time GG had met the other hunters. The two from Texas had flown their private jets in to Jacksonville Airport. They were good ole country boys that loved to hunt just like GG and his group. Before long Fred was outside firing up the big grill by the front door. This grill was about 10 feet long and 4 foot wide. You could tell it was homemade. It reminded GG of the one that Monk had over at Ricky Pike’s house. He had huge T-Bone steaks for everybody. We could smell the baked potatoes in the oven and the Hunting guide who was his partner was making the salad. His name was Gene.

About 6:30 it was getting dark and Fred told everybody to come get their steaks. He had them on the Kitchen counter all laid out. They were all almost rare. He said true hunters only ate them that way. By that time the drinks had kicked in and the talk was louder and louder. The steaks were wonderful as you might expect in a setting like that.

After dinner the table was cleared and a big poker game was to take place. At first all 8 players joined the game. The chips were a quarter each and everyone started off with $20 worth of chips. We played several different games like 7 card stud, 5 card draw and some wild cards. The most popular game was called 7-27. It was played just like 7 card stud. You give out 2 cards to start with. One up and one down, then you dealt one at a time. The object of the game was to get as close to 7 or 27. The game paid 2 each winners. It paid the closes to 7 and the closes to 27. The dealer went around the table one player at a time asking if they wanted a card. When each player either took a card or passed there would be a bet. Players could then raise the bet and then another player could raise it again as it went around the table. You had to look at your cards and decide if you wanted to go high or low. (7 or 27) You were only allowed 3 passes and then you were stuck with whatever you had. The pots got to be pretty big. There would be $20 to $40 in a pot most of the time by the end. Two players dropped out pretty early and went to bed. The rest played until about midnight.

The next morning Vince, Wayne and I were up before daylight in the Kitchen. Gene was already there with a big pot of coffee made. He had a giant old pot that perked. You could smell it all over the cabin and it smelled good. It was a huge frost that morning and it looked like it had snowed outside. The temperature was about 28 degrees. Vince said to Gene he thought it was supposed to be warm down in Florida. Wayne asked where was Fred and Gene said he was out working with the birds.

Breakfast was cooking and all the guys were up except one of the guys from Texas. He was passed out over on the couch still in the same clothes. His buddy went over and shook him and got him up. He went back to the bathroom while everybody else sat down to a big breakfast. Gene had cooked country ham, bacon, eggs, grits, biscuits and hash brown potatoes. It was a big greasy breakfast to say the least. Everyone ate their fill and Fred was coming back in the yard. He told us to load up on the wagons and get ready to go kill some birds.

We drove about a mile to the power line clearance area by the big pine forest. We were setting in these hunting wagons and the wind was freezing. The pine trees were all planted in rows and were about 20 feet tall. They were the younger pine trees and the rows were about 10 feet apart. GG said how in the world, are we going to be able to shoot in that thick place? Wayne said just look at the bird not the trees.

There were 2 guides for the hunt. They would let us out 2 at time with two bird dogs. They had some young fellows helping with the guides. Each pair of hunters had a guide to work the dogs.

The drove down the logging road and dropped off the 2 hunters that were hunting together then they would drive a long way down the road before they dropped off the next two hunters. It was well spread out so that no one would shoot someone by mistake.

GG hunted with Vince the first morning and Wayne hunted with Steve. Grover hunted with the guy he brought from Jacksonville with him and the two Texas guys hunted together.

The dogs were released and they started hunting up and down the rows of pine trees. They underbrush was about knee high in places between the trees so it was good cover for the birds. It was about 5 minutes out when the dogs found the first covey. GG and Vince got spread out and the guide said to walk in and flush the birds. They came out with a roar and flew like jets between the pine trees. GG got his first bird but missed his second. So did Vince. It was about 8 birds in the covey. The covey flew in every direction. The guide told us not to bother with the singles now we would catch them when we hunted back down the other side. He said that we would go to find another covey.

We walked about 50 yards and one of the dogs came to a point. The other pointer backed the pointing dog. The guide said it was probably a single from another hunt the day before. When the guide moved in 3 birds got up. Two went out on Vince’s side and one down the row in from of GG. GG shot his bird and Vince got one of the two that came out on his side.
It wasn’t long before both dogs came to an abrupt stop. They were in perfect pointing position. The guide said it was probably another covey. Sure enough they exploded out with a thunder of wings. GG had gotten used to the pine trees now and took Vince’s advice. Just look at the bird not the trees. He killed two birds on the rise with his little double barrel 20 gauge. Vince got one and wounded another. The guide said the dogs would find the wounded bird. Sure enough it wasn’t long before one of the dogs came back with a bird in his mouth. Those dogs are amazing.

The morning hunt went well. GG and Vince killed 58 quail and Steve and Wayne got 46. Back at the Cabin Fred made some hamburgers on the grill. It had warmed up and everyone took off their heavy hunting coats and relaxed on the front porch of the cabin. The afternoon hunt would start at 1:30 and go till 5 pm.

That afternoon GG hunted with Steve Billmyer and Wayne and Vince hunted together. It was a great afternoon and the sun got pretty warm so we just hunted in our hunting vest. We had a great hunt that afternoon, Steve and I got 61 birds and Wayne and Vince got 56. It was time to start the partying again. That night Gene and Fred fried up a big mess of Quail for dinner. After dinner the poker started again. It was not as long a night this night because everyone was pretty tired from all that walking all day.

The next morning it we woke up at the crack of dawn with the smell of fresh coffee covering the whole cabin. Breakfast was the same with all the trimmings.

Today I was going to hunt with Wayne Helm and Vince and Steve would hunt together. We got a different guide and different dogs this time. We went to a more open area on this hunt. The field was covered with dead sage grass. I guess that is where the place got its name. (Broom Sage Preserve). Another great hunt that morning with lots more clearer shots in the open sage.

By the third night everybody had become pretty good friends and heard all the stories and jokes they had to tell. Now it was tales of the birds they killed those two days and the shots they missed. Everyone bragged to Fred and Gene about the dogs and how good they were.

The last night was Saturday night and Gene and Fred cooked country fried steak, mashed potatoes, Green beans, rice and big rolls. It was as good as you would ever want it to be despite how dirty the kitchen and stove was. Of course it was poker again after dinner. GG had lost about a hundred dollars and wanted it back that last night. He got on a lucky streak and hit two big pots with over $50 in them and got even. Before the night was over he was up about $40.

The last hunt was on Sunday morning. GG went with Vince again and Wayne and Steve got together for their last hunt. It was beautiful riding down the sand roads way back in the woods there in North Florida. It had warmed up and was going to be in the high 60’s that day.

We had a great hunt and when we got back to the cabin we all had to go one at a time and settle up with Gene. This hunt cost us more than we usually paid. It was $940 per person. That wasn’t bad for 5 half day hunts. All in all us four killed nearly 500 birds. GG said he would never have believed this could happen back when he hunted as a boy back in Lucy.

We left the preserve about 1:30 after we ate and drove back to Atlanta. It was some good conversation all the way back. Steve got off at the airport for Seattle. Wayne, GG and Vince were home there in the Atlanta area. Great Hunt.

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