It Never Would Have Happened Without the Boys and the Dogs
Author: Jim Julson (Colman, SD)
Last Christmas I wrote an article about our late season high plains duck hunting experience in the ice and snow. I was whining in that article that my sons and I may not be hunting together for quite some time since Ben, my oldest, had just graduated from college and accepted his first professional civil engineering job in Phoenix, AZ. However, once Ben settled in a little he started checking into what hunting opportunities Arizona had to offer. He found out they had quail. I put 2 and 2 together and came up with Christmas in Arizona---FAMILY---WARM---and---QUAIL!!! What more could you ask for? So this Christmas Holiday I had the good fortune to hunt quail with my sons Ben and Dan, our two Small Munsterlanders, Muda and Oz, and my nephew’s (Chase Julson) Small Munsterlander, Axel. It was my first, ever, experience hunting birds of any type outside my state of South Dakota. My wife, Laurie, flew down with my sons Adam and Dan and I drove down with the dogs and equipment. After spending several days with Ben and his friend Sarah, Laurie and Adam flew back to South Dakota due to prior commitments. Dan stayed and drove back home with me. But we didn’t go straight home!! We took a little detour and made a few stops on the way!
Please be aware without those Small Munsterlanders none of this would have ever happened.
The Small Munsterlander Quail Adventure Begins. Through Eric Peters a Small Munsterlander owner from Mesa, AZ we met Bill and Kathy Wyss. Bill and Kathy raise Vizslas and Bill hunts them as much as his other commitments allow. Bill and Kathy gave us a home away from home; treating us like family. Together, Bill and Eric introduced Ben and I to Mearn’s Quail hunting. As I mentioned, this was my first experience hunting birds of any type outside of South Dakota, and it was on these little flying bullets that I got my initiation. Bill’s favorite saying is, “these Mearn’s go from zero to gone in 2 seconds,” and he was right. Muda pointed shortly after we started hunting. Some little birds, whose wings made buzzing noises during take-off, started erupting from in front of her. I hollered to Bill, who was across the wash, and asked if those were it. He hollered back, “Yes!” I just started laughing and responded,” I suppose we are supposed to shoot those things.” We were standing in a wash or draw with steep sides and those little bullets zipped behind trees and brush with ease. The entire covey did not get up all at once and after gaining a little composure I did manage to shoot one. Ben, Bill, Eric and I put up several more coveys and shot 8 over the next several hours. I was hooked!
The next day Ben took me after Gambel’s Quail. Although the multi-year drought had drastically reduced the gamble population around the Phoenix area, Ben and I did manage to harvest several of those over the next couple days. Our northern born and bred Small Munsterlanders received their education on cactus and a very abrasive soil base for footing. We pulled cactus spines out of feet, legs, ears and a few other places, but each day they got better at avoiding them.
New Year’s Day Bill had off work so he took us for a variety hunt. We shot doves and ducks on the way to Nogales to hunt Mearn’s. This day we hunted draws that contained a good deal of cat-claw brush. It is what it sounds like. The cover was a challenge for both Munsterlanders and Vizslas. The Munsters were able to dig deeper into the brush due to their longer coats. However, the Vizslas handled the heat better. There was very little breeze and it was over 70 degrees that day. We returned late afternoon to Bill and Kathy’s and enjoyed a New Year’s Day ham supper. What a treat! They truly treated us as family, and if I can get them to South Dakota to hunt pheasants, I’ll have a challenging task to match the hospitality they showed us. Homeward bound??? Well, sort of.
First stop--On Jan 2; Dan, Ben and I left for south central Arizona to meet Dave and Deb Wolf from Flagstaff, AZ. Deb had called me during the previous summer to discuss the Small Munsterlander breed. Through the course of the conversation, I found out they would be hunting in North Dakota in the fall and I invited them to stop at my place and I would take them pheasant hunting for a couple days. That way they could see for themselves how Small Munsterlanders performed in the field. I also indicated if that did not work out I would be in Phoenix over Christmas with our dogs. A little more discussion and plans were set. They would hunt pheasants with me in South Dakota and Dave and Deb would take us Mearn’s hunting in Arizona just after the New Year. I had no idea what a Mearn’s was, or even looked like, but we had a great time pheasant hunting in South Dakota, so what the heck---Go For It! We camped with them in their toy hauler and hunted Mearn’s for two and a half days. Their 3 Brittanys and our Munsterlanders worked well together. Dave even showed us how to call coyotes. We had 2 come in, but they never presented a shot. My boys thought that was great. Ben and Dan agreed it was one of the most enjoyable times we have ever had. Hopefully they will be able to stop in South Dakota this fall and we’ll have a chance to chase rooster pheasants together again.
Dave and Deb rescue Brittanys. They hunt extensively upland birds, waterfowl and big game. They have bred and raised Brittanys in the past and now prefer to rescue them. Seven have found a home with them over the last ten years. Their dogs live in the house and are treated in a very loving and caring way. They would like to rescue a Small Munsterlander. It would be well cared for and hunted regularly. If you know of a Munsterlander past the puppy stage, preferably a female but a male would be considered, please let me know and I will pass the information on to them. I have the highest confidence Dave and Deb will provide a loving, hunting home for a Munsterlander just as they have done for the Brittanys they have rescued.
Second stop---Ben had to leave us and go back to making a living. For Dan and I the next stop was a working cow/calf ranch in the boot heel of New Mexico, about 20 miles north of the Mexican border. Mark Koffler and his two Munsterlanders Gunter and Deets, from Silver City, New Mexico, met us there. Mark, who actually grew up in South Dakota, had graciously made the arrangements for this hunt. It would be his first time hunting quail on this ranch. Levi and Missy Klump periodically host guests who stay and ride horses on their 15,000 acre cattle ranch. Mark was previously acquainted with them so they allowed us to stay in their bunk house and use their cooking facilities. It was truly an experience to remember.
The first morning, Levi showed Dan and I around the ranch while Mark worked on filling his 4 Sandhill Crane tags. He had 2 days left and was successful filling two. That afternoon Mark, Dan and I hunted for Gambel’s. Just because the ranch had not been previously hunted this season did not mean the Gambel’s and Scaled Quail did not run. One of the special experiences of this hunt was helping Mark shoot his first Mearn’s Quail and complete his goal of harvesting the 4 main quail species available in New Mexico, all in the same season: Bobwhite, Gambel’s, Scaled and Mearn’s. Dan and I knew the location of two coveys so the last day we took Muda and Gunter (Mark’s Munster) and went after them. Muda, who is a daughter of Hans, pointed and held the covey out of which Mark shot his first Mearn’s Quail using a 20 gauge shotgun. The Thun’s had donated that gun in memory of Hans and it was raffled to raise money for the club. Mark’s name was drawn to win the shotgun at this year's annual conference.
We shot Mearn’s, Gambel’s and Scaled Quail on this ranch. We saw and photographed feral hogs, javelina, mule deer (some huge bucks), road runners, a bobcat and her kittens, and coyotes. Part of Levi’s ranch contains the mountain range were Geronimo used to move in and out of the U.S. from Mexico. Just 10 miles from his home is were Geronimo surrendered. Thanks Mark!! Hopefully we can get together with Mark the next time he is in South Dakota.
Third stop-- Dan and I left New Mexico and traveled to the pan handle of Texas where we met Vernon Austin, Gene Addington and Aaron Holcombe to hunt Bobwhite Quail. I had become acquainted with Vernon through Jerry Thoms, an outdoor writer, whose articles you will see regularly in Gun Dog magazine. We met them at the ALSUP gas station in Matador, TX at 10pm Jan, 10. They had traveled from northwest Arkansas that day. We stayed in an old house rented to hunters. Not exactly a 5 star facility, but Vernon had warned us. It was functional, and for 3 nights that's all we needed, especially if the Bobwhite hunting was good. It was!!! We normally split into 2 groups. The first day Dan hunted with Gene and Aaron and I hunted with Vernon.
For two days we hunted Bobwhites on the Matador Ranch from 8am till noon and from 1:30pm until sunset. We had to wait a little longer one afternoon before we began hunting again due to the 70 plus degree heat! There were feral hogs, considered vermin, which the ranch wanted shot if we got a chance. Gene carried a 45 pistol because the light shotgun loads we were shooting probably would have just aggravated them. Their dogs, English Setters and English Pointers, were familiar with this style of hunting and it was evident. They consistently found birds and held them well. I had the privilege of seeing one of their young English Pointers, Dollar, point a covey of quail at least 80 to100 yards away. I am not kidding! Granted everything was just right. The wind was perfect and there was limited ground cover to mess up the scent path between the covey and Dollar. But when it is all said and done that is still one heck of a nose!
The 3rd day we traveled 2 hours north to hunt on another lease near Wellington, TX. Deer hunting was the priority of the owners of this property so it had not been hunted for quail yet this year. It consisted of breaks or draws that ran down to a river that flowed through the area. The river bottom contained crop land and a couple of old farmsteads. To say it was fantastic would not adequately describe it. We hunted for 3 hours in two groups and shot 25 quail: missed many more than that. The morning was sunny with a slight breeze and cool (which our dogs liked) and the Munsterlanders got a second wind. This was more the style my Munsterlanders have hunted and you could tell. Walking through this type of cover was like the pheasant hunting they grew up on. They covered the ground and pointed and retrieved well. What a way to end up a once in a lifetime quail hunting adventure. We can’t wait to host Vernon and his friends for a South Dakota pheasant hunt his fall. I just hope we can show them as good a time as they showed us!
We met fantastic people and always had adequate to excellent numbers of birds. I was able to share this with 2 of my 3 sons (Dan spent 15 days traveling with his Dad, helping with dogs and getting lost, and he still talks to me) and a lot of great people and dogs. A friend of mine emailed me after he read a draft of this article and pretty much summed it up –“You had a great trip with the time spent with the boys, the dogs, in new country and with new friends. What could be better than that?” None of this would have happened without the boys and those Small Munsterlanders!! In the end the opportunity to share the experience was the most important part!
So after 27 days, 6600 miles, over 70 pounds of dog food, 2 cases of shells, and both the dogs and I a little thinner, we arrived home. It was over 50 degrees when we left north west Arkansas the final morning and as we got north of Kansas City the thermometer in the pickup said 19 and continued dropping as we went north. When we arrived home that night it was -4 deg and blowing snow. We knew we were home!
Please Note--The topography we hunted, especially in Arizona and New Mexico---and to a lesser extent Texas--- was physically demanding. Quail tend to go up the side of the hill and over the ridge to escape so in order to pick up singles you and your dogs have to do the same! When I first contacted Mark Koffler he suggested if I was going to hunt quail in New Mexico I might want to prepare by getting out and walking a lot. So in late summer when it looked like this adventure was going to come together I started running and lifting a few weights at least 3 times a week and I was glad I did. “Thanks again Mark!” We run our dogs everyday at home with at least part of it on gravel. As a result we had very little foot problems, although they did get sore when the terrain was very rocky or volcanic rock based, but a couple days off and they where ready to go again. If you would like to see more pictures and thus get a better idea of the topography and how we traveled, they can be viewed at “www.julsonkennel.com”. Click on the “scrap book” link then the “quail” link.