Driving southwest from Lexington on US 68, Leigh and I were nervous and excited about the adventure we had planned. Rolling past the expansive horse farms and giant mansions of Kentucky’s wealthiest residents, we talked about what might happen, what we might see, and question, why on earth did we agree to do this? After seeing countless posts by friends on social media over the past few weeks and witnessing my neighbor, in full camo gear and bright orange vest, leave his warm home on a frightfully cold morning at an ungodly hour, I thought that this hunting thing was something Leigh and I needed to investigate for ourselves. Why are people so drawn to this activity and endure such conditions? As an animal lover, it also makes me incredibly uncomfortable thinking that I would be behind the forces that would end Peter Cottontail’s happy little life or, even worse, Bambi. <Sniff, sniff> But with our love of Kentucky and all of its traditions and heritage, we agreed to keep an open mind.
Fortunately for us, I knew just the person to call upon to help with this undertaking. Edwin Gibson is someone I know from my boys’ Boy Scout days and knowing he was an avid outdoorsman, as well as a dog lover who had recently purchased an English Setter that he was training to be a bird dog, I reached out and asked for his assistance. He gladly said yes! After meeting him and his beautiful boy, Scout, we headed out to Kentucky’s largest sporting league, Blue Grass Sportsmen’s League, in Wilmore.
Once we arrived at the facility, we drove to a barn and Edwin explained how the process of quail hunting works with a bird dog. There was a stall inside the barn with an opening to a fenced in area that housed approximately 30 quail. Once you pay for the quail ($6 per bird), you go inside the stall and catch the quail. Easy, right? Well, not so much. This was probably the most hilarious part of our day as the quail were flying around and going outside and Edwin was having a time trying to catch and put them in a bag. Once the birds were secured and we had stopped laughing, Edwin led us out to the fields for the next step. Of course, Scout was beyond excited as he could smell those birds and kept jumping to try to get Edwin to release them from the bag.
Moving to the fields, Edwin began placing the birds in the thick brush, all the while trying to keep Scout from snatching them from his hands. “Won’t they just fly away?”, we asked. Edwin said they would just hunker down and stay put, and sure enough, that’s what they did. Afterwards, Scout was turned loose to scour the fields. Watching him work the field was something to see. He ran through the brush, in and out, all the while sniffing the air in order to seek out the prey. Upon getting a whiff of one, he would stand still and “point”, and then go after the quail. The birds sometimes fly away, at which point a hunter can use a gun to kill it. However, if the bird doesn’t fly away and isn’t very quick, Edwin explained, the dog is able to mouth the bird and return it to its owner. Scout was really good at his job, despite only being nine months old, and was able to retrieve two of the quail. He proudly brought the half-dead birds to us, something which Leigh was less than thrilled about, and eagerly set off back into the fields to find the others. I kept thinking it’s a lot like an Easter egg hunt. It made it easier to think of the quail as plastic eggs rather than live animals. (I said I was an animal lover!)
Once Scout was good and tuckered out, Edwin called for him to come so we could move on to our next challenge in our hunting expedition…trap shooting. The Bluegrass Sportsmen’s League is situated on 1400 acres, so they have the land separated into different uses, which is probably smart as you wouldn’t want to have the people fishing or hiking near the people shooting firearms. That would be bad. Following the paved road, we soon came upon the trap, skeet and sporting clays area. So what’s the difference between the three? Well, this is what we discovered. The trap shooting is when a target is launched from a single position away from the shooter; skeet shooting has the targets launched from two positions and usually at a sideways path; and the sporting clays has many launch places and is more complex. The trap sounded easiest so that’s what we chose.
The Sportsmen’s League has firearms you can rent and ammo you can purchase, so we were in luck as we don’t own any firearms. Edwin said we would be best served by using a 20-gauge shotgun that fires smaller shells than a 12-gauge. Gearing up with protective ear plugs and shells in hand, we marched over to our area and watched as Edwin loaded the ammunition into the barrel. The honors of pushing the plunger on the skeet launcher fell to Leigh, so when he yelled “pull”, she depressed the button and the orange disk shot out of the launcher and into the air. Boom! Edwin hit it on the first try. In fact, I think he got three in a row, which left us slack-jawed. Okay, my turn. Nestling the butt of the shotgun into my right shoulder joint, Edwin told me to put half of my finger on the trigger, exhale halfway, and squeeze. Boom! I did it! Well, let me be clear. I shot the gun. I did not, however, hit the flying disk. That’s very hard to do! A few more tries and still no luck. Leigh went next and unfortunately did as well as I did. We never did hit anything, but I’ll tell you, it was a lot of fun!
As we drove the short drive back to Lexington, we giggled and joked about our first hunting adventure. It was a blast! (Pun intended) The beauty of Kentucky always leaves us breathless, and watching a man and his dog is always heartwarming. As for the quail…poor things. It did make us feel better knowing Edwin was taking them home to clean and fry them. We hear they’re excellent eating! As for our future in the world of hunting, I don’t know that we would go as far as climbing up in a deer stand in the middle of nowhere drenched in deer urine, but one thing I’ve learned with KY Taste Buds is never to say never. Who knows? We do look really good in camo!
To learn how to become a member of the Blue Grass Sportsmen's League, click here. And don't worry, not only do they allow women, but they have quite a few in leadership roles. That's a good thing! Another good thing is to thank a vet! Edwin Gibson is a veteran, having served in the United States Army in the '70s as a tanker. We appreciate his service as well as all of the other veterans for their sacrifices.