Rancho Caracol
 

A Cold, Cold, Mistress

By BOB WHITEHEAD
Photos By RON HENRY STRAIT

I have fallen in love again. But I fear she is going to be a cold, cold mistress.

As a young boy I would slip into my parents' bedroom and under the cover of darkness silently slide Dad's dresser drawer open. Nestled amongst his hunting socks was the latest issue of Field & Stream . I was the oldest of five kids. And a magazine back in those days was a treasure. But it was there — always there.

Quietly I would make it back down the hall with my prize, hop into my bunk, flick on my flashlight and begin reading about my next outdoor adventure.

Wing shooting articles fascinated me most. Words from Havilah Babcock, Joel Vance and Nash Buckingham were the drugs I sought those days.

I remember reading Babcock's words and hearing the frantic flush of the quails' covey. I remember the frost of early morning, sunrise over the trees, crows complaining and a stillness only a quail hunter can know.

As a young boy I would hunt quail behind our house. We had enough acres where two coveys could range, play and live.

I had no dog but would walk the grassy fields always surprised by the quails' chaotic flush. My bag never greater than two or three, each time I returned to the house, I counted time till I could do it again.



Joel Vance said it best, “Yes, there is more to hunting quail than reducing the bird to a game bag statistic. But what exactly, you may ask. What is the power of a sunset? The definition of love? What is the softness of puppy breath or the feel of a fine shotgun? Some things you just accept and hope they never go away.”

David Sikes is the outdoor editor of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. He had been after me and the San Antonio Express-News outdoor writer, Ron Strait to join him in Mexico for a quail and dove hunt.

Rancho Caracol was one of those places I had only heard about. You know, covey after covey of wild quail with doves that dive bombed you at any position.
I had fallen out of love with wing shooting and was only mildly interested in this trip. I just couldn't muster.

But, I also knew that I had buddies who would kill for a trip like this. And it wouldn't be fair to them if I didn't take advantage.

It is no secret our quail have been in severe decline the past four decades here in the Midwest .

Just ten years or so ago I had wonderful quail hunts in Kansas with friend Neal Holland. He had a dog, Ebbie, that on occasion, would point a quail while on the retrieve with one already in her mouth.

He says hunting is good at times still, but not like it used to be.

And I hunted over a few years with MDC retired biologist Spence Turner on some of what was the last, great quail hunting property in Missouri . But even that is a disappointment now.

Rancho Caracol drivers met us at the Harlingen , TX airport. Vans shuttled us four hours south into Mexico . We crept into the shadows of the Sierra Madre Mountains and for the next couple days I relived the stories I had read in those outdoor magazines back when I was a kid.


Caracol is a high-end wing shooters paradise. And you are going to pay for it. I won't get into the details of all that. You can by looking at the Web site or by ordering a brochure. You will know soon enough if you can pull it off.

Nor am I going to tell you or sell you on the idea you must see this place. All I know is I am going back. I have to find a way to go back.

For two days we killed quail and doves. We fished a half day at Lake Guerrero , once known for its monster largemouth bass. For two days we lived a king's life and once again, I fell in love.

After our first day's hunt I sat on the veranda, the cool night's mountain smell wafting across a green river valley below.




Thoughts of the hunt that day had me mesmerized; starry eyed.

That day, I remembered how the golden grass blew in windy waves around my feet and legs. I was part of the prairie, alive only because I was rooted in it, inextricably connected, my soul soothed by the rippling, amber strands of grass. How could I ever leave it, I thought.

We were in the waning phase of a full moon and its later-evening brilliance cost us a good glimpse of the Galaxy. It was there, though, blustering through the satellite's shiny shield.

That evening as I sat upon the veranda, shadows from the foothills cast upon the shimmering lake below imparting a feeling of acquiescence, an admission - a giving in, if you will.   A giving in to the notion that our hunt this day was right and natural.

The hunt was a ritual of life and living as sure as the the sunrise and the sunset; as sure as the Mexican prairie had been a part of me earlier.

What would tomorrow's hunt hold?  Had this been a fantasy?  A dream?  A recollection of a Babcock tale?

Now that I am home again...here in the midwest...far, far from my rekindled passion what am I to do?

Today, I dream of hunting Caracol's quail.  They call to me.  And tomorrow I will dream of hunting the next day...and the next day...and the next day.  Yes, I have fallen in love again.  But I fear she is going to be a cold, cold mistress.

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