The quail at Joshua Creek are wild and abundant
— Sidehilling along the canyon’s edge, right foot above my left to keep from launching myself into the Spanish oaks below, I was pretty sure any birds that flushed here would take off into space first and then aim down into the trees to my left.
I was wrong. When they did flush, in a surprising rush of 30 or more wings, I honestly wasn’t ready for it.
The covey, hidden in a clump of low brush and brown grass that should have been an obvious hiding place for feeding quail, swept by me almost too fast for a shot. And, instead of plunging into the canyon, the birds made a swift left turn about 15 yards out and cut back into the scattered live oaks behind us. At the tail end of the covey rise, a rooster’s white head was shining in the sun, and I managed to catch up and knock him down just before he disappeared into the trees.
Part of the covey lined out for the top of the ridge 200 yards away, scattering so that we couldn’t be sure where they’d landed.
Joshua Creek Ranch owner Joe Kercheville, who’d moved around behind the pointing dogs to give me the best shot at the covey, started to say something about the quail we’d just busted. “Those birds are always right around here, but they’re really hard to hunt,” he said. “I’m glad we ... “— he hesitated, then continued — “those dogs are still acting like there may be more birds there.”
Guide Eric Harrison muttered a quiet “Birds up,” which was his command for Bugs — a tiny English cocker with a bloodhound’s nose — to bulldoze her way into a clump of yucca. Something close to 20 birds boiled up out of the brush as she punched into their hiding place. I was watching over the barrel of my little Beretta 28 and didn’t really have time to count.
From the corner my eye I saw birds falling to Kercheville’s shotgun, and I killed two myself as the covey split out over the edge of the canyon. It was exhilarating, energizing and quail hunting like quail hunting used to be. Two coveys, nearly 40 birds flushing wild, challenging, real world wing shooting and good dog work. I could make a habit of this.
At Joshua Creek, which is in the Hill Country about 90 minutes southwest of Austin, they do make a habit of it. They do released bird shooting, I think, better than any other place I’ve hunted in Texas.
It’s a real Texas hunt with coveys flushing wild and presenting no shot, tough shooting among the trees and tall grass.
There’s no guarantee you’re going to kill a bird, but unlike many areas of the state, there are quail here.
Joshua Creek releases more than 60,000 birds each year, according to Ann Kercheville, president of the operation and Joe’s wife. “We’ve learned a lot since we started more than 20 years ago,” she said. I hunted there back at the beginning and at that time Joshua Creek was just another liberated bird hunt with super nice accommodations and food.
Since then, the ranch has remained plush, and the hunting has risen to the next level.
Birds aren’t released in a pasture just for one group’s shooting. They are released year round and the ranch keeps ample feed on the ground for them. The result is an amazing carryover from each season and birds that don’t get fat and lazy and forgetful of flying while living in a pen.
The Kerchevilles will tailor a hunt for almost any group, including driven pheasants, walking quail shoots and combination days with sporting clays and doves during the season.
There are guided whitetail and axis deer hunts back along the Guadalupe River which forms the ranch’s north boundary.
Kercheville and I killed 16 quail and a single pheasant during an afternoon of hunting on top of a hill, with Harrison working the dogs through tall grass around giant live oaks.
If you’d like information about hunting at Joshua Creek, contact marketing manager Jody Jackson at (512) 296-1239.
Quail hunting at Joshua Creek takes place along cultivated grain fields and in prairie conditions among scattered live oaks. The shooting is challenging and rewarding.