Sports afield 

I used to hunt quail with my brother-in-law Joe Fowlkes, who taught me the lore of bird hunting even if he couldn’t do much to help my aim. I shot at a lot of quail and one time came pretty close to hitting one, or thought I did. I never shot Joe or his dog, Lady, but I’m sure they were both relieved when I hung up my harquebus for other less risky woodland pursuits – stalking the wily snipe, saddling and racing voles, and such.

Joe was a careful hunter as well as a skillful one, and under his tutelage I learned many useful field safety tips that I would’ve been happy to share with Vice President Cheney if he had only asked.

It’s too late now, of course, to help Squire Whittington, the human colander, but I thought I’d pass along this wisdom in case impressionable youth might be reading, or novice hunters who’d rather avoid the notoriety.

All right then, quail-hunting pointers for anyone who’s interested:

• If as you wheel to shoot you discern that your quarry has a face about the size and shape of a football, and legs bigger around than a spaghetti strand, and a perpendicular torso, and is wearing a cap, and is armed, that quarry is not, despite your first excited impulsive notion that it just about has to be, a quail, and you will be thankful afterward that you didn’t blast away at it.

• If it is yelling “No! Please! Help! For the Love of God Don’t Shoot!” or if it is yelling anything, or making any vocal sounds other than a clear bobwhite whistle, it is definitely not a quail and you’d be wise to heed its piteous pleading.

• If its pecker is not the kind that is also called a beak, then it’s not a quail and you don’t need to be shooting it.

• If it moos, it isn’t a quail and if you shoot it anyhow, and you’re out there in the unforgiving Pecos jurisdiction, one of Judge Roy Bean’s descendants is likely to have you hauled in to the Jersey Lily and strung up for first-degree steer murdering as Judge Roy himself did those sodbusters. You don’t want that.

• If it skulks, and howls at the moon, and is dirty gray instead of mottled brown, and is a chronic failure, and is constantly thwarted, and is forever on the verge of starvation, and is always mail-ordering dynamite, rockets, and assorted heavy equipment from the Acme Explosives, Rockets and Heavy Equipment Co., it’s not a quail, and shooting the rascal won’t faze him any more than running him over with a thousand speeding semis has fazed him, or having him fall, clutching a giant boulder’s underside, from a thousand towering buttes.

• If it isn’t a coyote, and yet has undeniable canine features and traits, it’s likely the bird dog that’s working hard to rustle you up some quail, and it’s really bad bird-hunting form to shoot this dog. It’s bad enough to shoot any dog, but particularly this one.If you do hear someone say, “Shoot the dog!” or, more likely, “Shoot zee dog!” it is only the punchline of a very old and pretty funny hunting joke, and shouldn’t be taken as a command.

• Quail don’t yodel, so if it yodels, for God’s sake, hold your fire. All we need this day and time is a big international bad publicity flap over Ugly Americans drygulching Tyroleans yo-do-lay-he-hooing inoffensively out on the lone prairie.

• If your target makes an utterance that might be construed as frightened Espanol, odds are about 50-50 that it’s an illegal immigrant (human) and not a quail, and there are consequences in shooting illegal immigrants. The consequences aren’t serious, of course, but they can be a hassle, and waste time.

• Quail don’t have big ears, so if you get a glimpse of big ears as the covey flushes, it might be a descendant of Lyndon Johnson skittering off out of range, or it might be a jackrabbit and you don’t want to be shooting Lone Star jackrabbits because they are an official State Scenic Vista Element in Texas. You’ll get off easier, and away quicker, shooting the immigrant.

• If it could possibly be a Comanche that you’ve flushed and are about to shoot, you’d best take dead aim and get the job done. Because your basic Cross Timbers Comanch isn’t going to take a scattershot physiognomic reordering from a scrawny beer-rowdy white-eyes as graciously as Squire W. took his, so either kill the sucker or start to work accommodating to the idea of spending the rest of your span naked, honey-smeared, and spreadeagled over an anthill the size of Twitty.

• The vice president was unbelievably lucky that this particular lawyer turned out to be so complaisant. That quality isn’t common in lawyers. It’s not even normal. I mean, who ever heard of any barrister getting winged by somebody obviously negligent, obviously impaired, and rich as Croesus, and just letting it pass? That’s not a rare occurrence. Hell, that’s a miracle.

So here’s the advice: If you’re bound and determined to go bird-hunting with a lawyer, and to shoot him while you’re out there, make it this same guy.


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