The Thrill Of The Flush
The Virginia Sportsman|Fall 2019
The Thrill Of The Flush
Afternoon Wingshooting in Central Virginia
Eric Kallen

Getting a telephone call from my friend Neal Kauder is a good thing. Kauder and his wife Jane own and operate Orapax, an upland bird-hunting preserve in Goochland, Virginia. Nestled along the James River, the 700-acre preserve offers 10 well-maintained fields that are open to the public for hunting pheasant, quail, chukar and ducks. Kauder is an upland hunting guide and professional dog trainer. When he calls, I answer or call back immediately.

IN DECEMBER, KAUDER INVITED ME TO JOIN HIM FOR AN afternoon of wing shooting at the preserve. He also invited Blaine Altaffer, CEO of Green Top Sporting Goods, the largest hunting, fishing and outdoor retailer in Virginia.

“The weather is supposed to hold on Thursday with unseasonably warm temperatures,” said Kauder. “We’ve got a variety of birds on hand and Blanco and Rey are ready to go. I’m looking forward to breaking Jasper in and hope you can make it. Blaine and his son Brent are joining the hunt too. We’ll have a great time. Bring Joe.”

I asked Joe Shields, my colleague at this magazine, to come along. Shields is new to hunting and more familiar with a fly rod than a shotgun. Hunting at a game preserve like Orapax is the perfect opportunity to introduce beginners to this exciting tradition. And it’s imperative to introduce new people to upland hunting—more so now than ever before.

I am an active participant in Virginia’s Quail Recovery Initiative. I am also a bird hunter and am well aware of the challenges that face today’s wingshooters. Virginia has a long history of upland bird hunting. In the western part of the Commonwealth, the forested peaks of the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains have long been the preferred home of ruffed grouse. These birds thrive in young forests, however, and efforts to preserve older forests have affected the habitats in which they thrive.

The same is true for the migratory American woodcock, which also takes refuge in these forests, especially in late winter. Some of these birds permanently reside in Virginia and thrive in young forests, especially in wet thickets and woodlands.

According to the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), in 1973, more than 1.2 million Bobwhite quail were harvested in Virginia by 143,000 quail hunters. Bobwhite quail require habitats full of native grasses and shrubs where they can nest. The VDGIF reports a recent annual harvest totaled approximately 12,000 wild quail killed by 8,000 hunters.

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Fall 2019