Every once in a great while, all the stars line up and I get the opportunity to bomb off on a hunting trip. Last fall, I fell into such a hunt and I walked away with renewed enthusiasm for conservation, people and the love of the hunt.
The team at Quail Forever in Oklahoma invited me to join them at The Last Buffalo to learn about bobwhite and blue (Scaled) quail in the Southern Oklahoma Panhandle. While this conflicted with opening weekend of Nebraska deer season, the opportunity to hunt quail was too hard to pass up, so I jumped at the chance. I had never hunted quail in the wild and I knew I could chase deer once I got back from this hunt.
I was in Austin, Texas on the Friday before the hunt and after my business meeting, I jumped in my truck, cranked up the radio and spent the day on the road. Music was blaring during the 550-mile trip to Darrouzett, Texas and The Last Buffalo. The tires ate asphalt at a great clip as I cruised across this amazing state. I saw a few deer, plenty of cows, cotton fields and lots and lots of open country. I even stopped to sight in my rifle along the way so I would be ready for that deer hunt back in Nebraska after the weekend.
I arrived at The Last Buffalo at 6 pm, with enough time to drop my gear on my bunk and head up for an appetizer of local brats whipped up by Chef Gailan Winegarner. I have been to a few hunting camps and lodges in my day and usually I refer to those who cook to be just that: camp cooks. However, I can only refer to Gailan as a chef because the food over the next couple of days was tremendous.
Our plan was simple: we would hunt public land on Saturday morning with an amazing team of Quail Forever volunteers, hear a bit about the success of the Oklahoma Panhandle Quail, follow that up with a short afternoon hunt and a then attend a conservation banquet that night in nearby Oklahoma. It was a pretty full day but we were all up to the task. I got to hunt with Steve Scott and Tom Keer, two men I have admired in this industry for several years. I also spent some time with Laura McIver and her husband learning about their passion for the bobwhite quail as we hunted in Northwest Oklahoma. Laura has been dedicated to Oklahoma quail for many years.
This group of volunteers and Quail Forever supporters has worked extremely hard with the team from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to create an exceptional habitat for the wild bobwhite quail. The area is also home to pheasant, deer, turkey, rabbit, coyotes, doves and a small number of lesser prairie chickens.
Our day was filled with exceptional shooting, great dogs, large coveys and an afternoon of pairs and single quail. My own shooting got better and better throughout the day. It was, after all, my first time quail hunting. I had hunted doves and pheasants in the past but I had never had the opportunity to hunt wild quail, especially around good dogs.
The evening found us celebrating the success of the hunt. We participated in raffles, games and an auction to help raise money for continuing conservation programs in the area. We headed back to the The Last Buffalo for a night cap which was followed by a good night of sleep, an early morning wake up, and breakfast by Chef Winegarner.
After a great meal, we loaded up the trucks and by 8 am we were headed out for the day. It was one of those perfect mornings: cool but not too cool. The hunting was spectacular. The conditions were a bit windy but the dogs were amazing. One of the A-team dogs had over 20 points in our morning turn outs.
I spent the morning with Jared Robertson and Dwayne Elmore from Oklahoma State University. We were working private leased land along the Kiowa River. The Last Buffalo has just over 25,000 acres leased along the Kiowa River in Northwest Oklahoma and Texas for quail hunting. A little over 250 feeders have been placed in thickets of sand plum, buffalo grass and sage throughout the area specifically for quail.
Hunting consisted of driving on to a property, getting into location, putting out two fresh dogs and walking up and around a feeder and back to the truck. On this particular morning, we averaged three to four points per turn out. We took one to three quail out of a covey before heading back to the truck. On the next turn out we would introduce two fresh dogs to our set and do it all over again. It was a perfect morning and Dwayne was an exceptional shot.
We headed back to the home of Jordan Shearer, one of the partners in The Last Buffalo, for a enjoyable lunch put together by the Patriarch and Matriarch of the Robertson clan, Jerry and Charmaine Robertson. I ate my weight in homemade cookies while listening to Dwayne Elmore talk about the future of bobwhite quail and the boom and bust cycles of quail. I was impressed by the knowledge Dwayne has accumulated and his passion for quail.
I also talked with Jerry Robertson about his family and their dedication to quail, dogs and wingshooting. Jerry began leasing land for private family-and-friend outings and for dog training early in life. His passion transferred over to his son, Wade, and in 1995 Wade started The Last Buffalo. He was inspired to build a lodge and when a local bank that had been empty for a number of years became available he jumped at the chance. Wade transformed the empty bank into the lodge that is currently The Last Buffalo. The vault works wonderfully as a gun locker and they have a great collection of double barrel shotguns for use.
In 2008 Wade Robertson sold his interests in The Last Buffalo to Josh Robertson, Jared Robertson and Jordan Shearer, keeping the business in the family while maintaining the dedication to fine upland hunting. They added turkey, deer and pheasant hunting along with some waterfowl hunts along the Kiowa River and surrounding areas.
After lunch Jared Wiklund, who works in public relations for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, headed out with us. He took a few impressive doubles on our turnouts. I handed my Nikon over to Jared Robertson, who proceeded to impress me with his photography skills. Jared must have enjoyed his time as photographer, because we came back with about 500 photographs; everything from the shooting to quail flying through the air to the amazing dogs on point on bird after bird. Jared and I limited out by 3:30 pm, which gave us time to drive through the ghost town of Sunset, Oklahoma. Once we arrived back in Darrouzett, we cleaned birds and cleaned up for dinner.
We enjoyed another fantastic meal that night. After dinner, I packed up and headed out into the night for the six-hour drive to my whitetail stand in Wauneta, Nebraska.
I couldn’t wait another night. I made it to my stand the following morning after a long, at times foggy, drive. It all worked out – I took a great 10 point just twenty minutes into my hunt and spent the rest of the day chasing pheasant.
On my drive up to Wauneta, all I could think about was the last two days at The Lost Buffalo and my time with this amazing family. I was honored for the chance to meet the Robertsons and to spend time with them in their lovely lodge. I was impressed with their knowledge of the area, the birds, and the history of life along the Kiowa River. I appreciated how each of the family members could articulate why conservation makes a difference in the area they hunt. I noticed their love of the dogs and the birds they pursue throughout the season.
I look forward to hunting with this family again. Regardless of whether the birds are flying or not, spending time with folks like the Robertsons inspires me to work harder for conservation and for sharing the hunting life.
If you want to experience The Last Buffalo contact them at (806) 624-1701.