There are some 30 dogs (mainly English pointers, with a scattering of setters and one coal-black pointer-Weimaraner cross that is Bonnette's favorite), divided between the kennels at Bluefield and Hood Road. In place of horses, used extensively for quail shooting in other parts of the South, Bonnette has designed a fleet of 11 hunting jeeps. They are equipped with customary four-wheel drive for covering the rough Florida terrain, fold-down windshields, gun racks, padded gunholders, double winches and beverage coolers, and they are mounted with double dog boxes on the back that form a base for elevated spotting seats high above the ground.
Customarily, the hunters perch on these seats, African-style, until after the dogs have been released and had a chance to cover some of the ground. As soon as a dog goes on point, visible often only from above, the hunters climb down. They usually continue hunting on foot, at least until they are ready to move to another area. The dogs, remarkably, seem to adjust their pace to the hunters, ranging wide when they are in the jeep and much closer when they are traveling on foot.
Some of Bonnette's dogs also have an uncanny ability to adjust instantly from one kind of game to another. He has a liver-and-white pointer named Spot, for example, who can easily hold his own against any quail champion in the country. One morning last week Spot was hauled out before dawn to an area where several turkeys had been seen the evening before. With the first gray rays of morning, when turkeys usually leave their roosts to forage, the hunters crept blindly into a heavily thicketed stand of pines. Spot bounded eagerly ahead.
Suddenly he stiffened on point; a huge bird labored with a whoosh of wings into the air, and Spot charged off through the dense brush barking like a coon dog on scent. He skidded to a halt at the base of a tree and, squatting back on his haunches, raised his nose to the still-dark sky and howled at his quarry. This was the same Spot who in 49 coveys of quail the day before had never broken a single point or uttered a single sound.
"How did he know he was supposed to be hunting turkeys now?" one of the hunters asked.
"Well, I'll tell you," Kirby Smith, the guide, answered, "any dog knows nobody would be hunting quail this hour of the day."
Really outstanding performances like Spot's are typical of the quality that distinguishes all hunting at Bill Bonnette's. It is the kind of quality—in dogs, land, equipment, guides, game and, most important, sport—that is giving new stature to preserve shooting.