SI Vault
Michael Baughman
November 19, 1984
In an essay on hunting, the late Canadian author Roderick Haig-Brown wrote that one virtue of chasing after upland birds is that it takes hunters to places they otherwise would not have gone. I think Haig-Brown was right, and I believe his premise is especially true in regard to mountain quail. Found primarily in four Western slates—California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho—mountain quail are surely the most elusive game birds in North America. Here's the story of two Texans who learned the truth of this by chasing mountain quail long and hard.
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November 19, 1984

Two Determined Texas Bird Hunters Go Gunning For A Dream In Oregon

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"Two six-footers with red mustaches."

"That won't be hard to find."

Hilde drove with me to the airport, where the Kimbrough brothers were due in at 8 p.m., but their plane had been delayed in San Francisco by the weather. For nearly a week it had been storming up and down the coast, and 30 inches of snow had fallen in the mountains near Ashland, where I live, the night before. At lower elevations creeks and rivers were flooding, and roads had been washed out. A two-day break in the weather was supposed to begin in the morning. If it didn't, we'd be lucky to find the mountains, not to mention the quail.

The plane arrived more than an hour late, and even though it was crowded, the Kimbroughs were indeed the only pair of big guys with red mustaches. Bill and Dick were in their mid-30s and well dressed, but not ostentatiously. They appeared to be in decent physical shape, and even looked like hunters. Still, as I walked up to introduce myself I realized that they didn't have a lot of faith in their mission. I could tell that they were trying hard to look both friendly and optimistic, but I could also tell that they were actually nervous, desperate—and if they'd been chasing mountain quail for three years and hadn't seen one yet, who could blame them?

The four of us talked through the long wait for their luggage and guns and then the half-hour drive back to Ashland. Rain shone on the surface of Interstate 5, and the windshield wipers were going full speed. I assured them several times that the weather would clear and that the quail would be there. In truth, though, I was probably no more confident than they were, and perhaps it showed, because my assurances drew little response. When we dropped them off at their motel, I told them that Rob would be by in his van at 8:30 in the morning.

"Thanks for coming," Dick said, trying once again to smile heartily.

"There's a grocery store right across the street," I told them, "and restaurants all over town. But if you want any liquor, you have to buy it at a state store in Oregon."

"We don't want liquor," Bill said grimly. "We came to hunt."

And hunt we did—but first there was more talk. Both Kimbroughs proved to be great talkers. On the drive out Highway 66, Rob asked if they were by chance a comedy team. Nope, Dick was an ophthalmologist, Bill an orthodontist.

They talked about turkey hunting in Texas: "I'm 10th in the wild turkey world-record book," Dick said. "Bill here, he screws up every way there is on turkeys—but I'm 10th in the book."

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