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John's Journal... Entry 151, Day 1


John Cameron on Quail Hunting With Youngsters

EDITOR'S NOTE: Don't ask a youngster to sit still and quiet and like it. As a matter of fact they hate sitting still and quiet. For this reason, young children sometimes don't enjoy hunting deer and turkeys. But, you'll have kids wired if you show them some action. For an all-together different idea, try hunting quail at a shooting preserve. Shooting preserves have horses or mule-drawn wagons kids can ride. At a shooting preserve, you will have non-stop action to occupy the youngsters. They'll enjoy riding the wagons or the horses, watching the dogs, shooting the birds, finding the birds and petting the dogs. You can't find any sport better for wired youngsters than preserve quail hunting. This week let's look at Cameron's Hunting Preserve in Panola, Alabama, in west/central Alabama and learn how to build memories with your family. Bubber Cameron started Cameron's Quail Preserve in the late 60s. John Cameron and his older brother Rush Cameron, Bubber's sons, now operate the preserve.

Question: How long has Cameron's Quail Preserve trained dogs and operated as a shooting preserve?
John Cameron: Our father started in 1962 training bird dogs. He officially opened the preserve in 1974. However, when he was training dogs, Dad would always let his customers go out into the field with him and shoot some of the quail that the dogs pointed. In the late 60s and early 70s more people started coming to our land and wanting to kill birds with the dogs that Dad had been training. So the quail preserve just evolved out of the dog-training business. Today, we average about 1,100 hunters who come through our quail preserve each year.

Question: When you have a family come to the quail preserve, what is the first thing you teach the family?
John Cameron: We teach the moms, the dads and the children how to be safe with the guns, the horses and the dogs. We teach the children and the adults to never load their guns until the dogs are on-point and the hunters are on the ground. Once the guns are loaded, we ask them to always keep their safeties on and the muzzles of the guns pointed straight up in the air. We never want a barrel pointed at the ground. And we never want the youngsters to put their fingers on the triggers of the guns until the birds are in the air.

Question: If Mom and Dad want to shoot, as well as the children, what procedures do you use?
John Cameron: Anytime that we have children on the shooting preserve we keep the children with either Rush or me. When I walk up to the quail, I keep my hand on the child and explain to the youngster where he can shoot, where he can't shoot, what to do and what to expect. We show him the area in front of him that he can shoot birds within so that he doesn't interfere with his mom or dad. We assume the role of coach, and the youngsters are our players. We prefer to take responsibility for the children, so that the mothers and dads can have a good time shooting quail, just like the youngsters do. We have found that the children are more likely to listen to us and obey us because we are strangers than they will be to mind their mothers and fathers. We make sure that the youngsters know where every dog is. We make sure they know where their parents are and where the horses and wagons are. We want to orient the child so he knows where he can and cannot shoot. We want the youngsters to flush the quail, and we want to be right with them so that if they swing their guns in an unsafe direction we can stop the guns and stop their swings.

Question: What do you do if you have more than one child hunting with a party?
John Cameron: We take turns. One child will have the gun, and the other child can either stay on his horse or in the wagon and watch from that vantage point. The next time that the dogs point, the child who has been watching becomes the shooter, and the shooter becomes the watcher. If we have children who have never hunted before, we ask them to walk in with us without guns and flush the quail two or three times before they are permitted to carry guns. By approaching the sport this way, the child sees what is going to happen, learns what the quail are going to do, what the dogs are going to do, and what the other hunters are going to do before he learns to shoot. The youngsters need to see how the quail flies, and think about when and where they are going to take their shots before they ever have guns in their hands.

Question: Is seeing a lot of birds and being able to shoot a lot, one of the big advantages of going to quail preserves for children?
John Cameron: Absolutely. We raise a large number of quail in the wild on our preserve. And we keep and hold large coveys of quail on our property. Seeing a covey with 40 to 100 quail in it is not uncommon on our preserve. On our preserve, the youngster will see a lot of quail and have plenty of opportunity to pull the trigger on his/her shotgun. The reason we like to keep the children with us is because that way we can ensure the child will be safe and that the Mom and Dad get to enjoy the hunt also.

Question: What does the child learn after the quail is flushed and the shooting is over?
John Cameron: We teach a child to put the gun back on safety. We make sure there are no shells in the chamber. Then we take the youngster with us to work with the dog to try and find the quail. We like to let the dog bring the quail back to the youngster and have the youngster take the quail out of the dog's mouth. Quail hunting is not just about shooting the birds. We teach the children to work with the dogs to learn what the dogs are doing and to learn how to help the dogs find the quail that have been shot. When the youngster takes the quail from the dog, we let him/her put the quail in the saddlebags on the horse or in the bird box on the wagon. We want the youngster to get the total experience of a quail hunt and learn to enjoy the dogs, the horses, the birds, the shooting and being outside. But most of all we want them to learn to be safe.

Question: When families come to Cameron's Quail Preserve, they have the option of walking, riding a horse, or riding on a mule-drawn wagon. Which form of transportation do the youngsters usually choose?
John Cameron: The older youngsters usually prefer to ride the horses. Younger children generally prefer to ride the wagon because there are plenty of soft drinks and snacks on the wagon. I think with some youngsters, they enjoy drinking the soft drinks, eating the candies and riding on the wagon with their mom and dad as much as they do anything else. If there is more than one child on the wagon, they enjoy talking with their buddies. The wagon is almost like a rolling playhouse for the little children. Sometimes the children like to do both. They want to ride the horses for awhile, and then they want to get on the wagon and rest their backsides from the saddles. Then they want to get back on the horses again. So many families opt to take the wagon and a horse or two on the hunt. Sometimes one parent will ride the wagon while the other parent rides the horse. Then if a youngster wants to ride the horse, both parents will ride in the wagon, or if a youngster wants to ride behind his mom or dad on a horse they can ride like that.

Question: If a family is coming to the shooting preserve for the first time, do you advise them to ride horses or ride the wagon?
John Cameron: I recommend that they ride the wagon. Everyone can ride the wagon. The wagon is also good if Grandmother and Granddad want to come on the hunt too.

For more information on Cameron's Quail Preserve, you can write John Cameron at 1001 Brockway Road #4, Aliceville, Alabama 35442. Or, email John or Rush Cameron at Cameron@froglevel.net or call (205) 455-2420.




Check back each day this week for more WHY, HOW AND WHERE TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO HUNT ...

Day 1 - John Cameron on Quail Hunting With Youngsters
Day 2 - Rush Cameron on Quail Hunting With Youngsters
Day 3 - More With John Cameron On Hunting With Kids
Day 4 - More With Rush Cameron
Day 5 - The Camerons Answer Questions

John's Journal