This traditional sport of gentlemen requires current hunters to act accordingly.
If common sense was a universal trait inherited by all hunters, a lot of mishaps, accidents and ill feelings could be avoided. Even when common sense is abundant, a lack of understanding can cause downfalls.
Since hunters are not given a dose of common sense nor a crystal ball with their hunting license you cannot expect everyone to be on the same page that you are.
You must establish guidelines and expectations prior to beginning the hunt in order to enjoy a problem free quail hunting experience. Being courteous is the best way I’ve found for employing common sense and finding out expectations without offending anyone or being embarrassed. Courtesy is often overlooked, but it may be the most important ingredient in your quail shooting recipe.
I was once talked into inviting a neighbor’s-brother’s-friend to tag along on a quail hunt. He was allegedly experienced, but I should have seen the writing on the wall when he showed up in head-to-toe camo. The bandolier of shotshells slung diagonally across his chest was another indicator I foolishly ignored. Clearly, we were not on the same page.
In the field I bit my tongue as this guy fired as many of his four rounds as possible for each flush. The volley of shots occurred regardless of the number of birds that flushed. Pushed past my threshold, I stopped the hunt for a long talk about courtesy. We survived the rest of the day but I never invited him again. Since then I have made it a point to be tactfully courteous anytime I hunted with a guest or when I was the guest.
Think of why you like hunting with your regular hunting partner. I’m sure one factor is that there is an established shootin’ courtesy between the two of you. You know what to expect from them as well as what they expect from you.
Do not take your routine for granted with people you are not well familiar with. I don’t mean to preach to the choir, but I do mean point out a few courtesies that may not have occurred to you or may occur unconsciously.
A great gesture to break the ice and establish a foundation of courtesy when new faces are participating in a hunt is to offer eye and ear protection to the folks you’re not used to. Shooting glasses are as inexpensive as a few dollars, and foam ear plugs are just a few cents. Similarly, an orange hat is a great idea and just as inexpensive. Remember, it is the thought that counts even if your new pals refuse your offer.
Now that you started conversation, you can initiate talk about shooting zones. Almost everyone is familiar with the concept. The person that is on the left shoots from center to their left and opposite for the person on the right. Merely bringing this up instills a conscious courtesy that will carry throughout the hunt.
I usually bring this up diplomatically by asking “Do you prefer the right or the left side?” If your partner picks a side, oblige. If they don’t have a preference then you pick. Mission accomplished, and nobody feels belittled or embarrassed.
Some of the shots will still be anybody’s game. One unique shot in this category is the incoming bird between both shooters. Like two outfielders closing in on a pop-fly, one of you needs to call the shot.
Most of the time I will yell “Your bird!” Sometimes when I can clearly make the shot, I will call “I got it!”
As long as you give as many as you take you are in good sport and will not be viewed as a hog.
Bottom line: communication is key to courtesy.