I remember well the first time I hunted quail at Hidden Lakes Hunting Resort located near Lake Fork at Yantis when the shooting resort first opened about 7 years ago. Owner Billy Burnett invited me up to check out his operation. Before our hunt, Billy gave me a tour of his place. He raises the birds right there on the property in long flight pens that are situated in a secluded area where the birds have almost no contact with man. The flight pens give the birds plenty of space to strengthen their wings. A nice little house served as ‘headquarters’ where the noon meals were served to hunters that had spent the morning shooting quail or pheasants or chukars. Expert dog work, very fast flying birds, great guides that soon became friends and an excellent meal are my memories of my first visit to Hidden Lakes.
Prior to hunting at Hidden Lakes, I’d hunted and written articles on many shooting preserves but none that raised and conditioned their own birds. Most of the preserves I’d hunted were what I refer to as ‘wind row’ operations consisting of small tracts with trails interspersed with areas of man made cover. Often, the birds we shot did little more than hop up in front of the dogs. The dogs that were used on these operations had learned exactly where the birds would be placed and would run up and point these areas of cover out of habit more than the scent of a game bird, at least which is the way it appeared to me. I’d also hunted several of the upscale hunting resorts with onboard chefs and million dollar lodges. While I enjoyed these outings, the shooting usually left me well aware that I had been shooting ‘pen raised’ birds.
These ‘home grown’ upland birds at Hidden Lakes that are reared in near natural conditions make all the difference when it comes to the hunt. They will often cause and old wild quail hunter like myself that remembers the good old days of Texas quail hunting back in the sixties, seventies and part of the eighties, into reliving past hunts. At Hidden Lakes, the good old days are back! The preserve is an excellent place to introduce newcomers, young and old, to the excitement of shooting upland birds over well trained pointers and setters.
Things have changed at Hidden Lakes through the years. Lots of improvements have been made including a fine lodge with rooms for overnight lodging, brand new and even bigger rearing and conditioning pens for the birds, a new shotgunning course and a new manager.
Back on my first hunt at Hidden Lakes, Cord Burnett, the son of Billy and Kathryn, was still a teenager but already guiding hunters. When I hunted with him, it was obvious he had as much ‘bird savvy’ as the pointers and setters he was handling. Cord grew up with his family hunting wild quail back when their numbers were high out in west Texas. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone with more of a passion for hunting upland birds and working dogs. Cord has worked hard at the family operation and now is the manager, overseeing everything from raising the birds to keeping the kennel of dogs trained to perfection.
Upon arriving for this hunt last week, I spent a little time visiting with Cord who had a full plate of duties for the day ahead. “I still guide but not as much as I used to.” Says Cord. “I now have to divide my time between duties managing the operation and guiding. Overseeing the logistics of an upland bird hunting resort is most definitely a full time job but I make sure I am still out there guiding as much as possible.”
I’ve made friends with most of the staff at Hidden Lakes through the years and my guide for this most recent hunt was Dennis Hyde. Dennis was raised on property adjacent the preserve and grew up back when wild quail numbers were still strong. “We have young hunters here all the time that have never had the opportunity to hunt quail or watch bird dogs work.” Says Dennis. “ I’m not sure anyone really knows why quail have all but disappeared in east Texas and their numbers are very low in the old ‘quail country’ of west Texas but the fact is that hunting them is not a way of life as it used to be. Here we provide a traditional ‘old style’ quail hunt that is ideal for not only introducing newcomers to the sport but getting quail hunting veterans back in the game as well.”
My friend Terry Tate and I enjoyed a few hours shooting behind fine pointing dogs with Dennis and left Hidden Resort with plenty of quail for upcoming meals. As we walked along behind the pointers, we all shared stories of past hunts when wild quail numbers were high and shooting a limit was often as easy as walking out behind the house with our pointer and getting into the birds. Those days are long gone, hopefully the biologists can get a good handle on the demise of quail in the state but even if they don’t the Burnett family has most definitely brought the sport back in a fashion that comes very close to the good old days. I might like it a little bit better, to tell the truth. We had to cover a good bit of ground on our hunt but I remember back in the eighties walking from sunup to sunset in pursuit of quail! Contact Hidden Lakes Hunting Resort online at www.hiddenlakeshr.com or call Cord Burnett at 903-335-2200 cell or 903-383-7100 lodge.
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