Last October I competed in the Ladies Open at the National Sporting Clays Association National match at the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio. At the end of the event there were a number of prizes awarded by a random drawing. I was the VERY LUCKY recipient of a guided quail hunt generously donated by Julie Clark of Austin Gun Club in Lampasas.
What it was about
Julie and I scheduled a date for 2 attendees that included a round of sporting clays, lunch, guided quail hunt, dinner, lodging and breakfast before departure the next day. I took my good friend and shooting partner, Carleta, with me. Julie was very responsive about all the questions we had, things we needed to bring and what would be happening while we were here. She was amazing. As we got closer to the date, she reached out because the weather was changing and gave some great options to work around. We settled on a new plan just a few days away.
I live southeast of Austin, so it was about 2 hours to get to Lampasas. It’s a pretty drive and we trekked through Austin in between traffic hours to avoid any city traffic. Upon our arrival, Julie and a couple of dogs greeted us. Maddie and her puppy, Delta.
Julie showed us back to our rooms which were in a back part of the huge complex and very quiet. We each got our own room which was surprising as it was a donated experience. Our rooms were very comfortable and had their own bathroom. After settling in we went back to the front of the clubhouse. Julie told us our ATV cart was out front and ready to go whenever we were ready to go shoot a round of sporting clays. So away we went! The course was still set up from a registered match the weekend before. It’s a very nice course and the targets were fun and challenging. We weren’t able to shoot every single station as it got to be lunch time and Julie had mentioned CHILI! After shooting 10 or 11 stations we drove back to the clubhouse for lunch. We had Chili, cornbread, all the toppings for chili, tea and brownies. Julie makes everything from scratch. It was delicious! Then we watched a safety video about outdoor hunting.
After lunch our fantastic guide, Darren, came to the clubhouse and we got outfitted with the proper orange vests necessary for safety. We got in our cart and followed Darren and the dogs in the trailer to the field. Darren gave us a safety brief about walking around with our shotguns and told us the plan for the day. The grass and brush is pretty high so you have to really work at navigating through the field.
Austin Gun Club hunts with both pointers and flushers. This was my first experience hunting with dogs. That first flusher, a yellow lab named Gus, literally ran in circles around us at least a dozen in excitement when he was taken out of the trailer! It was so cute! The excitement these dogs have for “working” is a joy to watch. I noticed that even before we began to hunt that the pointer was already pointing! She wouldn’t come when the whistle was blown so Darren knew she was on a bird. Its really amazing, the dogs stay on point until we get into position and Darren gives the flushing dog a verbal command. While walking around, Darren also communicates with the dogs with different whistle blows. Until we get into postion, the dogs excitedly wait. You can see them quivering with excitement.
My friend got that first bird that flew out. You must be aware of where the other hunters are, where the dogs are and where the guide is. So there is a strategy about it. If it flies a certain way one gets it, the other one if it goes their direction. When the bird flies away you have to be very careful about how low it is so you don’t shoot one of the dogs that may be running and jumping after it. I was really nervous about that part. It’s a lot to keep track of!
We walked all over that field a number of times as the dogs pointed out birds and we got into position. And each pass of the field we hunted with different dogs. For the last pass Darren brought out 2 males, a German Short Haired Pointer and an English Pointer, which has a long tail that is very easy to see when it’s pointing straight up while on a bird. Darren explained that we might see an “honor point” between the dogs. He explained that when one dog goes on point and the other one sees it, it stops and points at that dog, called an honor point. We actually got to see it once. I found the respect in an honor point very moving. Unfortunately, it all happened pretty fast after that and therefore, no photo.
Most of the time the dogs were on just one bird or a couple. But twice during our hunt, large coveys were flushed. That was very exciting! I didn’t shoot at any of those birds because they flew in every direction. You have to be careful not to lose your head in the excitement! All in all we got 11 birds between the 2 of us. Having never hunted birds except for one dove hunt, this was an amazing experience.
It’s all about the dogs…
My favorite thing? The dogs! Watching these dogs do what they are bred and trained to do was the most amazing part of this entire wonderful experience. Watching the joy of the dogs to be out working was something to see and experience. They are really well loved and cared for at this club and it really shows. The summertime is too hot and the snakes are out so they do only short training sessions when it gets warm. For them, it’s all about the dogs and if they see a dog struggling, they will stop and take care of the dog first. The dogs work so hard and Julie feels honor bound to give them the best care possible. They will go until they overheat which can be fatal. Hunting dogs can run up to 40 miles in a 3-hour hunt and care is taken for them not to overheat with water tubs placed through the hunting fields for the dogs to jump in and cool off.
It was pretty cold that day in January so after the hunt we were ready to go back to the clubhouse and relax. For dinner we had spaghetti with meat sauce, salad, and dessert. Just like lunch, everything was homemade. We got to visit a lot with Julie at dinnertime. She grew up on this property. They are a hunting preserve and buy birds from breeders so hunting can happen year-round, however for the safety of the dogs, preserve season is October to March. They bring in quail, chukar and pheasants. They run 16 dogs there and if someone has their own bird dog, they can bring it there and hunt, but their upland members get to hunt on their own with their own dogs.
She added a trap field, 5-stand, skeet, helice and the sporting clays course. So, it’s a fantastic place for anyone that loves to shoot clay birds. She holds NSCA registered matches out there monthly that includes a hot lunch. Carleta and I decided we definitely want to come shoot some matches there.
We decided to go to bed pretty early as we’d been shooting all day and walked an impressive total distance in the field while hunting. Being outside and active makes for a great appetite AND a great night’s sleep. I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
In the morning when we woke up, the forecast rain had arrived and was really coming down steady. They are in a drought there so the rain was very welcome. It sounded nice on the roof during the night. Julie had a great breakfast of eggs, biscuits, bacon and coffee for us when we were ready. After eating, we loaded up and headed home.
About Austin Gun Club:
They have a membership and the upland members can bring their own dogs to hunt on their own, all others can bring their dogs and hunt but in a guided hunt. The shooting disciplines at Austin Gun Club include: trap, 5-stand, skeet, sporting clays and helice, the long range, 3 pistol bays and 4 hunting fields. The birds are pheasant, quail and chukar which they hunt October to March.
I highly recommend Austin Gun Club. Julie is a one-stop place for fun if you love all things shooting sports. Her family history on this place, the peace, quiet and serenity, beautiful views, the dogs, Julie’s cooking, and the sporting aspect all add up to an experience everyone in the family can enjoy. Go see my friend Julie Clark at Austin Gun Club in Lampasas. She can be reached at 512-394-4419.