West Texas Quail Outfitters

man in the field with his dog
Guests hunt little-pressured scaled quail and enjoy great dogwork along with guide Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s unparalleled hospitality. Photo by Brian Grossenbacher.

A friend once told me that driving across Texas from east to west takes forever, at which time you’ll reach Abilene . . . and be just about halfway there. The latter portion of the state—the one adjacent to Mexico old and new—is considered Far West Texas. It’s an apt name for a place remote and vast, but in that sweep of Chihuahuan Desert certain attributes stand out on an otherwise desolate canvas: notably a wild quail resource as good as any in the Lower 48. 

This is scaled quail country. Like its more easterly cousin the bobwhite, the scalie is a covey bird, one found in grassland and shrub areas that avail water, feed and overhead cover. Unlike bobs, however, scalies run through that broken landscape, placing as much of the thorny, rocky, spiny and crumbling West Texas desert between them and whatever represents advancing danger. A successful day chasing West Texas scalies calls for big-running dogs, tenacious bird hunters and stout-soled boots.

Those drawn to wild birds and equally wild places will find in Far West Texas yet another emphatic attribute of the region, namely Ryan O’Shaughnessy, owner of West Texas Quail Outfitters. Ryan is not a native of the place, but he exudes a certain pride of belonging there. It’s the accent that gives him away. Ryan grew up in safari camps in South Africa and Botswana and arrived in Far West Texas to fill a teaching post at Sul Ross State University, in Alpine, serving as a post-doctoral research scientist with an academic focus on gamebirds and waterfowl. In and around his research, however, he found himself taken by the region and its scaled quail, the pursuit of which excused him to buy a few pointing dogs and build some inroads with local landowners. Soon he had a string of dogs and an even bigger string of ranch permissions, and he began to envision a hunting experience akin to the safaris of his youth: big days in big country, elaborate hot lunches served al fresco on checked tablecloths and a wingshooting adventure that conjoined something wild with something refined. In short order West Texas Quail Outfitters was born.

In the decade or so since Ryan first endeavored to escort traveling wingshooters into the farthest reaches of Far West Texas, he has gained both notoriety and a reputation for excellence. As a biologist, his knowledge of the resource and commitment to conservation are unrivaled; as a lifelong hunter borne of an old-world tradition, he is the consummate host. He brings these qualities to bear in a region with minimal hunting pressure and, in a good year, a festival of birds. Coveys of 30 and 40 birds are not unheard of in a good year, and a dozen or more covey finds represent a pretty good day. Neither the shooting nor the walking is easy, but guests are guaranteed beautiful and untrammeled country and Ryan’s absolute attention to detail. Great dogwork and great ground are a foregone conclusion. Day’s end will see the group back in the outpost town of Alpine, where an steak dinner and a cocktail await and a warm bed at the Holland Hotel beckons. 

And, with the sunrise, there is the chance for the hunters to do it all again, to leave their own emphatic footprints on a place far from anywhere but well worth the trip.

For more information, contact West Texas Quail Outfitters, westtexasquailoutfitters.com.

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