Quail Sand Sea and Fun

September 27, 2010

As the dog days of summer roll around each year and the grouse begin to take flight over pointers and butts, I am always caught out by the start of the season (the blog was the first casualty of quail, grouse and pheasant, so if you follow me on Twitter @outsidedays and this is out of sync, apologies). Adding a quick trip to Croatia in pursuit of migratory quail walked up over English pointers and setters to the diary has sprung the season on me even faster. As July wound down, I found myself in the surreal position of packing shooting attire, fishing kit, snorkelling gear, fleeces and suncream and heading for Split.
Having retrieved the guns on flights from across the UK (Split is a quick flight from most British airports) we headed for Radcic, a rural village in the heart of agricultural Croatia. Being on the doorstep of the hunting ground compensates for a lack of bells and whistles accommodation when you are hauling yourself out of bed to be in the field at dawn. The three guns and I were joined by our dogman Branko, our guide/translator/fixer Ana and their 5 dogs, a mixture of English setters and pointers. Walking up behind the dogs, we meandered across a patchwork of small plots that resembled feudal England or an enormous allotment. Take the migratory nature of quail, add the vagaries of guns’ fitness, wakefulness and accuracy, and the bag becomes a moveable feast. Disproving the adage that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, we hunted for four or five hours from dawn and then again for two or three hours in the evening. This reduces the risk of painful sunburns and heat exhaustion for canine and human alike.
When you’ve only grabbed a view days away, every hour of sun is precious…especially when faced with an English August at home. Making the most of the proximity of the Med and an empty day stretching out in front of us, we headed for the sea. Only an hour from our rural hunting idyll, the coast offers an array of watersports from boating and snorkeling to fishing and diving. After four hours of pootling on the water, we headed back inland with soggy clothes, 50+ fish to our credit, and ‘suntans’ that would be the envy of our staycationing acquaintances. It feels like my feet have hardly touched the ground, but the English ‘indian summer’ has us planning next year’s excursions already…