Two Excited for Birds

For Gary Dorr and his son Cody, fall is for shooting and game birds. But Gary is also teaching Cody the skills of the bowhunter.

It’s fall and the birds are in the air. But for Cody Dorr, even though he’d been on bird hunts before, this will be the first season he’ll shoot.

He’ll start with a simple gun. But one day, not too many seasons into the future, he’ll be handed a very special shotgun.

Hunting game birds is a popular seasonal sport all over the country, and in Oklahoma and it’s neighboring states at this time of year you can find owner-operator Gary Dorr out looking for dove, quail and pheasant.

“I’ve been hunting birds since I was knee-high to a grasshopper,” says Dorr, 48. “We used to have a lot of open pasture, and Dad and a few of his friends would get together at our place and just go dove hunting. Some of them would have dogs, some wouldn’t. They had all different kinds of guns. I’d just go along with them.

“Now I’ve got a 10-year-old fixing to have his first season this year. He’s got his first pellet gun, and he’s been practicing with it.”

That would be Cody. And when he takes his first birds, he will remind his father so much of himself.

“I can bring him the same way my dad brought me at the same age. I was only 9 or 10 when I started going out with him and the rest of his group. You never forget how that feels. I only had a BB gun, but I walked out there with everyone else, and I took my place in the line of shooters and I didn’t think a thing about it. Cody went out with me some times last year, and he was bugging me before this season began a little bit, real eager to get out there. Just like me when I was his age. It’s good to see him get fired up about it.”

These days Dorr’s trucking business helps give him access to bird fields in an age when the constant expansion of towns and cities is wiping out a lot of the old bird habitats. “We haul from farms a lot,” says Dorr, “and a lot of farmers let us hunt on their land. A lot of times they’ll come with us, sort of a family affair. We’ll pack lunch and make a day of it, me and the boy.”

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Dorr, who runs Garry Dorr Trucking from his home base in Tahlequah, Okla., drives a 1985 Pete 359 with an end dump, hauling loads such as feed and grain and hauling fertilizer off river barges into neighboring states.

Dorr is trying to make Cody a skilled and safe bird hunter just as his father made him. “I’m trying to show him how to handle a gun safely. Teaching him to look ahead and think ahead, and be aware of what is around him. I want him to know the basic hunting rules, and he reads the basic 10 rules of hunting. I want to get the hunter’s code and the basic rules of safety into his head.”

Dorr hunts mostly with a 16-gauge Browning automatic shotgun. “It’ll turn your shoulder blue after seven or eight rounds, but you just keep going.” It’s the gun he uses, but it’s not his favorite. That would be his first gun.

“My first shotgun was a single shot .410 Remington. It was my grandfather’s gun. I was able to go out a couple of seasons with him before he passed on. Then one day he just gave it to me. He just handed it to me and said, ‘This is yours. Take care of it.’ I was 11 or 12 years old, and I thought it was the biggest thing in the world,” Dorr says.

“I’ve still got that gun. I still use it. It’ll be Cody’s one of these days; I’m just waiting until the time is right.”

When Dorr and his friends hunt dove and quail, they are open field shooting. Two to five people usually make up the hunting party, spread out 15 to 20 feet apart moving in a line across open land with usually only corn stalks, grass or hedges or fences, looking for birds to rise into the air before them. “That’s ‘walking a field’ as we would call it here,” says Dorr.

“What we take, we’ll bring in and clean and eat, mostly fried, but now we’re baking some. It’s a whole different taste when you eat game birds.”

Dorr enjoys dove season but prefers quail, largely because while the hunting experience is similar, the weather is cooler as the season starts later. To keep sharp at wing shooting, a skill that can get rusty quickly, Dorr and his shooting buddies practice skeet shooting, buying clay targets and using a small local skeet shooting club. “It gets a little expensive, so the idea is to get good fast.”

The months leading up to bird season, which starts in September in Dorr’s neck of the woods, are hectic, and the hunting is a welcome break.

“Sometimes I take the family and a 17-foot trailer out and camp somewhere. Spend a night or two. Do some fishing. Some hunting. We’ve got a heater and a fridge; it’s a home away from home. We all come back refreshed.” “All” is Dorr and Cody, Dorr’s wife Laurie and daughter Chelsea, 9.

Looking forward to his first full season with Cody as a shooting companion has Dorr himself fired up this year.

“These are real special times, being out with my boy. I look forward to the hunts as much as he does,” he says. Sometimes Dorr has to try not to let all that enthusiasm show. “I’m trying to be the leader and show him how to be calm and cool and how to act.”

Dorr hunts more these days than he thought he would not too many seasons ago.

“Sometimes a driver who is away all the time can forget his family, you know what I mean, put his family behind other needs.” he says. “A few years ago I was in the grind – work, work, work – to pay for things. I’m glad I could recognize it. A lot of truckers don’t; they don’t look far enough down the road. Now I take the time to enjoy my family, to make sure there’s time for hunting and camping. I saw that my family would always be here, and I have to find the time to be there for them and to enjoy them.

“After all, they’re the reason you’re running every day, and doing things with them makes all the running worthwhile. If you can’t enjoy what you’re working for, there’s not a whole lot of point doing it.”

That First Shotgun
Game bird hunting starts with the right shotgun – and a lot of questions

Game bird hunting practices vary from region to region, just as the terrain and the ground cover change. But wherever you choose to hunt doves, quail or pheasant, you’ll head into the fields and woods with a shotgun. The same thing would apply if your bird of choice were a spring-seasonal bird, the turkey. So for drivers getting into the sport the question would be just which shotgun?

Your decision is likely to be a compromise between what you need, what you want and what you can afford. Browning’s ( Paul Thompson says there are some basic choices to make when looking for a shotgun. He also says that selecting a shotgun is only part of what you need to do to join the sport of game bird hunting.

“Talk to people who really know game bird hunting, that’s the way to start,” says Thompson. His advice is to not rely on what you hear from friends but ask the experts, either in reputable sporting goods stores or in your state’s department responsible for wildlife management. They are the people who can tell you when and where to hunt, good practices, what’s legal, when licenses are needed and so on. “And,” says Thompson, “they can direct you to hunting safety classes.” Hunting magazines are also an extremely valuable resource for beginners.

Thompson outlined some very basic shotgun choices:

The single shot can be the least expensive because it can be very basic, but it’s not very not practical for hunting birds when you only have one shot before you have to stop and reload. It’s more popular for target shooting. They are break-open guns and actually most are high-end expensive because they are used in target shooting. “We make one of the least expensive, and its $1,200. There are some inexpensive ones, but they are very basic,” says Thompson.

Then there’s the pump shotgun, across the board probably the least expensive of the multiple shot shotguns, says Thompson. A hand-pulled slide loads the chamber and rejects spent shells.

The next price point in the scale is the semi automatic. “Its advantage over the pump is that it tends to have less sensed recoil.” The pump or the semi-automatic are probably where most people who don’t have a hunting background will come into the sport, says Thompson, because they offer the best price/sophistication combination.

Side by sides or over-unders (these labels describe the arrangement of twin barrels) can be very expensive because they are more complex and precise to manufacture, says Thompson. You might pay $1,500, he says, but Browning makes some very special ones according to individual customers’ requests for up to $30,000 that can take up to 18 months from start to end of production.

Shotguns come in different gauges – 10, 12, 16, 20, 28 (12 is by far the most popular and versatile, and if you’re walking a lot their seven to eight pounds won’t wear you out) – and this is another choice you’ll have to make. As you become a better shot you may turn to smaller gauges for more challenge, and the smaller gauges are lighter and better for smaller people. The bigger ones have more recoil, and for birds you don’t want a huge gun; you want to bring the bird down, not destroy it. So you would also choose ammunition that had a smaller shot size so the pellets leave you something to eat.

Get Your Kicks
Legendary Route 66 is waiting to lure you back to yesterday in America

She’s a time machine out there just waiting for you to roll your wheels onto her and take a trip back to another America. And they call her the Mother Road.

Could be you pass by her all the time and don’t realize she’s there.

In her heyday, U.S. Route 66 was a legendary place, “America’s Main Street” they called her, and she ran from Chicago to L.A., more than 2,000 miles all the way. Today she connects places people don’t spend much time in because she’s been replaced by America’s progress and the superhighways you make your living on (mostly by I-55, I-44, I-40, I-15 and I-10). But what’s left of her is still worth riding. She’ll take you back to an America that a lot of you will find alternately comforting, exciting, nostalgic and filled with wonder. You’ll also come across just plain laugh-out-loud Americana. Oh, the sights you’ll see.

It was this road that the fictional Joad family traveled with so many other dispossessed people to escape the Oklahoma dust bowl of the 1930s Depression in John Steinbeck’s American classic The Grapes of Wrath. It was Steinbeck who called the new highway “the mother road, the road of flight.” Later, gangsters used the road – Machine Gun Kelly in Oklahoma City. Our armed forces relied on it during the World War II years, and people in colorful new cars in the ’50s and ’60s rolled along the road and stopped at gaudy motels, drive-in diners, Art Deco gas stations and roadside attractions in a hundred little western American towns.

The road is in pieces today, so don’t expect to roll on to her coming off Michigan Avenue and end up unimpeded on Santa Monica beach like you once could. The wonderful places you can visit are really not the story of this highway. The story is the road itself, and for truckers, the chance to roll over one of the most historic modern roads ever built.

Route 66 Magazine ( chronicles the high and low spots of 66 and is dedicated to “preserving the legend of the Mother Road.” Publisher Paul Taylor says truckers will find the old road “fascinating. If you love roads like truckers do, this is a place to go.”

It can be work, but for drivers who love the road, it is an adventure. She comes and goes, sometimes running in long, unbroken stretches, other times disappearing in a maze of reconfiguration and repaving. Some pieces are local roads now; some have gone altogether. Much of her you will never find. But to feel your wheels on the road is something special, something only Americans would understand.

And sure, there are places you’ll love to stop and see.

Exotic World Burlesque Museum is just off Route 66 between Victorville and Barstow, Calif., a short ride from I-15. Once the private residence of famed dancer Jennie Lee, Exotic World is the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to preserving the art and artifacts of the golden age of burlesque, one of the most popular forms of entertainment in American theater from the 1930s until the late 1950s. Today, the museum houses all sorts of memorabilia, including photographs and playbills, pasties, lip-prints and even the jewel-encrusted g-strings.

Believe it or not, in the same town (Helendale) you’ll find the bizarre Bottle Tree Ranch, a forest of metal poles adorned with bottles of all shapes and sizes (and sometimes with old radios, pumps, surfboards and saxophones).

Tired of sleeping at truckstops? Sleep in a teepee. The Wigwam Motel in Rialto, Calif., is one of only three of the original seven Wigwam Motels built that are still standing. Built in 1949 (and recently renovated) it comprised 12 teepee-shaped buildings, one of them the office. Eight more teepees and a pool were added a few years later because of its popularity among Route 66 riders.

The California Route 66 Museum, with a collection of historic photographs and artifacts, was established in Old Town, Victorville, Calif., in 1995, in an old Route 66 roadhouse, the Red Rooster Cafe. “The Jazz Singer,” starring Neil Diamond, was filmed here.

Remember the Blues Brothers, Jake and Elwood? The opening scene of the famous movie features the fictional “Joliet Jake” leaving the infamous Joliet State Penitentiary. Only a few miles from 66, the place closed in 2001. A model for prisons all over the world when built in the 1850s, it is now on the Illinois Landmark Preservation Council’s “Ten Most Endangered Historic Places” list.

Drive 66 in western Oklahoma, and your rubber will be meeting some of the original Portland cement used to build the great road. You can find another Route 66 Museum in Clinton and in Texola a ghost town featuring a territorial jail built in 1910.

In Shamrock, Texas, you can visit the Tower Service Station and U-Drop-Inn, a Route 66 landmark since 1936. The builder and owner J.M. Tindall used a design drawn up by his friend with a nail in the dirt to create an eye-catching Art Deco tower intended to lure the Route 66 traveler in for a great home-cooked meal. It is said a child came up with the name. Not long after it opened, a local newspaper described the restaurant as “the swankiest of the swank eating places and the most up-to-date edifice of its kind on U.S. Highway 66 between Oklahoma City and Amarillo.”

And while you’re in the Amarillo area, there’s The Cadillac Ranch. A collective of artists called Ant Farm decided to place 10 Cadillacs, ranging from a 1949 Club Coupe to a 1963 Sedan, in a millionaire’s wheat field. The ranch is still “there,” although it’s further from 66 now because it was moved in 1997 as the city expanded. Now the Caddies are between exits 60 and 62 off I-40.

The Civil War wasn’t all east of the Mississippi; it came to a battle in Glorietta, N.M. This is a surprise to most visitors and a stop that will help you see a new facet of the war. And if you like the Eagles hit “Take It Easy,” you can stop and be “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see.” Not far from Winslow is Two Guns, an old “wild West” town and home of something called an “Apache Death Cave.”

The things to see are endless. But keep your eyes on the road, too.

Engineers started building Route 66 in 1926, using as many sections of existing roads as possible. Originally, only 800 miles of the road were paved. It was only in 1937 that the famous highway was finally paved end-to-end. It crossed eight states and three time zones. It was officially decommissioned in 1985, but by then it was rarely traveled by Chicago-to-L.A. road users any more.

One thing you will need is a map that focuses on the part of the Mother Road you’ll be driving. Without it you’re likely to keep running out of road and wondering where it takes up again. Route 66 Magazine has produced The Complete Guidebook to Route 66 and The Complete Atlas to Route 66, by Bob Moore and Rich Cunningham (Moore is executive editor of the magazine). The National Historic Route 66 Federation will provide you with detailed fold-out maps (by Jim Ross and Jerry McLanahan) for each Route 66 state (how else would you know that Springfield, Mo., “was once the home of Snortin Norton, mascot of the old Campbell 66 Express trucking firm”) and a Route 66 Adventure Handbook.

If you’re near the old 66, or think you are, open the guidebook or the handbook to a town near your route, and you’ll almost always find something adventurous not too far away. So would you get hip to this kindly tip, and if you ever plan to motor west just take my way that’s the highway that’s the best, and get your kicks on Route 66.

Burn the Bird
There are some good basic recipes for game birds. But there are also some super fancy schmancy ways to do them. Preparing a game bird is not so different from preparing chicken or duck, but in deference to its often stronger, more fragrant taste, the meat is often accompanied by tangy sauces and carefully selected wines.

Take a look at some of these titles from the Food Network (

  • Marzipan Dove Wagashi
  • Roasted Quail with Savory Apple and Cheddar Croustade
  • Quail Stuffed with Fresh Ricotta, Bacon and Greens with Green Garlic-Sweet Pea Puree
  • Panned Mississippi Quail with Smashed Root Vegetables, Stewed BBQ Quail Legs and Sweet BBQ Sauce
  • Grilled Quail Breast Wrapped in Prosciutto with Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Baby Leeks, Pea Tendrils and Saffron Noodles
  • Low Country Stuffed Quail with Oyster-Leek Ragout and Hominy Grits Cake
  • Grilled Quail with Pomegranate Molasses and Horseradish Glaze with Spicy Walnuts and Tangerine Vinaigrette
  • Pan Roasted Pheasant with Shiitake Mushrooms and Figs in a Chambourcin Glace
  • Pheasant Breasts with Cider Vinegar, Apples and Pomegranates

The best way: that’s a debate among chefs everywhere who know game birds, but a simple sauté in olive oil with a little salt and ground black pepper seasoning to allow the natural wild flavors to come out and not be overwhelmed may be the best way of all. Simply add the vegetables of your choice and you have a meal fit for a king. For older birds, braising or stewing can keep them tender, and stews with strong root vegetables are a winter specialty.