March 15, 2022
His fellow guides call him "The Quail Whisperer." Tomás Manuel Demaria Kayser, a quail guide on the Lightsey Family Ranch near Venus, Fla., has an uncanny ability to find birds, work them with his dogs and ensure his hunters are in the best spots for taking advantage of a covey rise.
In two seasons of guiding on the 2,000-acre ranch among pines, palmettos and oaks, Tomás has helped almost 600 hunters bag 21,000 quail. And that’s a conservative estimate.
"He has an ability to always have a handle on his dogs, to read his dogs and understand when the birds get up which way they will go," says ranch owner Lee Lightsey. "He will have hunters set up appropriately for the optimal shots. His nickname, ‘The Quail Whisperer,’ came from the other guides kidding him that he talks the quail into just giving up!"
Growing up in Argentina, Tomás started hunting with his father at an early age. He guided hunters for ducks, dove, perdiz and red stag for about 15 years before going to south Florida to concentrate on quail. Besides guiding hunters, Tomás trains the Lightsey Family Ranch’s dogs and helps maintain ideal quail habitat on the property.
While that certainly helps Tomás find and work birds, Lightsey says the guide’s clients recognize something deeper in his record of success.
"Some clients have said that of all the places they’ve quail hunted, Tomás is the only guide they have ever seen that works the birds and understands where they are going to always be," explains Lee. "He knows how to give people the best experience he can while he is on the hunt with them."
With quail season on the ranch winding down, Game & Fish recently caught up with "The Quail Whisperer" to talk birds, dogs and shotguns, and what goes into making a hunt an enjoyable success.
G&F: So, what’s the real story behind your nickname?
Tomás: Other guides like to pick on me because I always bring back more quail with my clients than they do!
G&F: You have a great reputation for knowing where the quail like to hang out. If you had only 10 minutes to find a covey, what type of cover would you hunt?
Tomás: Palmettos with gallberries around them.
G&F: How many days do you guide during a typical quail season?
Tomás: I’m guiding hunters six or seven days a week, and we’re doing two hunts per day.
G&F: With that much time in the field, how do you keep from burning out?
Tomás: The woods are my office, and it’s hard to beat being around fine dogs and clients that are here for a good time. Every time I see a smile on a hunter is memorable for me. Every time I see a dog on point is memorable. I get to see that very often, but it never gets old. I feel blessed by watching good dogs work.
G&F: What is your favorite breed for working quail?
Tomás: German short-haired pointer. I grew up hunting over them, and besides, their pace and style are great for quail.
G&F: What’s the No. 1 reason hunters miss quail?
Tomás: They stop the gun after pulling the trigger. Whenever they keep swinging, birds hit the ground.
G&F: Speaking of shotguns, what type do you prefer for quail?
Tomás: A .410. It is very sporting, and it has always been popular for quail hunting. TSS has made the .410 popular with turkey hunters, but it has always been a great quail gun.
G&F: OK, so besides a good .410 bore, what’s one piece of gear that quail hunters should never be without?
Tomás: A fluorescent orange hat and vest.
G&F: There is a lot of excitement and movement going on during a covey rise. How do you ensure hunters stay safe?
Tomás: When my dogs are on point, I put everyone in a position where I feel they’re going to have the best opportunities. I let them have a second to be aware of their surroundings to ensure than when those birds go flying, every hunter knows the directions in which they can shoot safely.
G&F: What can hunters do in the offseason to help prepare them for quail hunting?
Tomás: Nothing! That first covey rise of the season for a quail hunter is the equivalent of a 200-inch whitetail for a deer hunter. But sporting clays may help!