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Quail hunters: Washes, walking and water are key this season
2009-10 season offers less crowds, exploration and mixed bag
Quail check station results from the season opener weekend (Oct. 3-4) vary and suggest populations are below-average in central regions to well-below-average in southern regions of the state reported Arizona Game and Fish Department officials.
Southern region check stations (Freeman & Willow Springs) recorded 1.8 birds per day of which the harvest comprised of juveniles was at 50-57 percent. The central region (Tonto Basin) reported slightly better numbers of 2.9 birds per day and 70 percent juveniles in the harvest.
“Field reports from quail hunters have been mixed,” said Public Information Officer, Doug Burt. “I’ve seen comments of 15-bird limits on chat forums one day and heard hunters state ‘I didn’t see a bird all day’ the next – clearly, hunters will need to search out the honey holes.”
Don’t despair, there is a silver lining.
“You can still go out and find birds, there’s always Gambel’s quail to hunt in Arizona – we just get spoiled by the great years,” said Small Game Program Supervisor, Mike Rabe. “Hunters will need to focus on core quail habitat in lower elevations, areas with good cover (roosting trees and low ground cover), drainage and water source’s are a plus.”
Rabe added, “Washes are key and can provide upland hunters a smorgasbord of game to pursue including quail, mourning dove (reopens Nov. 20) and rabbits (jacks and cottontails) – all are exciting and challenging to hunt and excellent eating.”
The late season dove and year-round rabbit seasons are overlooked by many hunters says Rabe. “Many hunters are missing out – the weather is fantastic, there are no crowds, and doves and rabbits are plentiful.”
Cover and habitat for all three game animals are similar and should include a combination of mesquite-lined washes, hackberry bushes, desert brittle brush, catclaw, varieties of desert cacti, (prickly pear is a good indicator) and desert grasses between 1,500-4,500 feet in elevation.
No. 6 shot is recommended during challenging seasons. The same shot is suitable for rabbits and doves flushing through cover too. So load up, be safe and enjoy the great American hunting tradition.
For more reports on the upland hunting season, tips, season dates and more, click here.