Quail hunters: Bird numbers are up and gas prices are falling

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November 12th, 2008

Quail hunters are finding plenty of young birds in their harvest, according to Arizona Game and Fish biologists. Nearly 80 percent of the birds checked by hunters over the Oct. 4-5 opening weekend were juveniles.

Gambel’s quail harvest results, collected at two of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s check stations, reflect improved bird populations this hunting season compared to last year. Data collected at the Freeman Road check station, near Florence, and the Willow Springs Road check station, near Oracle, show the total number of birds reported was up 75 percent from last year’s results (492 total birds versus 276). Biologists calculate that hunters harvested 1.9 birds per hour on average compared to the 1.2 birds an hour last year.

“What’s really exciting is although the numbers are not those of banner years, as far as hunter success measured by birds harvested in a day of hunting, this year is the best recorded since 2001,” says Game Biologist Jim Heffelfinger.

General quail season runs until Feb. 8, 2009. Birds can be found in typical desert cover of washes, brush and places that offer good roosting cover. A quail call is an excellent tool for locating single birds after breaking up a covey. Their meat is completely white and is excellent table fare. A general hunting license is all that is required for hunters 14 and older. Children 13 and younger (2 maximum) can hunt without a license when accompanied by a licensed adult 18 or older.

“Conditions are right for folks to get out and enjoy Arizona quail hunting. Nothing compares to walking the open desert foothills with the sun on your back and the anticipation of the whirling wings of a quail flushing underneath your feet,” adds Heffelfinger.

Quail hunters should expect another critter to jump out from under their feet – rabbits. Cottontail rabbits are abundant this year and can be found in all the same areas as quail. They are quick and nimble and are challenging to hunt. Rabbit meat is superb and was once a key meat source in this country during difficult economic times. Hunters are reminded to field dress their game as soon as they harvest them to help keep them clean and cool.

Small game hunting is an American tradition and is a great way to introduce children to the outdoors, wildlife and nature. To learn more about hunting small game and where to hunt, visit www.azgfd.gov/h_f/small_game.shtml.

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