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It’s been a long and fruitful season, but the end is near. When the sun sets on Sunday, Feb. 8 there will be eight long months before upland hunters can chase Arizona’s fabulous quail species again. The good news is, there is still a little time left to head out after them one more time.
“Towards the end of the season, smaller coveys congregate to make larger super coveys,” said Mike Rabe, small game management supervisor. “This can make for some excellent bird hunting. However, if you don’t have a spot already picked out, you might have to do a little extra walking to locate these jackpots – so be patient and persistent. A call can be particularly effective to locate quail this time of year. Don’t overdo it though; just use the call to locate birds.”
Rabe recommends hunting sunny, southern-facing slopes in the morning near washes and good roosting cover. As the day progresses, country with mixed cover and natural washes (big and small) are always good bets. Quail dependence on water in the late season is minimized due to morning moisture and recent rains.
Hunting in areas over 2,500 feet in elevation that don’t get much pressure can be very productive for Gambel’s. Pour over maps to find those secret spots off the beaten path. Pack a lunch and plenty of water and enjoy a day in the field – regardless of harvest, there is nothing better than walking the open Arizona desert in springtime.
Rabe reminds hunters that late-season birds can be gun-shy, tough and challenging. When choosing shot size, switching to a No. 6 will help put mature, early flushing quail in the bag. Also, if your shotgun has interchangeable chokes, consider using a full and improved choke to increase your range and pattern density.
Don’t forget: While you are out in the field, cottontail rabbits and jackrabbits offer an excellent supplement to the upland hunter’s game vest. Both can be extremely challenging to shoot. In decent quail cover, a running cottontail may only offer a split second for a shot opportunity. Both rabbits are excellent eating, especially the back straps from the jackrabbit. The season for rabbits is year-long.
To learn more about small game hunting in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/hunting.
For those hunters looking to get introduced into big game hunting, there are many spring javelina hunt permit-tags available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Most of these hunts begin in early to late February, so act quickly. Javelina hunting is fun, exciting, challenging, and a great way to test your skills at locating game, glassing, stalking, shooting, and hopefully, processing your harvest. For a list of available spring javelina hunts, visit www.azgfd.gov/draw under “List of Leftover Permits for Spring 2009 hunts (PDF, 45kb).”