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Quail Outlooks

Q: How does precipitation affect the quail outlook?

A:
– October thru March precipitation (winter rain) affects Gambel’s and Scaled quail hunting outlooks
– July thru September precipitation (summer rain) affects Mearns’ quail hunting outlook
– As a general rule, if the total amount of precipitation during these periods is greater than 10 in., it will be a good start to the making of a good quail hunting season.

Quail Outlooks © Arizona Game & Fish Department

2013-14 Quail Outlook
By Johnathan O’Dell, small game biologist, Arizona Game and Fish

Gambel’s
These upland birds can be fickle, and this year is no exception. The year started well with winter rains at average levels, however they stopped too soon. Spring call counts came in at 20% below last year’s numbers and below the 10-year average. Also, the hatch in southern Arizona arrived on the normal schedule of May–June timeframe, but the hatch in Central Arizona came later in June–early July. There is no telling what your favorite area may look like this year in terms of covey numbers, but it should still be a year worth going out for. Travelling and exploring new areas will be the best prescription in a bit below average year.

Scaled
Because scaled quail are typically 2 to 3 weeks behind Gambel’s in their breeding, I suspect our early dry spring didn’t help them much. On the upside, lots of habitat improvements have been made in southeastern Arizona to restore the native grasslands which are important to the scaled quail. Expect to see more Gambel’s quail than scaled quail in those areas this year for a below average season.

Mearns’
With the monsoonal rains arriving on time for a second year in a row, my cautious optimism still remains. It will take more than 2 good years in a row to bring our numbers up, but we’re headed in the right direction. You can expect this season to be slightly below average.


2012-13 Quail Outlook
By Johnathan O’Dell, small game biologist, Arizona Game and Fish

Gambel’s
We are still digging ourselves out of the hole from last year. The early season call counts were back up to the 10-year average mark. The success rate from the Southern Arizona check stations both averaged 1.4 birds per hunter day. Hunters didn’t have a problem finding birds in Central Arizona, but they flushed wild and just out of shotgun range during opening weekend.

Do your homework and find the pocketed areas that received better rain last winter. This season will be better than last year, but still slightly below average.

Scaled
Scaled quail populations are among the most difficult to predict. 40-50 years ago scaled quail were present in good numbers as far east as Green Valley up into the Oracle area. Remnant populations still exist out there, but the main segment has receded closer to the Southeastern portions of Arizona. Check areas with plenty of native desert grasses. You will still likely see more Gambel’s than scaled quail down there in a below average year.

Mearns’
A summer visit to Gardner Canyon revealed a good crop of oxalis plants growing and the rains came on schedule. I’m cautiously optimistic for better nest production this year. Think better covey sizes, but still sparse in this below average year.


2011-12 Quail Outlook
By Johnathan O’Dell, small game biologist, Arizona Game and Fish

Gambel’s
Below average winter rains made for another tough year. The earliest hatches had only limited or partial success. There was no definitive synchronized peak to the hatch as chicks could be found throughout the season. Region 5 Call Count Surveys run in early spring were lower than last year and below the long term average.
Don’t despair, some hotspots (which received good localized rainfall) are reporting better numbers of birds. Do your homework and go scouting to improve your chances in a slightly below average year.

Scaled
Scaled quail populations are among the most difficult to predict. 40-50 years ago scaled quail were present in good numbers as far east as Green Valley up into the Oracle area. Remnant populations still exist out there, but the main segment has receded closer to the Southeastern portions of Arizona. Check areas with plenty of native desert grasses. You will still likely see more Gambel’s than scaled quail down there in a below average year.

Mearns’
As it seemed like new fires were sprouting up everyday down south, Mearns’ quail hunters grew increasingly nervous. The heart of Mearns’ country around Sonoita and Patagonia escaped relatively unscathed. However, the late monsoon activity doesn’t bode well for this year’s production. Don’t expect to see much in the Chiricahua Mountains, east side of the Huachuca Mountains, or the surrounding areas of Peña Blanca Lake because of the fires. Poor carry over coupled with poor conditions for reproduction this year means that you’ll end up working just as hard as you did last year with a below average season.


2010-11 Mid-Season Quail Outlook
By Johnathan O’Dell, small game biologist, Arizona Game and Fish

With quail in general this year, it will be a tough season. All are experiencing below average seasons.

Gambel’s
Unlike the two previous years where we lost a number of chicks to the cold fronts with cold rains around Memorial Day, this turned out to be an odd year. Instead of a synchronized timing for quail to start laying eggs, they seemed to stagger it out across the entire breeding season. There wasn’t one week that didn’t go by where I didn’t see a brood of newly hatched chicks.
Nevertheless, good numbers of birds can be found in some areas. Expect this year to look like the past few with an average season in desert areas. Higher grassland bird numbers are likely to be low. I have seen pretty good numbers of Gambel’s quail on the bajada regions of the desert north of Phoenix, and the check station in Tonto Basin (northeast of Roosevelt Lake) was pretty good on opening day.

Scaled
For the past several years, environmental conditions here in Arizona have not favored this species at all. Pockets of limited numbers still remain in what is now considered the fringe of their range. Their core area in southeastern Arizona still holds birds, but it is more likely you will see more Gambel’s than Scaled. You can consider this a below average year as well.

Mearns’
This year is a poor year for Mearn’s quail. You can expect low numbers of birds and lots of space between coveys. You’ll work a lot harder this year for every bird you get in this below average season.

2009-10 Quail Outlook
REGION I – Click for Quail Outlook

REGION II – Click for Quail Outlook

REGION III – Click for Quail Outlook

REGION IV – Click for Quail Outlook

REGION V – Click for Quail Outlook

REGION VI – Click for Quail Outlook

By Randy Babb, AZ Game & Fish Information & Education Program Manager

Scaled quail = Fair to Average: “Last year was fair and the timing and amount of seasonal rains fell short of average and will have this year looking much the same for this bird found in the southeastern reaches of our state.”

Mearns’ quail = Below-average to Average: “After two back-to-back season, due to spotty to poor summer rains resulting in a poor nesting season, predictions are for a below-average to average Mearns’ quail season.”

2009-10 Quick Outlook – REGION 6 / CENTRAL ARIZONA:
By Randy Babb, AZ Game & Fish Information & Education Program Manager

Region 6 contact iInformation:
(480) 981-9400
7200 E. University
Mesa 85207

SMALL GAME HUNTING FORECAST FALL-WINTER

UNIT 22

SPECIES: GAMBEL’S QUAIL | FORECAST: POOR – BELOW AVERAGE

Look for birds in areas that provide adequate cover for roosting and hiding. It’s always a good idea to concentrate efforts around sources of permanent water, especially in dry years. Try some of the higher elevations like the areas south of Payson, Sunflower, foothills of the Mazatzal Mountains and south of Roosevelt Lake. Many of these spots received good rains during the summer and winter rainy seasons and should offer good hunting, especially for those who are willing to walk. Try hunting the edge of the old Willow Fire burn or the pockets of vegetation within the burn, these may hold birds. Also check out the Three Bar area above Roosevelt Lake. Some of the brush is heavy but it usually holds quail.

UNIT 23

SPECIES: GAMBEL’S QUAIL | FORECAST: POOR – BELOW AVERAGE

The foothills of the Sierra Anchas adjacent areas will hold likely hold a few birds and is a good place to start looking. Walking in some areas is tough but the effort could pay off with some decent shooting. Greenback Valley offers easier walking but will probably not be as good this season due to poor rains. The Three bar area and the Lone Fire Burn should also have some birds and worth checking out. Make sure you select hunt areas with adequate ground cover so birds will be more likely to hold and not run. Hunters should expect Gambel’s quail hunting to be better than it has in many years.

UNIT 21

SPECIES: GAMBEL’S QUAIL | FORECAST: POOR

Northern sections of 21 should offer the best bird hunting. Most of the unit should have some birds but hunters should not be too optimistic. Drainages that provide cover, roost sites and water will be the best places to look for birds. Hunters may want to check out the edges of the old burns to find birds feeding on new vegetation.

UNIT 20B

SPECIES: GAMBEL’S QUAIL | FORECAST: POOR

The foothills of the Bradshaw Mts. offers some of the better quail hunting in this unit though the walking is rough. Check along the Castle Hot springs road and some birds no doubt will be in the Lake Pleasant area near water sources. Bird numbers will likely be poor throughout the unit. Try some of the higher country near Cleator, and Cordes.

UNIT 39

SPECIES: GAMBEL’S QUAIL | FORECAST: POOR

Robbin’s Butte reports some quail reproduction, this area typically has some of the higher quail populations in the unit. They are often difficult hunt due to the heavy cover along the Gila River. It is recommended that hunters start early in the morning when the birds may be away from cover giving shooters a better chance to push them out into less heavy cover. Other places to try are the Gila River, and the small mountain ranges south of the Sierra Estrella’s and along the Gila River.

UNIT 39M & 42M

SPECIES: GAMBEL’S QUAIL | FORECAST: POOR

There is little available in Metro units as far as Quail hunting is concerned. Agricultural areas may offer some activity.

UNIT 24B

SPECIES: GAMBEL’S QUAIL | FORECAST: POOR

Some areas to check are in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains and in the Superior area. The higher elevations in the unit should also hold birds and worth a look. Most of the unit is good Gambel’s quail habitat and on a year like this hunters should be able to find birds most anywhere they go in the unit.

UNIT 24A

SPECIES: GAMBEL’S QUAIL | FORECAST: POOR – BELOW AVERAGE

The areas around Globe and Superior and south will more than likely offer some good shooting. Also try north of Globe on the edge of the Juniper and Pinion country and down near the Salt River. Some of the larger washes with good brush cover will hold roosting birds. Start your hunts early and search areas adjacent to water. Get out and do some walking, you’ll see more birds and get away from other hunters.

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