The day started in the foothills of a southeast Arizona mountain range. As we moved up from the flat into the foothills, we pushed a huge, 100+ bird covey up onto a bluffy mountain outcrop. Singles were scattered all over this mountain. It was one of those days when you could stay on single birds and shoot for hours. I just had one dog out, Jody, and she was doing a fantastic job that day of finding singles. We had hunted for approximately an hour when she went on point right on the edge of a 20 foot, straight down cliff. With her point being right on the edge as it was, my thought was that there must be quite a few birds down below and she was winding from a ways down below the bluff. So I asked Dave to stay right there with Jody while I moved around and then down below her to the base of the cliff. The country was very rough so I took my time. I looked to my right as I arrived at the cliff’s base and there was a cleft in the face of the cliff packed with approximately twelve birds. When my eyes made contact with those birds, they flushed out, and from the top, Dave picked one out, shot it, and we moved on. As I said before, so many quail were scattered around this mountain, that we continued to hunt more singles for at least another hour and eventually ended up at the same cleft in the rock. Wouldn’t you know, Jody again locked up on point in the exact same spot. I moved on down to the base again, and sure enough, there were approximately 8 birds tucked in there.
That was a real eye-opener for me, and should be for most quail hunters, to this fact: that certain birds, when pursued or pressured, have certain escape behavior and cover they learned as young birds, and they are familiar with it and are comfortable using it, be it rock clefts, prickly pear, yucca, or other cover. This experience seems to indicate that when quail are pushed into familiar cover, they have a greater tendency to set and hold. If they happen to be in some unfamiliar habitat, they may run and fly, run and fly, and run and fly until they find escape cover they are comfortable in and have used before.