When we think they run…maybe they don’t
Back in the 1990s, there was this huge snowstorm that covered the southeast part of the state, dumping so much snow that the interstate between Tucson and Lordsburg, New Mexico was shut down. But by the next day, we got out and hunted as much of the snow had melted though the ground was still completely snow covered. We flushed a large, 40+ bird covey of Scaled quail and watched them fly directly onto a small knoll approximately 100 yards away. We immediately moved straight to that knoll thinking there would be tracks in the snow – we found no tracks whatsoever. Sometimes quail will bury in the snow and when they do that they leave a small hole where they go in – no holes were found. We found no evidence of that covey anywhere. We circled the area about 50 yards out from where we saw the quail light – still no tracks, and the dog was not birdy either though she continued to hunt. The scenting conditions were perfect and this was a very experienced, well-seasoned bird dog.
This country had quite a bit of yucca and we moved from one yucca patch to another-no sign of the quail. Being persistent, we eventually went back to the exact spot where we watched those quail light, and though we had already hunted around that area, we hunted it again. Jody locked up on point right where the birds lit. Here’s what happened: that entire covey had flown directly into the center of a yucca patch, without leaving any tracks, sign, holes, nothing. When we surrounded this yucca patch, the birds did flush out.
What’s important to know from this experience is that if this had been dry ground, we would have moved over there and, not finding any sign or not seeing a dog birdy, would have assumed that the quail just ran off and we would have scattered into the countryside trying to find those “running” birds. It made me wonder how many times coveys of quail have successfully used that same tactic to escape detection, especially since a dog has to have the right wind direction and be given some time to be able to find a covey. Quail can pull some pretty interesting stunts.