Mearns’: Back about mid-November, I mentioned going out on a limb to predict a better Mearns’ quail hatch. It’s turning out to be true with good portions of Mearns’ country having a pretty decent hatch. Most of the covey sizes have been good, full-sized coveys with a good number of birds of the year. Another word of caution though, as has been reported in the past, is that this Mearns’ hatch is also spotty – some mountain ranges did not fare as well as others. However, if there is some time spent scouting, most Mearns’ hunters should do fairly well.
Scaled and Gambel’s quail: Most all the reports that I have been getting remain favorable with many areas having at least 70% birds of the year. So the big picture right now for the state of Arizona is that its quail hatch is, without a doubt, better this season than the previous two years.
Wanted to close this update with a few pertinent tips that are important as we move further into the season (see further Tactics/Tips at here):
Every season many quail are lost because a hunter fails to follow-up. A few important things to remember regarding wounded quail:
Gambel’s quail are tough. They can be hit hard and still run. Here’s a practice that can really make a difference in limiting the number of lost or crippled quail. Typically, a hunter will shoot a bird and automatically his gun will come down to watch where the bird drops. Try following the bird down with your gun up and ready to shoot. If the bird looks like it’s about to run off, shoot again. A bird can run off and be gone in the time in takes to bring the gun back up to shoot. But here’s a red flag: Safety must come first in this situation. Always be aware of where other hunters and/or dogs are in order to prevent any injuries/mishaps.
When hunting without a dog and a bird is knocked down, keep your eye right on that spot and do not immediately move towards it. Study where it went down and look for a dead piece of cactus, a different rock formation or color, or something that stands out to you, and also don’t shoot at another bird during that time. Having kept your eye on the spot and identifying a landmark will give you the confidence about being in the right spot when you do move in. Then be sure to look over the area well because even when a quail is dead on the ground, they can blend in so well, especially if the area’s vegetation is thick.
Another area that hunters tend to lose crippled birds is not keeping an eye on a bird that feathers are knocked out of and the bird continues to fly as if it’s ok. Again, don’t take your eye off that bird – watch it for as far and as long as possible. There have been times that a bird has been feathered and even with a dog, I watch closely where they light. They look fine but when I get to that spot, there’ll be a dead bird.
Another situation is where a bird will fly, sometimes for quite a distance like it hasn’t been hit, and then drop. The hunter has already decided he’s missed it even though the shot looked good, and moves on. But keep your eye on those birds, and even if you don’t see where it goes down, follow up in that direction, and many times a dog will be able to pick it up.