San Carlos, AZ Quail Hunt

San Carlos, AZ Quail Hunt

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© October 5th, 2011,

So I get a phone call from one of my friends asking me if I would like to go hunt San Carlos. I have never been there but heard stories about how great the quail hunting is. I had less than a day notice to take 3 days off of work (that was the easy part). I rushed to get my stuff together and drove to his house to hit the road.

We drove all night and arrived at the Basha’s grocery store to get our permits at 6:30am. I had been up for 26 hours at this point. We get our permits and hit the grounds. The first area my friends wife spots some Scaled quail. We jump out with the dogs and start to work the desert. Within a few minutes a 6′ rattlesnake struck at my friends wife. I saw the whole event take place. She freaks out and jumps back literally shaking. I run over and took care of the snake with some 7 1/2 shot. Normally I would not kill a snake but with the dogs in the field I took care of it. I should have taken a picture. This was a fat snake with a giant head. The rattle wasn’t too large but I am thankful she didn’t get bit.

I have never hunted this type of quail before. When the dog finally got on point the birds took flight and scattered in every direction. It looked like high school kids leaving a house party when the cops show up. I took one shot and missed. It was a hail mary shot at 70 yards or so. My shell could have had no shot too. Considering I had no sleep I think I missed. We worked the area for about 20-30 minutes and never saw another bird. I think they had a network of tunnels to escape and evade us.

The next spot was a Gamble quail area. I decided to take a power nap so my buddies wife and another friend hunted the area while we slept (they slept the entire drive out). I woke up hearing them take some shots and decided to hunt. I charged up the hill and started chasing birds. The covey split up into singles and pairs. These birds really like to run. When I finally went to take a shot at a flyer I rolled my ankle and fell into some lava rock cutting my knee and pants open. It must have been a sight to see. This giant white guy taking a tumble on the side of a hill. I got up did a quick assessment and made sure nothing was broken. My gun never touched anything. Walked 10 yards and flushed the bird. I downed it right into a thick cactus Thankfully our friends dog is this 8 time national champion German Wirehair and she was able to retrieve the bird without getting stuck. She is a superstar hunting dog. Just unreal how well she hunts. You would never guess she is 9 years old watching her work. The rest of the dogs are awesome but she is just that many notches above them. I tried to take her home but was told no.

The rest of the day we spent running spots trying to find birds. This is pretty much how it went. See birds, jump out of the van, chase birds for 1/2 mile to never see them again. They ran and ran and ran. The dogs were trying like hell to find them but the birds never stopped. They never called to each other, never talked when on the ground. They acted like it was the end of the season. We would pick off a bird here and there. We never shot a scaled quail because we never found them again.

The last hunt on the last day I decided I wanted to try an over under shotgun. I hunt with my trusty Benelli SBE II usually. Great gun but it gets heavy walking all over hell trying to chase birds. My buddy handed me a 28 gauge Beretta to try out. My first walk I doubled and went to pull the trigger the 3rd time and forgot I only had 2 shells If they made a 3 barreled O/U I might be interested I really liked the lighter weight gun. I was able to swing on target quicker and it was nice because the shells are lighter, just an overall lighter package. Even being 65 pounds lighter than I was last year it still sucks carrying 3 liters of water on my back, 2 boxes of shells, chokes, pistol and other gear.

We ended the trip with 13 birds for the 4 of us. I shot 6 (all long shots with an IM choke) and lost 3 to thick cactus. I refused to send the dogs into it. We had already picked needles from the dogs several times…and a few from our own bodies. We probably saw 200 birds over 3 days. They were Apache stealth birds. They slipped into the brush to never be seen again. Even with 5 awesome hunting dogs in the rotation they only went on point twice. They pointed and the birds would run away faster than we could get there. On the way out we stop for gas and a local Indian told us how he ground shot 60 birds with one box of shells the week before That would explain why the birds were so scared.

I see the potential of the place. I think we are going to go back in November when it isn’t as warm. I plan to paint Indian hieroglyphics on my barrel and tie a couple of feathers to the gun. I’ll add some beads to my hunting vest and replace the pistol with a tomahawk. Maybe that will improve my odds. There is another quail species that opens at that time that I want to try for. I think it’s called a Mearns’? I had a great time and learned a few things. We ate well and enjoyed the experience even though hunting was tough. I had a great time hunting with serious hunting dogs unlike my friends high school drop out shorthair. He’s a great dog but sucks in the field. I really needed a break from work and my personal life. I can’t wait to get out on the 15th for our opener. All my areas are holding lots and lots of birds this year. Should be a great season.

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