As far as Gambel’s and scaled quail, not too much change from the last update. Will take a lot of work to scratch out a few Gambel’s quail this year. In some areas the scaled quail hunting is fairly good.
Mearns’ quail is about as predicted which was above average. Something to consider regarding Mearns’ — there will be a lot of pressure on these birds this year, hunting pressure is what I mean by that. Considering this, by just taking one or two birds out of the covey, the covey impact will be much lighter and allow a hunter to spend much more enjoyable time in the field. In other words, aim to shoot the covey rise and move on to find another covey. In years with a better hatch, it opens up much more of an opportunity to check out new and different areas.
Basic Scouting Tips for Gambel’s, scaled, and Mearns’ quail:
Gambel’s: When scouting unfamiliar country, the first two hours of daylight are best spent covering a lot of ground by driving the back roads and using a quail call about every ½ mile. Take your time while calling – stay there to call and listen a minimum of 10 minutes. If you hear one or two birds answer, make a note of the location, but move on. What you’re looking to find is an area where birds from 2 to 3 coveys are responding to the call at the same time indicating a good pocket of a concentrated number of birds. On windy days, of course, this won’t work. If you’re scouting later in the day, drive the back country two tracks and look for quail tracks in the dirt, tracks in the sand washes, and tracks around roosting areas such as hackberry, turbinella oak, mesquite, etc.
Scaled: These quail won’t respond to calling like Gambel’s, so they can be much more difficult to locate. Since these birds are not as vocal, it requires a lot more leg work and dog work to find coveys. Also, Scaled quail are always in flat land or, at the most, gentle, rolling hills, and seem to be attracted to objects or areas that may stand out. For example, you may find a covey around a windmill or old, abandoned barns or buildings. Even areas of thicker patches of short mesquite or patches of heavier growth of prickly pear or cholla cactus can be attractive to Scaled quail. Objects or areas that stand out, such as mentioned above, are ideal when they are in country that also has some open ground. If the cover is too thick, Scaled quail won’t use it as much as country that has the good ground cover but also semi-open areas.
Mearns’: One of the first things to look for in new country would be huge rocky ridgelines or bluffs with good cover directly below it. Mearns’ are drawn to these areas because there is usually more moisture just below these bluffs or ridgelines. As with the other quail species, look for country where the grass cover is not too thick but not too sparse either – areas of good grass with some semi-open cover. It’s a good idea to pass on by waist high, thick grass since the birds probably won’t be there in any kind of numbers. Areas of moderate grazing by cattle is ok to look for as well. Cat claw is another plant that, when mixed with grass and either mesquite or oak, make for good Mearns’ country, and can be a good starting point when you’re in unfamiliar country.
If you’re not familiar with Arizona and are looking for a place to get started with quail hunting, check out our weather page. All of the cities and towns listed are good starting points for Arizona quail hunting.