A popular form of upland hunting, quail hunting is where hunters would pursue this type of upland bird, trying to shoot them on the wing. Quail tend to be found on the ground in heavy cover, so people who are hunting them need to use gun dogs to locate and retrieve game. Depending on how they do their hunting, some hunters would let their dogs point or flush game. For the latter, the hunter would attempt to shoot the birds on the wing after being flushed—a method known as wingshooting.
Quail hunting is considered by many people as one of the most popular branches of the bird hunting, which has been that way for several centuries. Despite the sport has seen several changes since its inception, one thing has remained the same, and that is the hunters’ passion for bagging such type of birds. In North America, quail hunting has become very popular not just for food, but also for pleasure.
Quail Species in the US:
There are 5 types of quail that are found in North America, which do not include the Bobwhite. These fleet-footed game birds are commonly found in open areas, usually gathering in coveys. They are experts in finding shelter in bush clumps, where they could disappear altogether.
This upland bird species’ largest ranges, the Mountain Quail and the Californian Quail, are found in scattered regions from Southern British Columbia to California, and even to Arizona. The Gambel’s Quail can be found in a good number throughout California and Arizona, while the Montezuma Quail can be found in Western Texas and Arizona’s drier habitats. The Scaled Quail, which has the plainest look, enjoys its habitat also from Texas to Arizona.
The recommended shooter for quail hunting is an open-choked shotgun, in conjunction with number 7 or 8 shots. Due to the warm weather and difficult terrain that come with this sport, it is required to wear clothing that is different from those for waterfowl hunting. Mostly, lightweight clothing and boots are needed. Because quail hunters would often hunt in groups that are staggered across a line, they use a brightly colored hunting vests and hats, as safety items. These vests also have plenty of room for ammunition and quail that would be retrieved.
Quail hunting usually takes place in open fields that provide sufficient cover. For quail, they can be hunted in various habitats from high mountains to deserts, making this type of upland hunting so popular. In fact, some states, like South Dakota, get a substantial portion of their income from upland hunters who do their work within their territories to take advantage of their ideal settings.
Quail are found throughout the US and much of the world. However, quail hunting is most popular in the country.
General Hunting Tips:
Quail hunting is really not that difficult if you follow a few important rules. The sport is usually done in pairs of men or women with their specially trained dogs. It is actually one of the hunting sports where you do not have to hide from the game with camouflage.
The past years have seen a decline in the quail’s habitat and population, which means that you might find yourself asking permission to hunt in certain areas.
Generally, quail are found on open lands that have a woody cover or fields with diverse vegetation with native grasses that provide seeds for their source of food. These upland birds like to hide in briars, especially if they feel threatened, so you have to be in appropriate clothing to walk through briar patches.
Usually, quail cannot be found in pastures of overgrazed and thick grass, as they would be exposed and have difficulty in walking through thick grass. Fields near small wood lots, woody draws and fence rows are good places to hunt, these birds like cover near their feeding spots. Their natural daily routine includes feeding on seeds in the morning, resting under woody cover by mid-day, scouring in weedy areas in the late afternoon and sleeping at night.
Using the Shotgun:
You can hunt quail with a 410 to 12-gauge shotgun, but make sure you have the appropriate barrel length and choke, which are a 26-inch barrel with skeet and an improved cylinder choke. While the 20-gauge shotgun is the one most hunters use to hunt quail, the 28-gauge type is also becoming popular among others. For the load shell, it is suggested to use the 71/2 to 8 types.
As most quail hunts involve pairs of people and dogs at a time, there is a possibility that each dog would compete to find the covey of quail first. This can build excitement while waiting to flush the quail covey, which means safety should be considered. As a general rule, you should approach your perspective dogs from behind. Your gun muzzles should be kept pointed upwards, and the shotgun, put on safety until mounted to your shoulder.
When approaching your hunting dogs, you should do it with each of them on either side and in a straight line, which is important for your safety. Before moving up and allowing the quail to flush each hunter, you should visibly and mentally locate each other, your dogs and the hunting rig, with you and your partner informing each other of the range of swing of your guns. Also, you should never take a shot at a low-flying quail, as this would lower the muzzle of your shotgun below a horizontal plane, risking your dogs to be shot. Of course, there are also situations where you cannot approach your dogs from behind due to the quail’s escape route or wind factors, but generally, these rules should be followed when hunting quail.
As you can see, this type of upland bird hunting is not one that you can just jump straight into. You should be appropriately geared, equipped and knowledgeable if you want to pursue it. You might even need to find a friend who is used to this hunt or hire a guide with hunting dogs.