Drought Could Dry Up Bird Hunters' Hopes

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If bird hunting is your game of choice, you probably had that 12-gauge shotgun cleaned and ready for the Oct. 11 opening of quail season.

Game and Fish biologists are not predicting a banner year, but there are always those diehard hunters who will be scouring the lowlands around Tonto Basin and Roosevelt Lake looking for birds.

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Before you hit the great outdoors for a weekend hunting trip, make sure you've brushed up on the latest rules and regulations from the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Guides are available at local retailers.

The hunt season continues until Feb. 10.

The Mearns quail season opens Nov. 22.

Biologists are basing their predictions of a poor Gambel quail season on the lack of rainfall the past spring and winter months.

Newly hatched quail need the foliage produced by heavy spring rain, and Arizona didn't receive the precipitation needed for a bumper crop of quail.

If hunters have any luck bagging their limits, it will have to be with the fair number of birds from spring hatches of previous years.

But a fact of hunting life is that carry-over birds are often hunter-wise and may prove difficult targets.

The best time to hunt is in the morning when the quail are calling and moving in the search of food. Some hunters prefer to use a call, then wait for the coveys to answer. Many hunters agree a that good place to hunt is near permanent sources of water.

For those who grow weary trekking through the hills in search of the elusive quail, squirrel hunting is a popular option.

A .22 rifle is probably the weapon of choice for most hunts.

Don't forget to take along a pair of binoculars to scan the tops of distant trees. They'll help a great deal.

The bag limit is five squirrels per day.

Another popular hunt is for waterfowl. Many locals locate the ducks on stock ponds during the early morning hours.

Before going hunting, be sure to check out the 2002-2003 Arizona Hunting Regulations booklet that is free at many local retail stores.

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