Quail hunting is in its third week of a five-month season.
Last week, the small-brained quail began to get smart.
"Early in the season quail are stupid," said avid quail hunter Lewis Crabtree. "The covey flies up -- the sportsman-like thing is to hit (quail) in the air -- you shoot, they land you chase and keep shooting."
Now, quail are "wary of the bang bang" and you have to hike further and further to find them Crabtree said.
Crabtree did not grow up a hunter, he discovered the "wild man hunting syndrome" when he moved to Parker 30 years ago and felt the call of wide open places.
Now that he lives in Payson he continues to hunt.
"I love bird hunting just because you get out and get to hike around," he said. "Some days I'll be ‘on' and get 10 birds, other days it's like bang bang bang and don't come back."
Some of the blame he places jokingly on his eyesight -- two years ago he had to get glasses.
The great days are when he finds his quarry.
"When you see a dog go on point that is the feeling you get when you see quail fly up -- it's that electric feeling, but you've got to watch out, it can be a dangerous sport. Look at Dick Cheney," he said.
Crabtree does not hunt with a dog.
"The closest I came (to using a dog) was hunting with my 10-year-old son," he said, then laughed.
Aaron took a hunter safety course when he was a boy and taught his father a lot.
"I didn't want to take him anymore because he was telling me everything I was doing wrong," Crabtree said. "A safety course is a good idea. Hunting is nothing to do lightly."
Aaron is now grown, with a wife and child of his own, so father and son do not get much chance to hunt together as adults.
"We need to get out, maybe we will this weekend," Crabtree said.
"South of Payson" was the closest he would come to revealing the prime territory he plans to hunt with Aaron.
Quail feed on the seed and moisture from plants that in turn have been fed by spring and summer rains.
For the past several years the rain has been mediocre, thus the quail hunting will be tough according to quail hunter (and self-described "better fisherman") Chuck Rambo of Tonto Basin.
Quail taste similar to chicken, just a bit more gamy. He eats the breasts. "The legs are OK, but there's not much meat there," he said.
Florence is the best area in the state to find quail, Rambo said.
While hunting with Barry Burkhart, longtime sports editor for The Arizona Republic newspaper, Rambo said he led Burkhart to a watering hole he knew of on the side of a hill.
"I told him I'll stay here and you go flush the quail out," Rambo said. "Well I know what was going to happen, he got mixed up with the pigs and the rattlesnakes but I never admitted to it," Rambo said with a laugh.
Rambo had one son who liked quail hunting, he remembers the first time they went out together.
The first bird his son shot was with his single shot 12 gauge (rifle) Rambo said. He shot it from about 30 inches away and from that distance the shot pattern is 20 inches wide.
"All we ever found of that bird was feathers," Rambo said.
Hunting is a family affair for the Shannons who live near Kohl's Ranch.
Last week Jim and Michelle Shannon took their sons Austin and Kohl and their friend Dillon McKinzie out hunting.
The brothers have been practicing on the range with their 270 rifles.
"Dad gives me tips," Austin said. "Like when you shoot, keep your eye in the scope so you don't mess up the shot."
Austin, age 12, shot a male mule deer and McKinzie shot a deer as well the first day.
Austin said he likes the "thrill after I've worked so hard to reach my goal" best about hunting. This is his third deer in as many years as he has been hunting.
A few days later Jim and Kohl went back out to hunt.
Kohl shot his first deer, a white tail bigger than any his dad has ever shot.
"My deer is fatter than my brother's, but his is longer and taller and has a 4-by-4 rack instead of my 3-by-3," Kohl said.
The trick was getting home.
As the sun was setting they ran out of gas.
A man came along and gave them some. It was enough to get within walking distance of neighbors for help.
The adventure will make for a good tall tale in time for Kohl's own family.
5 pounds deer or elk meat
Sliced with the grain, thin, 3/8-inch thick (meat is easy to slice thin if partially frozen)
1/4 cup ketchup
2 cups soy sauce
2 tablespoons garlic pepper
1/4 cup mesquite BBQ sauce (honey smoke BBQ for sweeter jerky)
1 cup water
Mix all ingredients, marinate meat for 1-2 hours place in dehydrator, sprinkle with coarse black pepper, dry for 12 hours.
Max and Kay Foster's Country-Fried Quail
This recipe calls for six quail, but in our home that would be just a start. The recipe can be easily doubled and tripled.
6 quail, cleaned and split down the back
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
oil (for frying)
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup water (or 1/2 cup buttermilk and 1/2 cup water, usually what we use!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Spread the quail open and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Combine the 1/4 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
3. Dredge the quail in the seasoned flour.
4. Pour oil to 1/4-inch depth in the skillet and heat.
5. Add the floured quail to the oil when it's hot and brown on both sides.
6. Remove the quail from the skillet.
7. Combine the 3 tablespoons flour, 1 cup water (or milk and water), and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
8. Add to the drippings in the skillet and stir to combine.
9. Add the quail back in the skillet.
10. Add enough water to come halfway up the quail.
11. Cover and reduce the heat to low.
12. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the quail is done and the gravy has thickened.