The quail outlook for much of Arizona may be less than optimal this year, but there is a bright spot -- southeastern Arizona.
"In fact, the populations for all three quail species in southeastern Arizona are looking decent, so this might be the year to try for a triple: Gambel's, scaled and Mearns'," said Mike Rabe, a biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
The general quail season opens Oct. 12 for Gambel's, scaled and California quail. The Mearns' quail season opens Nov. 23, which is the day after Thanksgiving. All quail seasons end Feb. 11, 2008.
Mearns' quail reproduction depends on summer rains. This is the second summer in a row with good rainfall in southeastern Arizona. Therefore, southeastern Arizona is experiencing back-to-back good years for Mearns' quail reproduction.
"This should be a pretty good year for hunting Mearns' quail," Rabe said.
Southeastern Arizona also received above-average winter precipitation and the Gambel's and scaled quail populations should begin to recover from several years of poor desert quail recruitment. "This should equate to OK Gambel's quail hunting and slightly better than fair scaled quail hunting in southeastern Arizona," Rabe said.
Hunters should keep in mind that southeastern Arizona has large amounts of private property, so hunters should be cognitive where they are hunting. To avoid conflict with private land owners (and avoid a ticket), all road closure signs and no trespassing signs should be honored.
For most of the state, another relatively dry fall-winter-spring negatively impacted all species of quail to varying degrees.
Gambel's quail, which rely on winter precipitation and the corresponding green-up for good reproduction, will be most affected by the lack of winter precipitation.
"Areas that had good densities of Gambel's quail last year will likely continue to have fair to good quail numbers, although the coveys will consist of fewer juvenile birds," Rabe said.
However, he added, the spotty nature of this year's winter precipitation was such that some local areas in the central part of the state may provide good Gambel's quail hunting.
For more information, including a region-by-region outlook and videos, visit the small game section of the department's web site.