This is the year — set your calendar a week earlier than in past years. Small game season for quail, squirrel, ducks and more opens Friday, Oct. 3.
Abundant snow and rainfall has occurred since the end of 2007. Much of the precipitation fell at the right times and in the right areas. In short, plenty of water, ground cover and food made for good reproduction. The outlook for small game hunting statewide looks very good.
Quail: Although Gambel’s quail populations were low last year, the amount of rain this spring and summer will increase their populations and should offer some fair to very good hunting depending on where you hunt. Scaled quail populations overall should be fair. Rainfall in southeastern Arizona was not as abundant as the central portions of the state. However, there are reports that some areas have favorable populations of scalies. Mearns’ quail season doesn’t open until Nov. 28. Last year proved to be a great year and this year should prove to be just as good for these high country birds.
Rabbit: Every hunter should be able to put a rabbit in their bag this year as populations are good to excellent throughout the state. Although the season is all year long, many consider opening day the same as quail season. Hunting washes, edge cover and glassing from ridges can be very productive. Bag limits are liberal and the meat is excellent.
Squirrel: Mark this as the year to be excited about squirrels. The season runs until the end of December. If you’re finding young birds when quail hunting opening weekend, mark your spot for later and head north for some exciting tree squirrel hunting action. Adults are reminded that this hunt isn’t just for the kids. Try taking one with a .22 handgun for a challenging shot. Hunters should enjoy hunting conditions that rate from fair to good, and some spots will be excellent.
Waterfowl: The waterfowl season is liberal, opening in the mountain zone the same day (Oct. 3) and running until the end of January 2009. However, canvasback ducks are not allowed for harvest due to declining numbers, and there is a shorter/restricted season for scaup ducks (see regulations for all season dates). Depending on the timing of the migration, Arizona has plenty of water to hold waterfowl during the season and this year has the potential to be a very good duck season.
While all this news is exciting, the best thing about small game season is — no draw. Hunters can pick up a general hunting license, buy some shotgun shells and hit the road. By the way, don’t forget kids 13 and under can hunt for free with no license (two max) when accompanied by a licensed adult 18 and older. And for hunters ages 14-20, the youth combination hunting and fishing license is only $26.50.
For complete details on the small game outlook, and where to hunt, visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Small Game, Big Fun Web page at www.azgfd.gov/h_f/small_game.shtml.