One of the more popular hunts in Arizona has been going on for six weeks and there is still over two months left in the season.
You may have guessed it, the Gambel’s quail, which inhabits the foothills surrounding Payson as well as the desert areas of Tonto Basin. This little feathered rocket has humbled the best of the shotgun crowd as it explodes from cover and sails across the canyon.
The area from Payson to Globe is considered some of the best Gambel’s quail hunting in the state of Arizona, with hundreds of draws and canyons where these coveys of birds can find food and water.
A major water source for the northern region is Tonto Creek after it drops out of the ponderosa pine forests.
It soon becomes a meandering stream through the grassy foothills southeast of Payson and all of those feeder canyons can have a healthy population of birds.
It will take some scouting which may include four-wheeling and definitely a hike to locate a covey by their distinctive call. Remember, a water source whether a stock tank or spring will probably have quail close by.
The more difficult areas to reach will have far less hunting pressure and possibly larger populations of quail to hunt. Time spent exploring some of these more remote areas can pay big dividends in the quality of hunting and the number of birds in a covey.
The daily bag limit of 15 birds is a very generous number and is seldom reached by even the best wing shooters.
According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, this year’s population of quail is slightly better than the previous two seasons which could mean more limits of birds for the hunters in the field.
The most successful quail hunters have a dog or two that are well trained in pointing and retrieving those hard-to-find birds.
Experiencing a quail hunt with a dog that can really work the birds makes the day so much more pleasurable and certainly increases the productivity level.
Besides the Gambel’s, there is another species called the Mearns’ quail which inhabits the grassy slopes of southern Arizona.
There are a few isolated pockets of these birds in the Young area which is similar in terrain and they appear to be on the increase in numbers. The Mearns’ season starts Nov. 27 and there is a more restrictive limit of only eight birds because of lower numbers.
There are so many delicious ways to prepare quail which makes them excellent tablefare for a wildlife dinner. All the exercise it will take to bring a few birds home might even allow for an extra piece of pumpkin pie for dessert.
The weather is perfect and you don’t have to be out there at the crack of dawn, so take a friend and head to the hills for a bit of Arizona upland game bird hunting.
This weekend enjoy the outdoors, God’s creation.