If birds are your game of choice, you probably were in the field Sept. 30 for the opening day of quail season.
While Game and Fish biologists are not predicting a banner year, there are always diehard Rim Country hunters who will be scouring the lowlands around Tonto Basin and Roosevelt Lake looking for birds.
The quail season continues until Feb. 5.
The Mearns’ quail season opens Nov. 25 and continues until Feb. 5.
Biologists are basing their predictions of a less than average Gambel’s quail season on the lack of rainfall the past spring.
Newly hatched quail need the foliage produced by heavy spring rains 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 for food. Some hunters prefer to use a call, and then wait for the coveys to answer.
The strategy saves time and walking.
Quail calls may be purchased at most sporting goods stores. While walking in the field, stop frequently to listen for birds. Gambel’s and scaled quail make a variety of sounds. Learning to recognize the calls they make is the key to success.
Also, a good place to hunt is near permanent sources of water.
Always remember, Gambel’s quail are remarkably tough birds and can take a lot of punishment. Crippled birds will run down burrows, into nests, or hide in most any suitable cover.
It’s always a temptation to shoot at additional birds once a quail has been downed — but resist it. The strategy will mean fewer lost birds and more quail in the bag.
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 2011-2012 Arizona Hunting Regulations booklet that is free at many local retail stores.
Those hunters lucky and good enough to bring home a limit of quail might try this dinner recipe that has been our family favorite for three generations, it’s called Country Style Quail.
Country Style Quail
About 20 quail
1 pound bacon
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 egg yolks
2 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika (more if desired).
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Place sliced onion and quail in the skillet and brown in the bacon fat. Salt and pepper the birds. Remove birds and onions from skillet and place in a warm oven (150 to 200 degrees). Pour off all but three tablespoons of bacon fat. Mix the egg yolks and the half-and-half. Add mixture to the bacon fat in the skillet and cook over low heat just to thicken, stirring constantly. Do not boil. Stir in paprika and serve sauce with quail and fried potatoes.