|SANTA YSABEL — Quail season opened with mixed
results for many upland game hunters. Prior to opening day there was an
abundance of California valley quail and mountain quail, but that early winter
storm front that pushed through just prior to opening weekend perhaps scattered
the birds more than what was expected.
Western Outdoor News checked with a number of hunters
who bagged quail on opening day and on hunts over the past couple of weeks and
opinions are pretty much consistent in that quail are still coveyed up in
smaller bunches due to an abundance of green food, plenty of native seeds on
the ground, lots of water, huge amounts of protective ground cover and ideal
roosting brush and trees.
"We had about 25 hunting groups
out on parcels of prime quail property that is under lease by My Country Club.
Our ground survey by biologist John Massie showed that we had an excellent
hatch of valley quail for this year and that there were also good numbers of carry-over
adult birds as a result of a good brood last year. I think our comp count indicated
that everyone had some gunning, but only about 30 per cent of the hunters
bagged a limit or near limit of quail," said Frank Mendenhall owner of My
Country Club (760) 782-3503.
Jason Nash, manager of Bolsa
Gunsmithing and a member of MCC, hunted opening day and reported, "We had
a tough quail hunt. There were three of us hunting and we had a good dog along
as well. We covered three areas and only busted one covey of quail bagging just
a few birds before they vanished off into shoulder high cover. I know there are
plenty of birds on the properties, it's just a matter of time before they covey
up and hopefully provide for better hunting."
There were hunters who bagged a few
quail while chukar hunting in the High Desert region over opening weekend but
no limits of quail were reported to this hunting editor. Harold Horner Sr. of
Victorville bagged five quail in addition to a brace of chukar and there were
other bird shooters who added a quail or two to their game bag while busting
through arroyos or thick brush in quest of chukar.
This hunting editor hunted valley
quail in Round Valley, just north of Bishop, mid-last week and didn't see a
bird in covering a lot of DWP and public land. There was really too much high
sage, lots of water and plenty of new green grass about 1.5 inches tall that
most likely kept birds in hiding. Rains also hardened the ground making it very
difficult to find any quail tracks and Timber never got birdie.
WON subscriber Lee Watson of Temecula
has been hunting valley quail for many years in Southern California and passed
on some thoughts about his quest to hunt quail every weekend of the season.
"I think that hunting quail
during the early part of the season is really tough. The coveys are smaller and
pretty spread out. It takes a lot of scouting and time on the ground with a
good dog to produce anywhere near a limit early in the season. By the time
December rolls around the birds are in larger coveys and seem to become more
predictable and huntable. My black lab Abby just gets more birdie as the winter
months set in and there is more scent on the ground," stated Watson.
Hollis Daker of Niland opted to hunt
the Tehachapi Mountains for valley quail over staying close to home and chase
Gambel's quail across the desert floor.
"We knew it was going to be
extremely hot in Imperial Valley, perhaps passing the century mark, so we
headed up to the high country near Tehachapi. We found three nice coveys, but
getting on the birds before they flushed up canyon walls was difficult. I have
no excuses for not bagging a limit of birds, as I shot nearly 2 boxes of shells
and ended up with just six birds in my vest. I will be going back after the
first snow and hope to catch those same coveys in more hospitable
terrain," reported Daker.
Mixed reports are still coming in
from Arizona about their quail numbers and the prospects for the rest of the
season. Some hunters did ok on Gambel's quail along the lower Colorado River
while others, hunting over good pointing dogs, only found minimal results
hunting areas that normally produce good gunning. Jim Thompson of Lake Havasu
City told WON that he
bagged a limit of Gambel's quail hunting by himself and saw plenty of birds
winging across open cover hunting public property near the rural town of
Randy Babb of the Arizona Department
of Game and Fish reported that Gambel's and scaled quail populations are down
this year due to a lack of rain this past winter in their normal desert ranges,
but added that scaled quail coveys were a little bit larger at higher
elevations in some of the southeastern corners of the state.
Baja opened up quail season with a
very strong showing of California valley quail for all those hunting UMA's
anywhere south of Tecate and down into the huge San Telmo Valley.
"Hunters were busting coveys of
quail that numbered 100 to 200 birds. Most the birds would head off into thick
choya and thorn brush making getting on the birds are little more difficult,
but offering plenty of good shooting. I just got back from hunting with a
couple of friends from San Diego a couple of weeks into the Baja season and we
found plenty of birds on farm properties owned or under lease of Rancho El
Coyote-Meling. Our party was fortunate in that we busted a covey of about 175
birds that flew to the top of a flat mesa that had ideal mixed cover. Birds
would flush well within shotgun range as singles, doubles and often ten or more
would be in the air at one time offering up excellent shooting
opportunities," reported Gregg Shobe of San Diego.
Depending on when and how strong
winter storms push through Central and Southern California will determine just
how good quail hunting will be in the weeks ahead. There are good numbers of
quail along the central coast and inland from Paso Robles and up into King City
and across the Southern San Joaquin Valley along the slopes of the western High
Sierra. Clayton Grant, master guide with Bitterwater Outfitters (805) 610-4521,
reported to WON that there are big coveys of valley quail on properties he leases for
hog hunting adding, "We are seeing quail all over the ranches we hunt and
those hunters booking combo hog and quail hunts are enjoying a good hunting
experience. We hunt hogs early in the morning and late in the evening, allowing
plenty of time to bust into coveys of quail."
One thing for sure is that there are
plenty of California valley quail and a very huntable population of mountain
quail out there to hunt. It's just a matter of time before conditions will be
ideal to produce some very successful hunts. This hunting editor can recall a
hunt a few years back with Don Geivet, game manager of the Tejon Ranch, where
we headed out on a quail hunt after a winter storm dumped about 10 inches of
fresh snow. It was an ideal limit style hunt as birds were out feeding and
walking though more open terrain just at the snow line, being forced out of their
normal habitat by heavy snow. This year the quail population on the Tejon is
awesome and there will be plenty of good hunts ahead for those who opt to be a
part of the Tejon Ranch hunting program.
This hunter does not pretend to be a
weather expert, but those two northern storm fronts, the last one just
producing scattered rain, might be an indication on another La Niña pattern for this winter. Rain, if
it comes, will possibly disperse quail even more, but on the other hand a wet
winter/spring, might make up for those drought years that hurt upland game bird
GOOD QUAIL SHOOT — This photo was submitted to Western
Outdoor News after
a successful quail hunt last season on My Country Club property. Pictured are
Ed Jarrin, Roxxanne Lugioyo, Jason Nash, the German shorthair pointer Scout and a nice harvest of valley quail.
PHOTO COURTESY OF BOLSA GUNSMITHING