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Tuesday, December 05, 2017
Arizona sandhill crane hunt just awesome!


Timely mid-season quail tips
Stormy weather has stayed away from our southern deserts and much of the forest land in San Diego County and up into Kern, Santa Barbara and Paso Robles, which has helped those out in quest of a limit of quail. Good reports from all areas indicate that there was an excellent hatch of California Valley quail and Gambel’s quail but mountain quail populations are still not up in strong huntable numbers.

Western Outdoor News contacted Leon Lesicka, who is involved with Wildlife Unlimited, (760) 344-2793, to find out how quail hunting has been down in Imperial Valley.


“It was an excellent hatch of Gambel’s quail and we are seeing lots of quail scattered all over Imperial Valley. The farm fields just outside of Calipatria gave up some good shoots and those still hunting fields with gun dogs are finding coveys of quail, although the coveys have been hunted pretty hard and the size of a covey of quail is down. Over to the east of Niland, those fields that are open to public hunting are still productive but the quail are hanging out in thick cover, making for a more difficult hunt. While deer hunting up in the Chocolate Mountains, I saw lots of quail and I would think that they are still close to the many guzzlers that are spread out across this high desert region,” said Lesicka.


Lesicka has been working with Wildlife Unlimited for more than 40 years and over that time period, he has helped repair or build 95 drinkers for desert wildlife.


When asked to share a quail tip for the last part of the upland bird season, Lesicka offered the following, “While it was a very good hatch, perhaps the best in over 15 years, the quail have been pressured quite a bit and most coveys have moved into shoulder high desert cover, making for more difficult hunting. I would suggest wing shooters to plan on spending a full day out hunting, especially on a cooler day, and hunting with a good pointing gun dog will result in more coveys located.”


With a lack of any significant rain YET, quail coveys are still pretty spread out as these birds feed on native grain and seed crops. Due to a lack of water, look for quail to stay pretty close to a water source, whether that be a stock tank, spring, guzzler, farm pond or natural seep. Quail don’t need a lot of water to stay alive but they do need some every day. On mornings where there is a lot of dew on the leaves of plants or dripping down from oak trees, quail can get enough beaded water to make due.


Both valley and Gambel’s quail are pretty vocal, especially early in the morning, as they call out their position in a canyon or arroyo. Gambel’s are a little more talkative than valley quail, but both species will respond to a quail call once a covey is busted up. Jim Matthews of Western Bird, (909) 887-3444, manufacturers his Signature Jim Matthews quail call that is very effective in locating coveys of quail or singles that have busted out of a covey. Over the years of quail hunting, this WON hunting editor has taken copious notes on the effectiveness of calling quail and they are as follows if quail will not respond to your calling: 1) they just don’t want to call back, 2) your calling is not very good and 3) there just aren’t any birds close enough to respond to your calling.


The coastal foothills above Santa Yanez and on up past King City are loaded with quail this year and there have been some good reports of hunters finding a few small coveys of mountain quail up at higher elevations of the Los Padres National Forest. While most of the lower elevations consist of private ranches in this region there is enough open land to offer up some good quail hunting opportunities. Booking a guided quail hunt is a good way to ensure a bag limit and some pretty good shooting and Western Outdoor News can recommend the following guides offering good valley quail hunting: Bitterwater Outfitters, Oak Stone Outfitters, Roger Miller and Sons Hunting and 2M Hunting.


Once the rains have hammered this part of California, and over into the desert region of southwestern Arizona, quail hunting will become much more difficult. When it starts greening up, with new sprouting grass and other emerging native vegetation, quail bunch up and don’t seem to move around as much as they did when the ground was parched dry and quail had to work hard to fill their crop with enough seeds and berries to sustain them through the night.


Those devastating wildfires burned 10s of thousands of acres of prime upland game bird and other wild critter habitat last week. Massive flames not only burned through arroyos chocked with think brush but many hillsides were blackened as well. The loss of good quail habitat will take its toll on next spring’s hatch.


WON has talked with a number of avid quail hunters this season and many have acknowledged just how good hunting has been by showing photos of limit shoots. The daily bag limit on all three species of quail found in California is 10 birds and the possession limit it three times the daily bag limit upon the third day of a hunt. Lead shot is still legal for quail and dove hunting. Lead shot is not legal for hunting chukar, so don’t mix your shot when out for a mixed bag hunt in the high desert region.


handfulofquailHANDFULL OF CALIFORNIA VALLEY QUAIL — Gregg Shobe of San Diego shows off quail bagged out on covey while on a recent hunt with Lloyd Meling, outfitter for Rancho El Coyote Meling. Quail are pretty much all feathered out and colorful cock birds make for a great photo. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC


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