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Monsoonal rains could bode well for Mearns’ quail
Monsoonal rains have pelted parts of southwestern Arizona over the past two weeks and this is good news for Mearns’ quail hunters. Last year saw just fair hunting for this beautiful species of quail, but there was likely a pretty good number of adult carryover quail to bring off a good hatch later this summer. IF normal summer rains arrive, hunting could be far improved from the last two seasons when upland game bird hunters had to work hard in trying to bag an eight-bird limit.

arizonamearnsquail
ARIZONA MEARNS’ QUAIL — This brace of beautiful male adult Mearns’ quail was shot in the Santa Rita Mountains of southwestern Arizona. Early monsoonal rains and a good carryover of adult birds from last year will hopefully offer up good Mearns’ quail hunting this winter. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Western Outdoor News checked in with Kirby Bristow, Wildlife Specialist II, for the Arizona Department of Game and Fish.


“As of early July, the question of a good Mearns’ quail hatch is still out. Arizona should have a decent base of quail because last year numbers were on the high side of average. So, it all depends on how the summer rains turn out. We got some good rains a couple of weeks ago, but the monsoons really didn’t start until this past week. The southwestern corner of the state received good amounts throughout Mearns’ quail country when that last storm pushed through, so we are very hopeful of a good hatch,” said Kirby.


Kirby went on to add, “If these rains keep up we’ll have good to excellent Mearns’ quail numbers by the time the winter season opens in December. But, if the rains fizzle out then bird numbers will be fair to poor.”


A call was also made to Randy Babb, another wildlife biologist for the Arizona DGFD.


“I would hate to make any predictions, but the recent rains have been favorable. I would think that hunting will be spotty but there should be birds. I think it likely won’t be that good a Mearns’ quail season.”


When asked for a Mearns’ quail hunting tip, Babb offered up the following, “I would suggest that quail hunters try a variety of places to look for quail. If you make a loop and don’t find birds or sign, then move on to another area.”


WON stopped by to talk with Erick Miller, owner of the Longfin Tackle Store (714-538-8010) located in Orange. He is an avid upland game bird hunter and spends a lot of time hunting Mearns’ quail in Arizona. The following is a recap of what Miller had to report on hunting these elusive quail.


“Last season the southwestern corner of Arizona gave up some pretty decent Mearns’ quail hunting, but we had to work hard to find coveys of birds. During an average winter hunt, we traditionally bust at least 12 to 15 coveys a day while hunting over a good gun dog. This past season saw daily covey numbers drop to between 6 to 8 coveys a day. I think there will be plenty of adult carryover quail out there to bring about a good hatch, but that all depends on how much monsoonal rains fall across Arizona quail country this summer,” said Miller.


This hunting editor has enjoyed Mearns’ quail hunting in Arizona for nearly three decades. Each year has been a unique experience of upland game bird hunting, meeting new hunting buddies, sharing fine gun dogs at work and challenging the rugged mountains of southwestern Arizona. I kind of hung up my spurs two years ago after taking a bad fall off a rocky ridge, which resulted in a few cuts, scrapes and bruised bones. Not to mention breaking my Charles Daly 20 ga. O/U into three pieces, as I thru it off to the side during the slide downhill. If conditions and bird counts are high enough, I might reconsider a gentleman’s Mearns’ quail hunt again this coming season and tag along with Kirby or Babb and their fine gun dogs.


Opening day for the 2018 Mearns’ quail season is set for Dec. 7 and the season will run through Feb. 10, 2019. The daily bag limit on this species of quail is 8 birds. The daily limit for Gambel’s or scaled quail is a total of 15 birds.


When it comes to choosing the right ammo for a Mearns’ quail hunt, this hunter over the years has opted for two 20 ga. loads. When hunting the first three weeks of the season my choice of ammo is 20 ga., Federal Heavy Filed Loads, 1 ox. loads in size #7.5 with a muzzle velocity of 1165 fps. If going on a late season quail hunt, or opting to hope for multiple species of quail, the choice of ammo steps up a little to 20 ga. Federal Premium High Velocity copper plated lead Upland Loads. 1 oz. shot with a muzzle velocity of 1350 fps.


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