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HUNTING REPORT
Published: Dec 16, 2010

WON STAFF ON THE SPOT: AZ OFFERS UP GOOD WING SHOOTING




WON STAFF ON THE SPOT

BY JIM NIEMIEC/WON Staff Writer



TUCSON — Come early December it has become a tradition for Western Outdoor News to head over to our neighboring state of Arizona and enjoy some fantastic wing shooting for dove and quail. The good folks at the Arizona Department of Game and Fish have been doing a great job in managing their wild game and it has been a pleasure to share time in the field with a couple of AZ wildlife biologists who spend a lot of time monitoring the population of Mearns', scaled and Gambel's quail and keep a close watch on white-winged, mourning and Eurasian collard dove numbers across the vast desert landscape.

Joining WON this past week for a few days of wing shooting was Captain Buzz Brizendine of the sport fisher Prowler. After hearing that big flocks of Canada geese had finally arrived in Cibola Valley our first stop was at the Cibola Sportsman's Club to spend a morning in a goose blind, while sharing a lush green alfalfa fields with some members of Arizona's DU organization, a couple of junior hunters and a father and son day shooting team.

The hunt proved productive on decoying a few small flocks and some pass shooting as the morning ended with 13 honkers on the ground, two of which were banded birds. It would be an early departure from the blind for us, as this reporter had an appointment to meet up with Randy Babb, who had just come off a successful desert ram hunt in the rugged Arizona mountains. Babb was ready to spend a leisurely evening shooting mourning dove in a nearby grain field. The hunt proved very rewarding for all guns, many of which were of the .410 and 28 gauge bore.

It was just a short drive down to Tucson to meet up with Kirby Bristow who is one avid quail hunter with a good team of pointing dogs.

"Jim, as I told you earlier this fall the Mearns' quail numbers are way down and not worth chasing in the Santa Rita Mountains. I was down there last week and only bumped one covey and it was a small family group. Our best chances for a successful quail hunt is to head northeast up to Oracle and work the cactus covered rolling hills where I know there are some stock tanks. Gambel's quail numbers are a bit above average and we should be able to hit at least 4 or 5 coveys during the day as we work a perimeter of about one-half mile around the water sources," said Bristow.

Joining us for the all day hunt was Brett Browning of Tucson and his two pointers as we headed up a dirt road leading into a huge arroyo that was at an elevation of about 3,500 feet.

It hadn't rained in weeks in this arid desert which would make for tough scenting conditions for the dogs and more leg work for hunters. There was evidence in the way of feathers, a little trash and fresh tire marks, which lead us to believe that other hunters knew about this quail hunting spot and had hit it recently. Bristow and Browning felt confident that their pointers could find the quail and after splitting up we pushed up into the rocky, cactus and shoulder high thorn brush in quest of our first covey of quail.

The uphill hike was tough and with no birds to show for the effort. Then across the canyon a wild flush of Gambel's quail had us heading down the mountain and up the other side, only to discover that it was a hit the ground running covey that made it over the ridge and down into some very thick prickly-pear cactus.

The day time temp began to rise under a clear Arizona sky and by lunch break only a dozen birds had been shot by 4 guns. Still having the rest of the afternoon and a few more canyons to walk out the hunt proceeded to a drainage just above a working cattle watering hole.

The day ended with 25 birds bagged, a few lost despite good dog work and then the shoot was finalized with a mourning dove shoot as they winged into a watering hole while birds were being cleaned. It wasn't the hunt that Bristow had hoped for but it still was a good native quail shoot.

"I just hope we get rain later this month and especially in Jan. and Feb. when the Gambel's quail begin to pair up and prepare to breed. We have a good population of adult birds, fair numbers of juvenile quail and that mixed with the right amount of rain should produce a better than average brood during the upcoming nesting season. I am also hopeful that the monsoonal rains will come this summer so that the Mearns' quail population will rebound," stated Bristow.

Hunting Gambel's quail all day is very trying and all hunters were exhausted and crashed early, as the next morning would find us in a fallow milo field hunting mourning dove about an hour's drive north of Tucson.

The state owned property, which is open to the general public near the town of Pecacho,
had been leased to farmers and about a half-section of land was planted in milo and recently harvested. It didn't take long after sunrise for the dove to literally come pouring to that field, which produced limits for all shooters in less than 30 minutes of hunting.

The second half of the dove season in Arizona runs through Jan. 2, 2011 with a daily bag limit of 10 birds, but no bag limit on Eurasian collared dove. The quail season will run all the way through Feb. 6, 2011 and the aggregate bag limit is a liberal 15 birds, of which no more than 8 can be Mearns' quail. For more information on hunting Arizona birds log on to the Arizona Game and Fish Department web site at www.azgfd.gov.


• LATE SEASON DOVE LIMITS - There were literally thousands of mourning dove moving during the afternoon flight just outside of Mesa, AZ. Arizona wildlife biologist Randy Babb teamed up with Captain Buzz Brizendine of the sport fisher Prowler and bagged quick limits of dove last week. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC • GAME STRAP LOADED WITH GAMBEL'S QUAIL - Kirby Bristow of Tucson knows his quail and has a good team of pointers to help him locate tight holding Gambel's quail. Bristow is pictured with almost a limit of quail shot near Catalina after some good work from his dogs Sugar and Shorty. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC
• LATE SEASON DOVE LIMITS - There were literally thousands of mourning dove moving during the afternoon flight just outside of Mesa, AZ. Arizona wildlife biologist Randy Babb teamed up with Captain Buzz Brizendine of the sport fisher Prowler and bagged quick limits of dove last week. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

• GAME STRAP LOADED WITH GAMBEL'S QUAIL - Kirby Bristow of Tucson knows his quail and has a good team of pointers to help him locate tight holding Gambel's quail. Bristow is pictured with almost a limit of quail shot near Catalina after some good work from his dogs Sugar and Shorty. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC









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