With The Arizona Mearns Quail Season set to open on Friday December 6th we have a little excitement in the air here in beautiful downtown Patagonia AZ A.K.A.- Mearns Quail H.Q. of the World.The word on the street is Mearns #’s are spotty at best.For those looking for the ultimate shoot’em up Hunt this won’t be it.Birds will be hard earned.
Crush pointing Mearns Quail
On that note here are a few things to consider which will enhance Your Arizona Mearns Quail Hunting experience.
Don’t be an Asshole
By hunting ontop of other hunters.If someone is in “your spot” leave and find a new spot.Most Hunters I know roll with the first one there gets the right of way.Sometimes things happen namely running into other Hunters and their dogs, the unwritten rule is to turn around or head off in another direction and avoid contact.
Pick Up Your Shells
For whatever reason some of us out there feel that shotgun shells don’t count as litter, therefore it’s Ok to leave them scattered all over the countryside.Well here in the Grand Canyon State leaving your shotgun shells on the ground is littering and you could be fined for it.It also makes the rest of us (hunters ) look bad to the non -hunting public.
Pick Up Garbage
If you really want to impress the Quail Gods via good “karma ” pick up garbage as you walk along.This also includes the shells that some dickhead left on the ground.
Leave Gates how you found them
This is ranching country so there are Cows that sometimes think the grass is greener in the next pasture.But thats up to the Rancher to decide not Hunters or Cows for that matter.Leaving gates open when they should be closed is a big no no.
Skirt Around Cows.
As the season progresses a lot of the Cows will be “Calfing” Its best to stay away from them so you don’t piss off Mother Cows.Move around them, also don’t let your Dogs chase Cows.
Enjoy Your time here.
Mearns Country is a very remarkable place that a lot of Folks don’t ever get the chance to see.Enjoy the views and the people that call this amazing area home.
Support Southern Arizona Quail Forever.
S.A.Q.F. has been going hard to help Quail and Quail Hunters.If you are not member maybe you should join ? or throw them a few bucks for the good things they do to help you have a better Experience.Click Here.
Be an Ethical Hunter
There is a lot of folks preaching hunting ethics,however they vary.Simply obey the law by adhering to bag and possession limits, shooting times etc.The Arizona Game and Fish Department is the go to source for all that info via The State of Arizona Hunting Regulations.
Mearns Quail Hunting is tight and fast shooting requiring open choked guns
With the variety of Quail we have and the different habitats that they are found in I.M.H.O. requires different chokes to meet the challenge of Hunting Quail in Arizona.A tightly choked gun might be ok for Scaled and to some extent Gambels Quail but could be a disadvantage hunting Mearns Quail.
Mearns Quail Hunting
Mearns Quail hunting is usually in tight cover where the birds have a tendency to fly behind trees quickly which requires a more open choked gun.For Arizona Mearns Quail hunting I like a gun that is choked Cylinder and Skeet,and shoot 7.5 shot out of the first barrel and sometimes a #7 shot out of the second.The first shot is open and although the 2nd barrel is also open its still a little tighter than the first shot as generally the 2nd shot is a little longer therefore I want a tighter pattern -but not by much !
My designated Mearns Guns are ether 16 gauge or 20 gauge SxS’s and all weigh less than 6 lbs.
Crush Points a Covey of Scaled Quail
Of course I could and sometimes do use the same guns for Gambels and Scaled Quail Hunting which generally takes place in more open country but I prefer or I am more confident with a tighter choked gun plus its a good reason to justify purchasing more shotguns.
One of My go to Scaled Quail Guns a 12 gauge (or Bore) Sidelock
For Scaled and Gambels Quail the guns I have 2 12 Gauge SxS’s that are both choked Skeet and Light Modified.My “Travel Gun” is a little AYA 20 Gauge that I had choke tubes installed I use the same choke configuration in this gun.Although some may think that a 12 Gauge is overkill however both guns weigh under 6.5 lbs and pattern well when shooting 1 1/16 oz loads.Both Scaled Quail and Gambels Quail are extremely tough birds and I find shooting a 12 Gauge flat out drops and kills them, probably because of the larger shot pattern.So its a confidence thing based around my shitty shooting skills and I want don’t want to be burning up precious dog energy looking for cripples.
Arizona Scaled Quail
The Loads I use for Arizona Quail Hunting are 7.5 and 7 for Mearns.For Scaled and Gambels Quail I shoot a #7 followed by a #6.Out of a 16 Gauge gun the loads are 1 oz, for the 12 Gauge guns they are 1oz -1 1/16 oz and out of my 20 Gauge im shooting 7/8th oz loads.This choke and shot configuration seems to work great for me and the guns I’m shooting.Give it a go see how it works for you.
It’s good to be home in Arizona.With that comes a lot of preparation for the up and coming season which equates to driving around the S.E. Corner of the State and doing ‘Taste Tests” better known as Scouting which entails running dogs and seeing what is out there.
Sunny pointing Scaled Quail
Other areas of the State might be better off for Gambels Quail however the claim to fame to this area is the 3 Species that we can hunt which are Mearns,Gambels and Scaled Quail.
Due to really shitty scenting conditions,It’s been day to day,I’m encouraged on the “good “days when we find them however some days its a lot of walking or armed hiking chasing Birds that easily disappear.My observation is we a getting or harvesting young of the year Birds which is always a good sign.Its been hot and dry therefore when we get some rain this week conditions will drastically improve.
Young of the Year Scaled Quail
Mearns Quail Diggings
Kate is backed by Belle and Crush as BooBoo gets ready to go in to flush
With all the choices in shotguns that are out there it seems the guns that really draw the ultimate in “sexy’ comments are side by sides shotguns.A few reasons for this are they are the original game guns as SxS’s and have been around a lot longer than any other model of shot gun except maybe the single shot.
That ads an element of tradition for those partaking in a sport that is steeped in.A lot of Doubleguns that are out there and being used by hunters come from an era when shotgun manufacturing was done by hand, with very little machining so there is a high degree of craftsmanship which is easily displayed on older guns regardless of price.Weight is another issue, for the most part a lot of SxS’s weigh less than their modern counterparts(Auto’s,Pumps and O/U’s )making then easier to carry and faster to shoulder while in the field.
Price wise you can spend a small fortune or not.Have look around on the Interweb there are plenty of decent guns out there for under $3K.
A fun way to make excuses to yourself for purchasing old or new SxS Shotguns is to pick a manufacture or a country of origin.My early endeavors where focused on British guns.Afterall The U.K. is the birth place of all things shotguns so I ran with that, and after buying and selling a few I comfortable in owning two British 16 gauge guns and one 12 Bore.
With the exception of the 12 (an E Greeley and Son circa 1910) which cost $3500 the other guns where purchased for around $2500.
A budding collector can go on a early American Shotgun theme,chasing the old Parkers,Fox’s and Ithica’s or choose to collect guns from other countries such as Spain,Italy,Belgium and Germany.
All are great guns and well worth the chase.For those that are looking for affordable new Shotguns check out the Turkish built guns brought in by CZ USA
You don’t have to break the bank when you are looking to buy a SxS but you may have to justify your purchase to the higher authority.A few ways you can do this are by explaining that it is an apprciating investment,a bolder move would be to explain that you need that gun for certain style of hunting because your existing guns do not have the right chokes.A shotgun sludge fund is also another great way to save and get a new to you gun inside the house, providing that no one knows how many guns you currently own.Have fun with it and enjoy!
I guess it’s very apparent that my outdoor related activities are focused around Fly-Fishing and Bird Hunting.Of course there is a build up of anticipation which leads to the first day of ‘the season” which can be opening day or the day of arrival to a destination.As the season moves forward I get into the “groove” of picking my days of participating in that particular activity.As the season moves towards the finish line because of legal closer or time to go somewhere else I find myself wishing it would never end, at the same time knowing full well it has to. As the finish line draws close,I Fish or Hunt with a sense of urgency knowing full well I’m trying to make up for lost time.The season is going to be over before I know it and don’t want to be thinking to myself I wish I had hunted or fished more.
It hit like a hammer this year. I was faced with the fast approaching closure of the Arizona Quail Season,which ended Feb.10th.I had cleared my calendar for the final four days.Guide trips where contracted out so I could go for a selfish “walk” with just me and my dogs.I had to ‘power down” from the non stop “powering up” that goes with a busy Guide Season, I needed some space,which is something that Bird Hunting delivers.
I met my buddy Chad at the Cafe,after a very quick breakfast we headed out to an area that potentially could deliver a slam of the three species of Arizona Quail.Upon our arrival the wind was blowing and the sky was cloudy, scattered showers came and went as we sat it out waiting for the squalls to pass.Our first loop was a bust,after ten minutes we turned back to our trucks,because the w rain was blowing side ways with the wind, making it hard for the dogs to scent and we were getting cold.Chad and I both thought about “calling it good” which still would have been okay as most Hunters look at canceling a day hunting in the Arizona Desert due to rain as a bonus for the following season.Instead we waited,hoping the Squall would pass which it did.
We struck out with the same dogs from our botched loop,2 Pointers a Britt and my Lab.Moving fast to cover the open ground then slowing down as we got into “birdy” or heavy cover so the dogs could work it effectively.There were no Bull Shit Prayers for limits and shooting straight, it was “Hail Mary’ all the way!.Getting at it before we got rained out.The dogs pointed, we shot our SxS’s,birds where retrieved our collective spirits where lifted,we even lucked out scoring one more covey heading back towards the trucks.
The rain started again and we waited.Both the rain and wind intensified but there was glimmers of hope to the south and north in the form of the front breaking up.We continued to wait.slowly we began to feel sorry for ourselves we commented on how Mother Nature was screwing us over but sure enough we caught a lucky break as the front blew over us and the wind died down.Millie,Belle and Betty where wired up with tracking and locate(beeper) collars and off we went for the final loop of the season.
We Struck out into some Gambels Habitat with high hopes of still achieving a slam,which was no bueno.The Dogs sensed the urgency as the two Pointers Belle and Millie made some big casts while Betty the Brittany cleaned up behind them.We started to get points on Mearns Quail,harvesting a bird here and there in different Canyon mouths.
We continued to weave in and out of side canyons,up and over the walls and dropping into the canyon bottoms.At times a dog or all the dogs would run out of sight up a feeder canyon while I watched the Garmin Astro hoping it would go into Point mode.It did.
We wanted to see and count Coveys and did not bother to chase singles,always moving forward after the rise and steering the dogs into likely Quail feeding areas.When the points came the dogs would stack up backing each other then after the Covey rise we would move forward searching for more Coveys.
We where into the final segment of our Loop,the vehicles where in sight and the dogs pointed again.This time the birds flushed together as a group instead of a popcorn rise which happens when they are spread out feeding.For Chad and I seeing that particular rise indicated that the Quail are either roosting or moving onto the roost for the evening.We called it “good”.Shutting down the final day after moving 8 coveys and witnessing some excellent dog work.A perfect ending to an excellent season.The rain was the bonus for things to come.
Slowly but surely we are getting down to the wire of The Arizona Quail Season.Here in the S.E. Corner of the State it’s been a Mearns Game as Desert Birds are low.Despite the hectic pace of our Guide Season I’ve made it a point (no pun intended ) to get out and enjoy myself via following and shooting over my dogs.When I am guiding I’m often shooting thru the lens of a Sony AIII, for those quick snaps it’s an iPhone 8+ a great point and shoot.Enjoy the pics and if you are an Arizona Quail Hunter you best be getting at it !The Season will be over before you know it.Have fun and be safe Amigos!