The dog went on point, and as I eased into position, a Mearns quail flushed in front of me. The bottom barrel barked and the bird folded to the ground as another Mearns quail burst out of the grass to my left. Before I knew it, I was swinging on the flying quail and the top barrel toppled the second bird. The rest of the covey fanned out in the tall grass ahead of us, and as quickly as it started, everything became very still and quiet. I walked over and picked up my first feathered trophy while the pup came trotting up with the other one gently cradled in his mouth.
It was tough to imagine my day starting any better. A double on Mearns quail and there was still plenty of daylight.
We spent the rest of the morning working different canyons and found a couple other coveys. It was a great morning with some excellent dog work and great scenery. At lunch we decided to call it a day on Mearns. Even though the limit is currently 8 birds, it just never seems like a great idea to take that many from such a small and heavily hunted population.
We cleaned our prizes after lunch and put them on ice. After a bit of discussion, we decided to head to a different area and see if we could scare up some Scaled quail. We had walked for a good ways and the sun was sinking lower in the sky. We talked about turning back, but decided to push a bit further. We couldn’t have walked another 40 yards, when a large covey of quail flushed. Shouldering the Winchester, I felt it slam into my shoulder, and one lone bird fell from the group. The waist high grass made finding the bird difficult, and if it hadn’t been for the dog and his nose I could not have recovered it. I couldn’t believe my good fortune as the Brittany pup dropped a beautiful Scaled quail at my feet. It was my first Scaled quail and one that I would not soon forget.
So there I was, with a Mearns quail and a Scaled quail in the cooler for the day. All I needed to complete the Arizona Quail Slam was a Gambel’s quail. I had tried to complete the quail slam before but had fell short by one bird. I knew there were Gambel’s back across the road in a wash, but the sun was almost behind the hills, and I had roughly an hour of shooting light left. My buddies stayed to try and scratch out a Scaled quail, so I started walking towards where I know I had gotten into Gambel’s quail before.
I walked for about 45 minutes and hadn’t moved a bird, let alone heard anything. With about a mile still back to the truck, I turned my steps towards the vehicle and only walked about 20 yards when I heard the haunting call of a Gambels quail. I moved in quickly and flushed a large covey. I lined out a single bird and dropped it in a large pile of cactus. After a few moments of searching, I was holding my lone Gambel’s male and the final bird for my Arizona Quail Slam taken in a single day.
In closing, Mearns quail receive a ton of pressure in their short season here in Arizona from in-state and out-of-state hunters. If you are heading out after Mearns, consider limiting your harvest to one or two birds per covey. It’s also worth noting that the 8 Mearns limit is pretty generous, and I’ve talked to many hard-core Mearns hunters who think it’s too generous. If you’re going to be bird hunting in Mearns country, consider hunting Mearns in the morning and moving on to Scaled or Gambel’s quail in the afternoon, in order to give those Mearns a break. At the end of the day, we have some great opportunities to quail hunt in Arizona, enjoy it.
A big thanks to my buddy Kyle who writes over at Sleep When You’re Dead and Landon for photos and dogwork. Always great hunting with you guys.