Arizona Quail Hunting – The Arizona Quail Slam

Mearns Quail Habitat
Mearns Quail Country

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.

Mearns Double
First shots of the day result in a double
Hiking Hills
Hiking Hills
Mearns Quail
Mearns Quail
Talking birds
Talking birds
Chase Man
Chase
Scaled Quail Country
Scaled Quail Country
Scaled Quail Country
Scaled Quail Country
Scaled Quail and Gambel's Quail
Scaled and Gambel’s finish up the Arizona Quail Slam
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22 Responses to “Arizona Quail Hunting – The Arizona Quail Slam”

  1. Landon

    The camera failed to capture the aura of invincibility you had that day. Bird-dogging your own coveys, flawless shooting and the help of a great dog, it’ll be difficult to top that day.

    Congrats again on the Slam, you earned it for sure.

    Reply
    • azwanderings

      Thanks Landon. I agree that it’ll be a tough day to beat. It’s always fun hunting with you guys. Looking forward to many more.

      Ben

      Reply
  2. Bryan C

    Great story Ben and congratulations. I’ve been in AZ since the day after Thanksgiving. Me and my brother got off to a slow start due to the heat but since it has cooled we have had some great hunts. Have shot Mearn’s and Gambels’s or Mearn’s and scaled in the same day but no slam yet. For us, it appears that Gambel’s are down quite a bit. In one of our better Gambel’s spots we flushed and each shot one out of a covey of Mearn’s. In nearly 20 years of hunting that area we had never seen a Mearn’s. There are no live oaks in sight.

    Merry Christmas and happy hunting to you and your family. It sure beats another winter in Michigan.

    Reply
    • azwanderings

      Bryan, thanks for the kind words. Best of luck on your upcoming hunts. Sounds like you are getting into some good birds this season. Take care.

      Ben

      Reply
  3. Jeff C.

    Congratulations, Ben. Quite a feat! Great photos and story. I can only dream of accomplishing such a great day. I’m still working on the Gambels before I move on to the other species. Have a great holiday and hope to see you next year!

    Reply
  4. Dan Priest

    Merry Christmas, Ben. Always enjoy the pictures you paint with your words as well as the actual photos! Have located a few pockets of Gambel’s – if you’re interested in hunting for a day towards the end of January, let me know and we’ll see if we can work out a time.

    Reply
    • azwanderings

      Dan,

      Great to hear from you and Merry Christmas to you and your family. I look forward to getting together here in January. Hope all is well. Thanks for the kind words.

      Ben

      Reply
  5. Tres

    Great job guys! I’m yet to get the dog on any Mearns. Found some Gambels and Scaled up in southern NM this past weekend though. Great write up. You boys seem to do it the right way. Congrats.

    Reply
    • azwanderings

      Thanks Tres. Sounds like you’ve been getting out after it. Congrats on getting the dog on birds.

      Ben

      Reply
  6. John

    Hello Ben,

    I recently found your site and it has been thrilling to hear about your journeys. I just went on my first quail hunt with another buddy (also his first time), and we hunted without dogs. Unfortunately we had no luck out in the field but it was a good time. I’m hooked! Do you have some advice you could pass along about good places to hunt and some techniques to finding coveys without a dog. Again, thanks for sharing your adventures with us!

    John

    Reply
    • azwanderings

      John.

      Great to hear from you. Mearns are going to be very very tough without dogs as they hold very tight and aren’t as vocal as Gambels. For Gambel’s, get into the desert early and work washes and hillsides that offer cover and feed. Gambel’s will often call or putt-putt to each other and reveal their location. I do most all of my Gambel’s hunting without a dog. Best bet is to break a covey up and try to work the singles. Best of luck.

      Ben

      Reply
    • azwanderings

      Myles,

      Thanks for the question. I sold them at one time, but don’t currently have any available. I’ll keep you posted if I get them back in stock.

      Ben

      Reply

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