So months ago I wanted to start up a new blog series about getting in some good outdoor activities with only a few hours to do it in. I started it with an urban fishing trip but unfortunately have not been able to follow it up. Until now! Or should I say this past weekend? A group of buddies and I set some time aside to take part in one of my absolute favorite outdoor activities, quail hunting! We all needed a little break and a lot of fresh air, and this trip did just that! Let’s begin…
Well, first things first let us look at the gear. There were five of us going, and this was going to be the first trip for my buddy’s father’s bird-dog. He had to bring all sorts of other gear that, luckily, I didn’t need to hassle with. The rest of us needed: a hunting license, shotgun, ammo, appropriate clothing, snacks and water.
Don’t have an Arizona Hunting License yet? Pick one up at Game and Fish’s website. You do not need a Migratory Bird stamp to hunt quail, but of course read over the rules and regulations before you head out. (Limit is 15 birds a day this year… good luck filling that though!)
When I talk about appropriate gear, you need to consider where you will be hunting and when. What is the weather going to be like? Is it snake season? (It was cold out so we didn’t have to worry so much about those, but I was still looking where I was stepping.) Dress in layers so you can add on or take off clothes accordingly. Make sure to have some sort of blaze on you (hat, shirt, vest, etc.) so you are easier to spot by your own group and others. Bring a bird/shell vest! Only two of us had bird-vests, so we were doomed to be the pack-mules. I picked up the Browning Upland Strap Vest a year or two ago. Just like the new bird-dog, this was her maiden voyage as well. And I absolutely loved it! Fit nice and secure. Everything was able to be adjusted to me. Held plenty of shells and miscellaneous gear, including water bottles and snacks in the back pouch.
And wear good boots! The areas we hunted had a whole mix of landscapes and ground. Soft sand, hard rock and everything in between. And everything up and down! We went over too many hills to count. Having on my good boots made a world of difference that day… and the ones that followed.
We had a few 12 gauges and a couple 20’s between us. We made sure to keep the two kinds of shells separate, as everyone should! Don’t just rely on the concept that “yellow shells = 20 and red shells = 12”, always double-check! Most of us were shooting size 8, but I had a couple random 7.5s to shoot through as well. Good ol’ Dori the Citori will pretty much eat anything I toss down her!
We pulled off to our first location, and after squelching a minor political discussion we were engaged in, my buddy’s father started the hunt off with a safety meeting. Everyone should do this every time. We talked about watching line-of-fire, when to load/unload, who was going to be where and so on.
Also to not shoot his dog. (There is a special level downstairs for those who break this commandment. Somewhere between lawyers and people who leave shopping carts all caddy-wampus in cart corrals.) This meant no aiming at ground birds, no matter the circumstance, so the plot thickened.
And then to make sure we kept our line consistent. You should always be able to see the person to either side of you and them like-wise. This is where wearing blaze comes in handy. Only two of us were in blaze and with all the hills, washes and whatnot it was easy to lose sight of one another.
The hunt began literally with a BANG! Not more than fifteen yards from the truck, I flushed a couple quail and showed the rest of the group how good I am at shooting under flying birds! We kept moving. It is always a delight watching a bird dog work, and she was no different. This was her first time though, so she was rather timid and not used to the terrain. She had been trained by a professional and graduated top of her class, but the real world is different.
As we made our way, we bumped into something quite large that was just as startled by us. It was a small herd of wild horses! They wanted nothing to do with us and quickly scurried up a hill. One hung out long enough for me to get a picture. He probably knew that I worked for Bass Pro and would include him in a blog. We also bumped into an owl a little ways down the area.
We kept on the flurry-sound of a covey of quail that proved to everyone how hard those little guys are to hunt. They led us all the way to the border of state land, where all we could do is watch as they lounged about in the safety of their new home for the next short while.
We worked our way back towards the trucks and kicked up a few more birds, but no one was able to connect. One bird might have a sore rump though! At the trucks, we caught our breath, rested our feet, hydrated, snacked and started the next game plan. The bird-dog had had quite enough and was done for the day (ground birds are good-to-go!) but had well-earned her rest! She, and a few of us, would have some sore feet the next day. She may not have gotten on point, but the experience from this trip and those to follow was important for her to gain.
Our next destination wasn’t that far up the way, but did give us plenty of time to talk guns and country music. We came to the revelation that the song Parking Lot Party is more or less the sequel to Redneck Yacht Club, because the people who were partying on the lake weren’t ready to go home yet and just moved it to some asphalt. This probably also gave ample time for my buddy and his dad to discuss such important topics like marriage and what arguments they let us think we win, because the one buddy has his wedding in a couple months.
At the new spot we hopped out and loaded up. We chose a hill in the distance and worked our way towards it. Those on the right side of the line took a few steps before bumping into a mule deer doe, which is pretty neat. I bumped into a rock.
Nothing was really moving until we had gotten over a few more hills and then it was a flurry of excitement. I noticed a nice sized covey moving along in front of us and something caught my peripheral. A couple mule deer does gave me the “See ya!” by bounding away, white rumps shown proudly. Watching the wonders of nature always makes me smile, but we were on a mission! With targets in sight, we closed in on them but came just about as close as the last place.
Clouds moved in and rain started trickling down. It was time to start heading back. In one area, I bumped a few and was able to put down a quail and recover. My buddy’s dad got one in the same area, but couldn’t recover it. One of the guys got himself a nice sized jackrabbit as well! He didn’t have a vest, so being the sport he is, the other of us two pack-mules hoofed it out for him. On the final leg of the trip back, my buddy got a bird and recovered it. And he found a nice little deer shed! Not a bad way to end the day.
We cleaned the animals and headed back towards town. After some grub I had to rush home. The missus wanted to take Christmas card photos, and I was definitely not going to be allowed to have bloody jeans in them! But before I took off, we all were able to take a second and breathe while appreciating what an awesome day we had. And make some verbal semi-contracts to get out next weekend!