How to Hunt Quail
Bobwhite Quail Hunting Tips
I used to be an avid hunter, and Bobwhite quail hunting was my favorite type of hunting. The ex and I always kept a couple of hunting dogs, and I even helped train bird dogs for other people. I think there were several factors that made hunting quail so enjoyable for me. For one thing, the season here opened in November, and for South Georgia, that usually means nice weather. Also, the woods and fields are beautiful in November. I’m a big dog lover, and one of the most enjoyable aspects of quail hunting is watching the dogs work. If you had a hand in the dog training, it means even more. Another reason I liked quail hunting so much is because it’s an active sport. Quail hunters actually seek the quail – instead of just sitting in a blind or a tree stand waiting for your prey to happen along. Of course, another wonderful thing about this type of hunting is all the great quail recipes: fried quail, roasted quail, smoked quail, and barbecued quail. Yum!
The Best Gun for Quail Hunting
The best gun for quail hunting is a shotgun. Which is the best shotgun for quail hunting, as far as the gauge? The answer to that question depends on who you ask. 12-gauge shotguns, 16-gauge shotguns, 20-gauges, and 28-gauge hunting guns are all good for shooting quail and for some other types of bird hunting. Because quail hunting usually involves a lot of walking, many hunters prefer a lighter gun that’s easier to carry. Personally, I’ve always used a 12-gauge Remington Wingmaster.
More important than the gauge of the quail hunting guns is the barrel. A gun with a skeet barrel is preferred by many quail hunters, but a modified cylinder or an improved barrel are good choices, too. Make sure the gun is a good fit for you and that you feel comfortable with it.
Now, for the size shot you need: most quail hunters prefer using #8 shotgun shells. These shells contain enough pellets to give you a good chance at hitting a moving target, even though they don’t have a lot of power. Fortunately, quail are pretty easy to kill, so #8 shot is sufficient. Late in the season, most Bobwhite quail have better flying capabilities, so at that point, you might want to switch to 7 ½ shotgun shells.
Best Quail Dogs
You almost have to have a dog or gun dogs for quail hunting. Quail hide in deep cover, so unless you accidentally “walk up” a covey, you won’t have much luck finding the birds without good hunting dogs. Not just any type of hunting dogs will do, either. You want dog breeds that track and “point” the birds, alerting you to the quail’s hiding spot. If you choose dog breeds that can serve as both pointer and retriever, they’ll fetch the downed birds for you. When you’re hunting in thick woods, this is a real plus.
From my experience, the best quail dogs are the English pointer, the English setter, and the Brittany spaniel. Setters and Brittanies, probably due to their longer coats, often seem more willing to delve into briers than do English pointers, but we’ve had some great pointers, nonetheless. Unfortunately, most English pointers aren’t natural retrievers, but they can certainly be trained to retrieve. I've never hunted with German shorthairs, but many hunters think they make the best quail dogs.
The best quail hunting dog we ever had was a female Brittany. She was “all business,” and we never could make her a pet. She lived and breathed to hunt quail, and she would go anywhere in her pursuit of Bobwhite. She would hold a point forever, too, and once a quail was downed, the little dog would dutifully bring it to the shooter and drop it at his or her feet. We also had a large male liver English pointer that excelled as a hunting dog and as a pet. Old Herman hunted close, and he was a great retriever, too. He was one of those rare natural retrievers from his breed.
Where to Hunt Quail
If you want to hunt quail, you’ll have to find a venue with a good population of quail, obviously. In my area of the country, this is becoming exceedingly difficult to do. Some of the birds’ natural habitat has been destroyed, and coyotes have diminished the number of quail, too. Like many other types of wild game, quail need cover and food, so look for places that provide both. Much of my quail hunting was done near cattle pastures that held cow feeders. The cows often spilled corn and other grains on the ground, which supplied food for the Bobwhites.
Other good places to consider for quail hunting are woods that are near fields that grow soybeans, corn, and sorghum. Quail might also be found along creeks, in fence rows, and in fairly open areas near woods.
What You’ll Need – Quail Hunting Supplies
In addition to your shotgun and your shotgun shells, there are a few other quail hunting supplies you’ll need. Because quail love thick cover, you’ll probably be trekking through lots of briers and other forms of underbrush, so protective clothing is a must. A good option here is to wear hunting chaps. Of course, in cold weather, you might also need gloves, a jacket, and a cap or hat. You’ll need somewhere to store dead birds, too. Since you’re likely to be fording streams and mucking through wet areas in your hunt, you’ll need a good pair of waterproof boots.
Trekking through acres of woods and swamps can be thirsty work, so be sure to carry along plenty of water. If you don’t think you’ll encounter any good sources of water in the wild, you’ll need to bring water for the dogs, too.
Hunting and Finding Quail
Once you’ve arrived at your hunting location, let the dogs out and follow them quietly. Watch the reaction of the dogs. When quail hunting dogs are on the scent, their noses will practically be “glued” to the ground. Once they find a covey, the dogs will freeze, “pointing” the birds. Sometimes the quail will flush on their own, but sometimes you have to flush them out with a stomp of your foot. When the quail rise and scatter, focus on one bird to lead and shoot. If your aim is true, watch carefully to see where the bird falls, and send the dog to fetch it.
Afterwards, you’ll probably want to hunt singles – the birds from the scattered covey that are hiding somewhere nearby. The number of quail in a covey can vary widely, so be careful not to shoot too many birds from the same group. You don’t want to wipe out an entire covey because you want to ensure future generations of Bobwhite quail.
Timing Your Shot
For beginners, quail are notoriously hard to hit. It’s not that they fly fast like doves – the problem is that many novice quail hunters shoot too quickly, and some are startled by the frantic “whir” of the birds’ wings once the quail are flushed. When quail are first flushed, they usually follow a regular flight pattern. After the initial “lift off,” their flight will level out, and this is when you should aim and shoot. An old-timer taught me an easy way to time my shots when hunting quail. He told me that when the birds flush, I should whisper to myself, “Where you goin’? Come back here.” At first, I thought the man was suffering from senile dementia, but I decided to try his strategy, anyway. Believe it or not, it works! I’m guessing that it takes just the same amount of time to utter the sentences as it does for the flight of the birds to be conducive to good aim.
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Quail recipes: grilled quail
Quail recipes: fried quail
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