Hunting Gambel's Quail in Tucson, AZ
Michael Sims here, CoFounder and President of Hook + Gaff. We hope everyone had a great summer, and now that fall is in full swing and the holidays are right around the corner, I thought I'd share with our fans a fun trip I took with a buddy to southern Arizona to do some quail hunting the first week of November.
My buddy and I arrived in Tucson on a Wednesday afternoon and met up with his cousin, a resident in the suburb of Sahuarita about 30 minutes south of the airport. As a long-time resident, he gave us pointers on restaurants, arranged for us to stay in a nice hotel (we actually saw Kevin Costner at the pool, in town to play at a small venue with his band), and more importantly, we game-planned for the next day's hunt. While temperatures were very nice, in the 80's during the day, it did get down in the upper 40's at night and in the early morning. These temperatures are ideal for getting started--they're easy on his dog and the cool weather keeps the birds from flushing so easily. We understood that jumping one or two coveys in the morning would be pretty good. If these coveys had a lot of birds we could try to keep eyes on the singles that flushed out and work some of these throughout the morning.
The next day we met up and drove south to the mountains before sunrise. As a South Carolinian, I've only had experience in our long leaf pines hunting pen-raised birds. I knew we'd be jumping wild quail and I knew it was going to be a completely different experience, and I can't tell you how excited I was to get out there.
We were hunting with a German Shorthaired Pointer named Turbo. Turbo lived up to his name. He was active and worked really hard. While turbo seemed to have no problem with it, nothing really prepared me for the terrain. I think this was the biggest surprise. I had on briar pants and thick hiking boots. While the briar pants did the job 90% of the time, I can't tell you how many times I took a cactus spine to the knee or even right through my shoe, through my sock and into my foot. The terrain is unforgiving. I walked with high steps, constantly looking out for paddle cactus, prickly pear, jumping cactus, and a million other spiny weeds, brush, and brambles that I didn't have names for. Once I got the hang of the terrain, we settled into scanning the landscape, watching Turbo, and looking ahead to make sure skiddish birds weren't getting out in front of the dog. That first day we walked about 7 miles and we were lucky enough to jump a small covey with about 8 birds in it at the very end. By this time it was about mid-morning and the day was heating up quickly. The dog was almost spent. The birds were flushing easily because of the heat and when we happened upon them they scattered before we even got a point from the dog. Unfortunately, the covey was a good bit out in front of us. We got a few shots off and brought down one bird. ( I know, super weak.) The singles scattered and we tried working a few of the singles but they were tough to catch up to and the dog was spent. We had to call it a day.
On day two, we met up and trekked to a nearby location, but a little bit lower in elevation. The terrain was a bit easier to navigate, and the washes in this area were a bit greener and thicker with cover. Right away we liked what we were seeing. When we jumped out of the truck in the pre-dawn hours, we heard a few birds calling very close by. As soon as the sun came up we started working the covey. We may have worked those birds for nearly a mile. I think they jumped in the wash and walked it down until we finally caught up to them in an open area. The birds were mostly split between a small tree and a bramble bush, and Turbo went on point. As we approached the tree, we heard birds take off like helicopters shot out of a cannon, several taking off towards 3:00 and several taking off toward 11:00. We got off a few shots and brought down two birds. Beautiful birds! Unfortunately they got soaked in Turbo's slobber before we could snap a picture of the pretty male, but Turbo deserved that reward for such a great point and setting us up for success. We worked the birds that flew towards 3:00 for nearly an hour and just couldn't catch up to them. Unlike pen-raised birds that burrow in the grass and briars, these birds will get out in front of the dog and they'll run. This isn't a leisurely stroll. This is real hunting, real work, maneuvering over rough terrain, and at a brisk pace. It is awesome! We came back to the few birds that had flushed towards 11:00 and found one in a nearby wash. The dog went on point, we flushed the bird as we walked forward, and I popped off the last shot of the day, bringing down another beautiful male bird, again immediately covered in slobber, but beautiful nonetheless.
Next year we are already planning a trip for mid-November, this time hunting at a slightly higher elevation on the mountain so we can hunt both Gambel's quail and the beautiful Scaled quail. I'd highly recommend a trip to Arizona to do this, particularly if you're from the east coast. It's a unique experience that you just can't quite replicate here in the South anymore. Thank you for supporting our brand and thank you for allowing me share this experience with you!
Leave a comment
Please note, comments must be approved before they are published