Arizona Quail Hunting Forecast 2018

  • 10/1/2018 4:06:44 PM

Weather and Conditions

"The winter precipitation patterns were not good for Arizona’s desert quail," reports Wade Zarlingo, small game program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "Gambel’s quail spring call counts were 50 percent below our short-term averages, meaning breeding activity was poor. We had good monsoonal moisture throughout Arizona and the habitat conditions that are good to support chick development and survival. With poor winter rains and good monsoonal moisture, we usually see very spread-out hatches with low brood survival."

However, Zerlingo says summer monsoonal moisture was good statewide, with rain falling throughout the summer. "Without surveys associated with Montezuma (Mearns') quail, we are expecting a good year for brood production," says Zarlingo. "Snowfall and winter temperatures within Mearns’ quail habitat should not have had negative impact on adult survival going into the breeding season. Data collected from hunter harvest and weather stations indicate a negative correlation with high September moisture events, and at the time of this report AZ has not had a precipitation event that could be detrimental to brood survival. Mearn’s quail should be the highlight for Arizona quail this year and it is shaping up to be good year to knock this bird off your bucket list."

Hatch and Broods   

Overall, this will be a poor year for Gambel's and scaled quail in Arizona, but fortunately with the good monsoonal moisture folks should experience a very good Mearns' quail season," says Zarlingo.

Habitat Conditions and Top Spots

"Overall desert quail numbers seem to be much lower than we typically see," says Zarlingo. "However, Gambel’s quail are very widespread south of the Mogollon Rim and there will be pockets where it will still be possible to harvest birds. Keep in mind that Gambel’s and scaled quail population have been very depressed for a number of  years and it will take consecutive years of advantageous winter precipitation to bring them back to the point they were in the late 1980s."
Scaled quail are found mainly in Cochise and southern Graham Counties, says Zarlingo, and scaled quail populations have been hit hard by drought and habitat degradation from tree and shrub invasion into grasslands areas. "Local wildlife managers report very poor call counts for scaled quail this spring, so the expectation for this year’s season does not look good," he says. "Mearns’ quail are traditionally found in southern Pima and Cochise Counties and rely heavily on oak-grassland or pine-grassland savannahs and are very seldom found in areas without good grass cover."

Insider Tips

"Hunters can be very successful hunting Gambel’s and scaled quail without a good pointing dog," says Zarlingo. "But a good pointing dog is essential to consistently harvesting Montezuma quail. Arizona Game Fish Department has a “Where to Hunt” page on the website that is an excellent resource for people unfamiliar with our state and the opportunities that exists. The “Where to Hunt” is broken down by Regions within the state and highlights opportunities for both big game and small game. Most of the pages are up to date but all of them will give people places to begin their hunts. This page also highlights access and other issues of concern within an area. Arizona is comprised of 60% percent public land and with a little research access is not an issue."