Quail Hunting Forecast  |  10/02/2019

Arizona Quail Hunting Forecast 2019


With three species of quail and an abundance of public land on which to chase them, Arizona is a bucket-list destination for many quail hunters. Scaled, Gambel’s and Mearns’ quail can all be found here, and while persistent drought conditions in recent years have hit scaled and Gambel’s numbers particularly hard, recent wet weather has improved the outlook some, according to Larisa Harding, small game program manager with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.


“We had a really nice wet winter in 2018-2019,” says Harding. “As a result, Gambel's quail populations appear to be doing well. We've seen increased numbers of broods and coveys out on the landscape this summer compared to last year, and though they haven't rebounded to numbers seen in more wet years (like the 1980s with several consecutive wet winters), their numbers should be better than they were in the 2017-2018 season following a very dry winter and extended drought.”

Harding says scaled quail likely also benefited from winter and spring rains in Arizona, but they also rely on the monsoons for reproduction, “and we've had a relatively "non-soon" season, meaning it's been very dry across most of the state this summer, so I would expect their numbers to be average,” says Harding. “We had fairly high overwinter survival of Mearns' quail, but with weak and spotty monsoons this summer, their numbers may be at or below average. That said, there are still likely to be pockets of the state that received good moisture this summer where hunters can find Mearns' quail.”


According to Harding, overall, Arizona’s upland habitat is fairly dry going into fall. 
“Because we had a very wet winter, herbaceous vegetation was abundant, particularly the invasive Globe chamomile, but most herbaceous growth has cured and is primed for fire,” says Harding. “When it was green, it harbored lots of insects for Gambel's quail chicks, but now it both hinders and hides quail movements on the ground. There are pockets where precipitation has been better, but conditions are generally very dry, one of our driest in recent years, throughout the state.”
However, Harding reports that Gambel's quail coveys and broods have been prolific on the landscape this spring and summer. “We've seen chicks of all ages, which may suggest that the hatch was spread out over time, or it may suggest that some pairs have been able to produce more than one brood,” says Harding. “In any event, there have been lots of Gambel's quail on the ground, and there are now lots of young birds running around on the landscape.”
Arizona does springtime breeding call counts for Gambel's quail using roadside surveys, and according to Harding, this year’s  Gambel's quail call counts were up 125% over the long-term average. “So we're hopeful with what we've seen on the ground this spring/summer that Gambel's quail hunting should be improved over last year.”

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever West Region Director Al Eiden concurs.

“The winter rains and spring weather where pretty good this year in the desert, so I would guess our Gambel's birds will be better than last year,” says Eiden. “Based on what I saw the summer rains were a bit spotty so our Mearns’ hunting are likely to be spotty as well.  Our scaled quail have been down for a while, and while there are birds out there I would expect that the Gambel's and Mearns’ are going to provide more opportunity for folks.”


Harding says Gambel's quail can be found many places where there's open desert country south of the Mogollon Rim, but for scaled or Mearns' quail, southeastern Arizona is the place to be. “Places like Patagonia, Sonoita, or in some of the sky island isolated mountain ranges would be good starting points,” Harding suggests.


“Get out and do some scouting if you can beforehand,” suggests Harding. “For Mearns' quail, try hunting some of the fringe sky islands in the southern part of the state to avoid areas that traditionally have high use. For Gambel's and scaled quail that don't hold nicely for dogs on point, try flushing the covey and then hunting down singles.” 


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