By Greg Breining
California quail have generally fared well despite the drought that has affected Utah this year because they are often associated with waterways or dependent on irrigation anyway, says Heather Talley, upland game coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Not so the Gambel’s quail in the southern part of the state, which have suffered for lack of moisture.
Habitat, Broods, and Counts
“Everything has been incredibly dry,” says Talley. “If quail are utilizing irrigated private property, they should have plenty of forbs and insects. Gambel's quail may have been affected to the greatest extent, as they only occupy the southwest portion of the state in desert habitats.”
Here’s Talley’s breakdown in greater detail.
“Drought will not take a huge hit to the California quail populations since we do have some water in the rivers and irrigation canals still, but that still depends on precipitation. If dry conditions persist, quail will move into residential areas and find what they need. We should be able to at least maintain populations near the Great Salt Lake Wetlands as the water situation should not change much from where it is now.”
“If you like a challenge, look for coveys of California quail in areas with water and thick brushy cover. Much of the quail habitat in the Northeastern Region is on private land, so please respect private property and obtain written permission or check for Walk-In Access properties to gain access. Utah drought impacts on quail populations in this area are probably minimal because their habitat is so closely aligned with privately owned irrigated crop lands. Unfortunately we just don't have a lot of pheasant or quail that live out on rangelands or non-irrigated or non-riparian lands.”
“California quail hunting in the Tooele District is very limited because most quail in the district are in urban areas and unavailable to hunters. The highest numbers are in and around Tooele City. For the same reason, quail hunting is also limited in the Nebo district.”
“Brood production of California Quail was good for the third consecutive year. Quail are not widespread in southeastern Utah, but there are localized populations near farmlands along the Colorado and Green Rivers as well as lower Huntington Canyon and along the Price River.”
“Gambel’s quail in Washington County are down this year. Drought conditions reduced chick production. This is the worst year we have seen for production and overall numbers. Some broods of California quail have been spotted on WMAs but fewer than last season.”
“We conduct chukar surveys via trail cameras. We have seen a decline in chukars this year; not many broods have been captured on our camera surveys.”
“We generally see more quail in the northern portion of the state and along riparian corridors throughout the state. Good options are our wildlife management areas, such as the Pine Canyon or Ogden Bay WMAs. Check out our Wildlife Recreation Access interactive map for areas that are open for quail. Click the "Search/Filter" icon and choose quail as a species to highlight all of the areas to hunt quail. Also, see our guidebook for WMA special regulations.”
“For Gambel's quail, focus on areas with Joshua trees, dry washes and draws with black brush or desert almond. Also, look for Gambel’s quail in the brushy washes of western Washington county.
“California quail will be found in washes with water and brushy cover, with flowering and seedbearing plants nearby. As far as a tip to be most successful, trained bird dogs are always a huge asset.”
If You Go
The California and Gambel’s quail season runs Nov. 6–Dec. 31. It is preceded by a youth quail hunt Oct. 30–Nov. 1. Limit is 5 birds daily and 15 in possession (of either species or in aggregate).
There is no season on scaled quail.