Western Quail Odyssey

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By Scott Linden
 
What are the possibilities for a quail hunter to pull off a five species, six species, even seven species mixed bag super hunt in one day? At least one quail species needs to be part of the bag. Where and how could you pull this off?
 
When Rick Snipes’ setter pointed on the dry, wind-swept plains of west Texas, we stepped up and a dozen Texas scaled quail flushed. Rick’s 16-gauge Piotti barked twice, my 28-gauge CZ over/under echoed back and four blues tumbled. Rick’s red Labrador brought them in, and we dropped them into our growing bag of bobwhites and blues.
 
 Not to dive too deeply into philosophy here, but you’d have thought we could have focused on living-in-the-moment, especially that glorious moment. But of course not. Typical humans — or is typical American hunters a more accurate description? — we began relating past glories and plotting even more glorious future adventures.
 
“You ever take three species of quail in a day?” Mr. Snipes innocently asked. 
“Day? Heck, in one walk from the truck.”
 
“Arizona, right?” Snipes knows his quail habitat.
 
“But of course. Near Wilcox. Started in the grass with my old setter Sota sweeping the field, quartering 300 yards from Allen on the south to mark on the north. Back and forth, great loping strides, running for the sheer joy of being alive and able to do it. Then bam! Frozen in the middle of nowhere. Frozen in time. Head up. Tail high and flowing in the breeze. That extended suspense we live for, right?”
 
“Blues, of course?”
 
“Of course. You couldn’t have hidden a baby rattlesnake in that skimpy grass, but 14 blues managed to remain invisible until I nearly stepped on them. We got three, if I remember right.” 
 
“Where’d you find the Mearns’?” 
 
There was a ridge rising to the south with some oaks on it, so we swung over. Point again. This time Allen’s shorthair found them first. Harlequin covey. Only got a couple, but that was species number two.”
 
“And the Gambel’s?”
 
“Hit a low spot in the drainage coming off that ridge. Full of acacias, catclaws and palo verde. Some cholla. And you know that meant Gambel’s. Big flock doing its running thing, but the three of us knew the trick. We circled wide and came in from three angles, confusing them into holding for the points. Picked up a half dozen through that draw. And there you had it. Three quail species in one morning. You gotta love the West.”
 
Rick and I hunted another hour, taking full advantage of the quail bonanza record rains had fueled that year. And that fecundity soon inspired dreams of even greater abundance.
 
“What’s the most species you ever collected in a day?” I asked. 
 
I don’t remember exactly what Rick said because I was really, selfishly, creating an opening for bragging about my own past glories. “The most species I’ve ever taken in a day is six,” I boasted. When you’ve never made the varsity, never graduated top of your class, never won a Pulitzer or Olympic gold medal, you take your attaboys where you can. My “can” was hunting.
 
“Six! What the… Where can you get six species in one day?”
 
“South Dakota.”
 
“Let me see…” the tall man calculated. “Pheasants and prairie chickens, of course. And sharptails. That’s easy enough. But then what? Huns! I’ve gotten into Huns up there a few times. But what else?” 
“No Huns, actually. Bobwhites.”
 
“Quail in South Dakota?”
 
“Yup. Missouri River hills along the Nebraska border, mainly. I’ve seen them as far north as Pierre.” 
 
“But that’s still just four species.” 
“I have to cheat a bit on the other two. A cottontail and a fox squirrel. Got one of each.”
 
“Doesn’t count then! Gotta be all birds.”
 
“Ducks?” 
 
“No webbed feet.” 
 
“Then it’s four. Just missed five and could have been six… In Idaho. Got blue grouse, ruffed grouse, valley quail and Huns. Heard chukars calling from up in the rocks, but never quite reached them. And we flushed a pheasant that we couldn’t get a shot at. Isn’t that crazy? You could, conceivably, shoot six species of upland birds in one day. Heck, in one place. And those were all within walking distance on one another.”
 
Hmmmm. Are you thinking what we started thinking? What are the possibilities for a quail hunter to pull off a five species, six species, even seven species mixed bag super hunt in one day? At least one quail species needs to be part of the bag. Where and how could you pull this off?
 
As I’ve already explained, it’s possible in South Dakota and Idaho, but where else? Here’s a quick rundown of the potential, all west of the 101st meridian. Go west, young upland hunters, go west…
 

South Dakota

Bobwhite, Ringneck pheasant, Sharp-tailed grouse, Prairie chicken, Sage grouse (2-day season), Ruffed grouse, Chukar (escaped released birds), Gray partridge, Mourning dove, collared dove and Snipe.
 

Nebraska  

Bobwhite, Ringneck pheasant, Greater Prairie Chicken, Sharptailed Grouse, Huns (Gray partridge), Mourning Doves, white-winged doves, collared doves, Woodcock, Snipe and Rails.
 

Kansas

Bobwhite, Scaled quail, Ringneck pheasant, Greater prairie chicken, Mourning, white-winged, collared and ringed turtle doves, Snipe, Woodcock and Rails (Sora and Virginia).
 

Oklahoma

Bobwhite, Ringneck pheasant, Snipe, Woodcock, Rails (Sora and Virginia), Mourning, white-winged and collared doves.
 

Texas

Bobwhite, Scaled quail, Gambel’s quail, Pheasants, Chachalaca, Mourning, white-winged doves, Rails (Sora, Virginia, King, Clapper), Woodcock and Snipe.
 

Colorado

Bobwhite, Scaled quail, Gambel’s quail, Ringneck pheasant, Greater prairie chicken, Sharptailed grouse, Sage grouse, Dusky (blue) grouse, White-tailed ptarmigan, Chukar partridge, Snipe, Rails (Sora and Virginia), Mourning, white-winged and collared doves and Band-tailed pigeons.

New Mexico

Bobwhite, Scaled quail, Gambel’s quail, Montezuma (Mearns’) quail, Pheasant, Dusky (blue) grouse, Mourning, white-winged, collared dove, Band-tailed pigeon, Snipe and Rails (Sora and Virginia).
Arizona

Gambel’s quail, Scaled quail, Montezuma (Mearns') quail, Pheasant, Chukar, Dusky Grouse, Snipe, Mourning, white-winged, collared doves and Band-tailed pigeon.

Idaho

Bobwhite, Valley quail, Ringneck pheasant, Sage grouse, Sharp-tailed grouse, Dusky (blue) grouse, Ruffed grouse, Spruce grouse, Chukar, Gray Partridge, Mourning, collared doves and Snipes.

Washington

Bobwhite, Valley quail, Mountain quail, Ringneck pheasant, Chukar, Gray partridge, Sooty and dusky (blue) grouse, Ruffed grouse, Spruce grouse, Mourning, collared dove and Snipe.

Oregon

Valley quail, Mountain quail, Ringneck pheasant, Chukar, Gray partridge, Sage grouse (by limited permit only), Sooty and dusky (blue) grouse, Ruffed grouse, Mourning, collared doves, Band-tailed pigeon and Snipe.

California

Valley quail, Gambel’s quail, Mountain quail, Ringneck Pheasant, Chukar, Sage grouse, Sooty (blue) grouse, Ruffed grouse, White-tailed ptarmigan, Mourning, white-winged, collared, spotted, ringed turtle dove, Band-tailed pigeon and Snipe.

Nevada

Valley quail, Mountain quail, Gambel’s quail, Ringneck pheasant, Chukar, Gray partridge, Dusky and sooty (blue) grouse, Ruffed grouse, Sage grouse, Snowcock, Mourning, white-winged, collared dove and Snipe.

Utah

Valley quail, Gambel’s quail, Ringneck pheasant, Chukar, Gray partridge, Sage grouse, Sharp-tailed grouse, Dusky grouse, Ruffed grouse, White-tailed ptarmigan, Mourning, white-winged, collared doves, Band-tailed pigeon and Snipe.

Conclusion

Such is the potential of the American West, the only part of North America with the habitat diversity to support so many huntable, feathered species without webbed feet. We’re talking wild, free-range birds here, not pen-raised and released. This is an exploration of and expedition for Nature’s diversity. We are not out for title of Master Game Hog, but Master Collector, Master Appreciator of all our wonderful natural world makes possible. So lay your plans for the ultimate western bird hunting odyssey. Whether you get 10 species in a day or five in a week, it will enlarge your world and satisfy your soul.

Ready to get started planning a hunt? Begin with Quail Forever's Ulimate Hunt Planner!