Quail Hunting Without Dogs

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Published on: Jan. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

dogs. I am lucky if I bird hunt a dozen times during the season, and it just isn't worth it to me to train, feed, confine and provide medical benefits to dogs year round for that amount of hunting.

And I guess I never really got used to hunting with dogs, since the opportunity to do so was so rare. I have encountered hunters with dogs who spend much of their time scolding, blowing a whistle at or searching for their dogs. If I want to spend the day trying to instill discipline in free spirits, I can stay at home with my two preschoolers.

I admit that my picture of a perfect hunt still includes three faithful pointers locked onto a covey erupting into a cold clear sky in a thinly-wooded landscape. But, in my experience, that perfect scenario recorded by so many wildlife artists is the exception rather than the rule.

Most of the time bird hunting without dogs is a lot of walking for a few difficult shots at speedy targets. You have to love it. You'll never justify the effort by the amount of poultry that you bring home. You have to enjoy toting a shotgun all day long, watching other wildlife that you encounter, investigating the progress of winter, getting away from your normal routine and just shooting enough birds for a meal for yourself and maybe one other person.

If you're the type of person who enjoys these experiences, I recommend stalking the wild quail. Don't let your lack of access to bird dogs deter you from enjoying this kind of hunting. Here are some tips for quail hunting without dogs that I have found useful:

Try to find places where hunting pressure is low. This will let you get familiar with ranges of particular coveys throughout the season. The birds will be less likely to flush before you get close enough to shoot if they haven't been hunted heavily. Heavy hunting pressure can change the birds' habits, even moving them off an area.

Watch for "roost piles," accumulated droppings that result from coveys' tail-to-tail circular roosting arrangement. Fresh roost piles often indicate good places to find birds early or late in the day. Lots of roost sites means a good place to hunt, even though you may not find birds on a given day.

Since you won't have the sense of smell to help you, make the best possible use

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