How to Hunt Quail

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

provide quail a variety of seeds to eat throughout the year. On the other hand, a field of thick grass, such as fescue and switch grass, usually doesn't provide good hunting because it is too thick for quail to walk through and doesn't have the variety of food they need. If the field is overgrazed, it doesn't provide the quail with enough cover to make them feel safe.

Quail spend their mornings feeding on seeds in fields but move to woody cover by mid-morning to rest. Fields near woody draws, small wood lots and fence rows are good places to hunt because quail like cover near their feeding spots.

Once Dailey finds good quail habitat, his three dogs go to work. His pointers, Zeke and Tex, move across the field and cover lots of ground. His English setter, Pard, works close. This combination of dogs gives Dailey a better chance of finding birds. But even the best dogs won't find them all.

Studies in Missouri, Georgia and Florida using radio-collared quail showed that dogs usually find about half the birds. This doesn't mean the dogs aren't good. Many factors enter into a dog's ability to scent quail. In fact, it's not necessarily the quail they are smelling, but the bacteria on skin cells that the quail shed.

In moist, cool weather, the bacteria is abundant, and dogs can sniff out the birds more easily. Hot, dry weather shortens the life of bacteria and thus decreases the dogs' ability to find birds.

Because of this chemical interaction between a dog's nose and the skin cells, Dailey suspects that the best hunting times may be when the humidity is highest, such as in the morning and evening hours.

The chemicals in green vegetation also mask the scent of quail. That may be why many hunters prefer to hunt after a hard freeze has killed the summer vegetation.

Other times dogs seem to point quail when nothing is there. Unproductive points aren't necessarily a sign that your dog has made a mistake, Dailey says. It often means the birds were recently there and escaped by running or flushing wildly.

Strong wind can hinder a dog's ability to pinpoint quail and makes the birds flush wild. It also makes it harder for a hunter to give the dogs commands.

Normally quail sleep in weedy, grassy areas at night and remain in the field to feed until midday, when they move to woody cover.

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