How to Hunt Quail
In late afternoon, they return to weedy areas to feed and roost. When hunting in a field, patience is often the key, especially when birds flush into thick grass.
"In this situation, old timers used to smoke a cigarette and wait them out," says Dailey, who recommends a healthier habit of chewing gum until the birds get nervous and move.
On public lands, however, where the hunting pressure is high, the birds may spend most of their time in the briars and woods. Quail like briars because of the open ground underneath, which allows them to move easily. Briars also offer protection from predators. The conventional wisdom, Dailey says, is to get a dog to run on the downwind side of a thick, brushy area. Birds in woody cover are often harder to hunt because they readily run to escape and it's difficult to get a clear shot.
Because birds like to hide in briars, hunters find themselves walking through a lot of them. Dailey wears chaps, which are cooler on hot days, to protect his legs. On cooler days he wears overall or brush pants.
Since a lot of quail hunting is done in wet, muddy fields, he wears rubber boots that are tight enough to remain on his feet when walking through deep mud. Avoid boots with thick, waffled soles like hiking boots, Dailey says, because you may end up carrying an extra pound or two of caked mud.
In Missouri, good quail habitat will support one bird per two acres. The Conservation Department has been managing some of its areas to support abundant quail populations. At Whetstone Creek Conservation Area in Callaway County, manager Scott Vance is working hard to bring about the plant diversity quail need. He and his staff are converting fields of fescue to annual weeds, legumes and native grasses that provide quail cover, as well as seeds and insects to eat.
The grasses, when managed properly, aren't as thick as fescue and allow the young birds to walk through the area easily. Unlike a typical farm, where the fields are about 60 acres and square, Whetstone has long, slender crop fields about 2 acres in size. This maximizes the amount of edge habitat that quail need.
The permittee farmers leave 15 to 20 percent of the crops in the fields for quail, songbirds and rodents to use as emergency winter food. Instead of planting annual food plots, Vance usually disks