shrubs. I walked up and—thanks to her orange collar—found her on point in the middle of a blackberry patch. I winced as I walked in, my hunting chaps being no match for the sharp thorns. I shuffled my feet but nothing happened. There we no birds and I endured even more pain as I exited the blackberries.
After I released Babe, she continued to work up the woody draw another 40 yards. Her wagging tail was a good sign that she was still on to something. The other two dogs joined in, also excited.
When they reached the end of the draw, all three dogs froze on a patch of ragweed and annual lespedeza. As soon as I moved in, a whirlwind of fluttering wings enveloped me as about 15 bobwhites flushed.
I regained my composure quickly enough to point my 20-gauge on a single bird as it flew along the woody draw. I saw a puff of feathers after I squeezed the trigger. Gretchen fetched the bird, a beautiful bobwhite rooster. I was happy for her. She was more than 13 years old and would soon be limited to house duty. The successful retrieve was like a retirement gift for her.
I hunted the rest of the day in places where we had found coveys on opening day and ventured into unexplored parts of the conservation area. Even though I didn’t find the other coveys, I did find small white piles of droppings where the birds had roosted. In other words, the quail just didn’t happen to be in the places we looked for them. The dogs worked well, though, and we had a pleasant hunt.
Quail Hunting Tips
Quail Emphasis Areas and many other conservation areas support good quail populations, but finding birds can still be a challenge. The abundance of good habitat actually provides quail plenty of places to hide from hunters and dogs. As the season progresses the birds only become more elusive and harder to find.
A research project in Missouri and the southeast U.S. placed radio collars on hundreds of quail to find out what bobwhites do when approached by hunters and bird dogs. They found that hunters and bird dogs missed about half the coveys on an area.
Where did the quail go? In some cases the birds flushed or ran away from the hunters and dogs before they could be spotted. Other times the dogs and hunters simply walked past the hiding covey. In a few instances the dogs pointed the coveys, but the quail never flushed and eventually the hunters and dogs moved past them.
The study also found that coveys learned during the hunting season to run or flush way ahead of approaching hunters or dogs.
A good tip to remember when quail hunting is that these birds rarely venture more than 70 feet from woody cover during the winter. Try to hunt in areas with good shrubby or low-growing woody cover such as blackberry and plum thickets or edge feathering. Don’t be surprised if a covey you found early in the season isn’t in the same place later in the year. Coveys that are frequently disturbed will often move to a different location to avoid being detected.
Another tip is to limit the amount of noise you make when hunting, especially late in the season. Also consider hunting a different part of a conservation area or try to think of places where most hunters may not venture. Because upland game hunters spend a majority of the time in dense shrubby cover and tall grasses, make sure you wear a hat and coat with hunter orange.
Quail Emphasis Areas
Most Quail Emphasis Areas are subject to statewide regulations for quail hunting. A few areas have some hunting restrictions in order to protect the quail population from heavy hunting pressure, but first check the Wildlife Code for any restrictions. For additional information on Quail Emphasis Areas, call the phone numbers for the areas shown below, or visit the links listed below.