Quail Hunting: Getting Started

Published on: Nov. 14, 2013

“Got a point over here!” your buddy yells. You round a bend and see, at the edge of a thick patch of woods, your friend’s pointer, stone still and tail high. A good shot is going to be tough. The angle of the pointer’s head indicates the quail are in a mass of wild plum, overhung by tree limbs and saplings. When the birds flush, they will likely fly deeper into the woods.

You walk in to flush the quail while your friend watches for birds along the edge. You lean over to avoid some low-hanging tree limbs, and that’s when the covey of 20 birds flushes in a whir of brown wings. You try to put shotgun to shoulder, but a limb grabs your left arm. By the time you shake yourself free, the birds are gone. Your buddy makes three shots as the entire covey flies deeper into the woods. He connects on two oak trees and a hickory sapling.

That’s quail hunting — often tough and sometimes frustrating. But when it comes together: a stylish point, a fine shot, a bird brought to hand by a well-trained dog — it’s hunting at its best. If you haven’t tried quail hunting, here’s what it takes.

Knowledge of the Bird

Missouri’s northern bobwhite quail have very specific habitat requirements. They thrive where the ground has been disturbed. Some fields of grain crops meet this requirement, as do fields that have been disked or burned and allowed to grow in native plants. These fields provide food for quail in the form of seeds and bugs, and open ground that allows young quail to walk around easily. The birds prefer small fields, ideally less than 20 acres, laced with brushy draws and surrounded by patches of woods, which offer quail places to rest, nest, and escape predators. There should also be roosting fields of knee-high vegetation, with little or no woody cover, nearby. If any of this variety is missing, an area will have few, if any, quail.

As with habitat, the daily habits of bobwhite are predictable. In fall, bobwhite form into groups called coveys. The number of birds in a covey is commonly 10 to 12 and can be as many as 30. In late evening, quail move to their roosting fields and arrange themselves in a tight bunch, tail to tail. This behavior helps quail conserve heat on cold

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