Quail Hunting: Getting Started
because the dog will think it is being punished for coming to you.
The third point, repetition, is just that — repeating what has been learned until a dog’s response becomes a conditioned response, automatic.
An excellent reference on details concerning training bird dogs is Best Way to Train Your Gun Dog: The Delmar Smith Method, by the late Bill Tarrant. The book gives all the details you need to know concerning how to turn a pup into a skilled bird dog.
As always, the key to successful hunting is being where the game is. If you have ground that supports quail, and you have a bird dog that has been trained to find quail, hold points, come when called, and retrieve downed quail, you are in business. The hunting is simple. Put your dog on the ground and follow it. It is amazing how many quail hunters fail to do this. They spend much of a hunt blowing their whistle and giving their dog directions. Big mistake. Those hunters end up with a distracted dog. The dog’s job is to find birds. Give it the freedom to do so.
Once you find quail, it’s time for decisions. If a covey holds 15 birds or more, you should only take a few birds, but then leave the rest for next year’s breeding stock. Leaving enough birds in a covey also helps ensure that there are enough birds to bunch up and stay warm on a cold winter night.
If the ground is frozen hard on a day you plan to quail hunt, wait until midmorning so the ground has a chance to soften up. Frozen ground can injure a bird dog’s feet. Moreover, quail season is more than two months long. Bird dogs, like athletes, can suffer injuries from too much exertion. A two- to three-hour hunt is about right for a bird dog, particularly if it is hunted several days in a row. Make sure you feed your hunting partner quality dog food. If your dog shows signs of weight loss and stiffness, take a few days off. Serious quail hunters often own several dogs, so while resting one dog, they can hunt another. Yes, quail hunting can become an obsession; it’s that much fun. Bird dogs, like athletes, can suffer injuries from too much exertion. A two- to three-hour hunt is about right for a bird dog, particularly if it is hunted several days in a row.
Cleaning and Cooking
Quail are easy to clean. With poultry shears or a knife, cut off the wings, head, and feet. Starting at the head end, peel the skin and feathers down and off the carcass. Again, with poultry shears or a knife, cut all the way up the center of the back by starting at the vent and cutting upward. Open the back and remove the entrails. On a cutting board, lay the carcass on its back and with a sharp knife, cut down the center of the breast, lengthwise, along the breastbone or sternum. With poultry shears or scissors, finish separating the carcass into two halves by cutting through the bottom of the breastbone.
Clean each half carefully in cold water. Next to the ribs, thumb out the lungs that adhere there. At the top of each thigh, thumb out the kidneys. If any edible portions of the quail are bloodied or damaged by shot, trim off liberally. This leaves quail ready to cook.
Quail halves cook quickly and are great for frying or grilling.
To grill, season quail halves with your favorite dry rub or marinade. Place quail on a grill heated to medium high and grill for four or five minutes a side.
To fry, soak quail halves in milk, then coat with all-purpose flour well seasoned with seasoning salt and a little black pepper. Pan fry in one-third inch of canola oil, heated to 350 degrees, for seven to eight minutes on one side, and five or six minutes on the other side, or until both sides are browned. Drain on paper towels before serving.
Learn more about hunting quail and other upland game birds at mdc.mo.gov/node/3607. For more on quail management, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/3607.