Fall Flush: Quail Season 2020
Enjoy Happy Hunting And Be Safe
December 1, 2020
Doug Burt - AZGFD Hunting/Shooting Sports Manager (R3)
Nothing says "Arizona" more than the desert quail. The iconic "topknot" of the Gambel's quail, and the distinguishable "ka-KAA-ka-ka" chorus of their calls are unmistakable. Not to mention the cartoonish way they run.
But to the hunter who has pursued them, they lose their cuteness quickly. That funny run through densely brushed desert, can be at times - infuriating. Pick one thing bird, either fly or run, not both. The cute call, well that just feels like being taunted and laughed at after you have chased, flushed, circled, hiked and shot and missed more times than you can count.
Oh no my friends - this is not dove hunting. This is an entirely different game. And I can't get enough of it.
But behold, there is nothing better than when a bird finally flushes on a path that allows you to mount the gun, track his flight and tap the trigger and see him fold and fall from the crisp fall blue sky after so many failed attempts.
To hold a male Gambel's in your hand after such a pursuit, sweat dripping from your brow, gasping for breath, is one to behold.
I wonder why I subject myself to this self-humiliation? Is it because they are so challenging or so delicious on the grill? No matter, the season opened in mid-October, and I'll be strapping up my boot laces tightly for another dose of humility and you should too.
Here is a snippet from the Arizona Game and Fish Departments on how the season is looking:
"We have enjoyed two consecutive winters with above-average precipitation. (snip)... All of the breeding call count surveys this spring were up - way up. All of the long-term quail survey routes in southern Arizona reported at being 1.5 to 2 times the recent 10-year average. These are numbers not seen since the 1990s.
"The newer routes in the central and northwestern portions of the state reported their highest numbers yet, with most being twice as high as what has been recorded in the past five years. (snip)... Taking everything into account, this will be a great season compared to what we have experienced in the last 15 or more years. (snip)... If you've never had the chance to experience what Arizona quail hunting built its name on, then this would be the year to get out and enjoy it."
For the full small game forecast, visit:
Where And How
Okay, if your heart isn't racing from that news, there's not much I can do for you. For those who are on the edge (beginners and experienced), I'll lay it out for you.
Find some open desert areas with washes, ditches, hills and intersections of differing terrains and plants and start hiking. If there's a water source, even better. What are "open desert areas" ? I look for State Trust Land, Bureau of Land Management and National Forest lands. There's tons out there. Use any of the modern mapping apps or software to find them.
Here are some jumping off points across the state:
• Florence / Oracle area
• Table Mesa / Seven Springs
• Superstition Mountains area
• Bagdad area
• Nearly all of southern Arizona
• Along lake and waterways in the desert elevations
Time To Go
I like first light, maybe a half hour or so after when birds are active, especially if it's a new area so I can hear them calling or better yet, see them moving about the landscape. But after that, I'll hunt them any time of day depending on my schedule and availability.
Look, listen then walk them up, which means pressure them to flush so you can get a shot. Zigzag back and forth across washes, kick your boots into the thick cover, and cover lots of ground. You'll find them and hopefully you're not too tired or relaxed to mount the gun fast enough to get a good shot.
Really, it's kind of that simple, your goal is to find the places they like to hang out and walk through it to cause them to flush. If you have a pointing dog, well, good for you.
For the authority on hunting quail and the rest of Arizona's small game animals, pick up the book An Introduction to Hunting Arizona's Small Game, by Randall D. Babb. Visit
If you were set for dove hunting you're already about there. Some additions and modifications to clothing and gear, but the basics are the same.
• Shotgun - any gauge, don't ask, the one you have is good - go.
• Ammo - 7 1/2s to 6s for quail, they are tougher than dove and in cover.
• Boots - you need some good boots; you'll be using them, leave your sneakers at home - the desert is thorny, spikey, rocky and steep.
• Vest - a lightweight and breathable vest for early season, pockets for 1-2 bottles of water, a snack, and room for lots of shells and your birds.
• Call - invest in a quail call, they are well worth it for locating birds after a covey flushes, Lohman makes a good wood call, with good tone.
• Water - hydration system, bottles, or your preference, but bring plenty.
• License - general hunting license (no stamps needed), youth combo, non resident, or short term - all available online.
• Stuff - hat, sunscreen, handkerchief, lip balm, sunglasses, multitool, knife, small first aid kit, camera, phone, etc.
For us in the Valley, the 100-degree temperatures have finally subsided, mornings and evenings are cooler and it's time to embrace the outdoors. Quail hunting is great exercise, challenging, and the birds cook up like nothing you've eaten before. The beautifully delicate white meat is sweet and sensational. You'll be proud to share your harvest with your family and friends.
And, if anyone is worried about those cute little birds, you just take them along with you on the hunt and 1.) see if they can keep up, and 2.) show them how the odds are in the favor of old Top Knot not you and your shotgun.
Happy hunting and be safe.
Doug Burt, office: (623) 236-7487, mobile: (602) 531-7578, firstname.lastname@example.org