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Quail Outlook

Quail Outlook: All Signs Point To Promising Season In 2023-24

Winter moisture improves overall brood survival for desert quail.

Arizona hunters know that timely rainfall is the key to giving quail populations a much-needed boost.

After a winter of above-average precipitation, which generated a springtime carpet of green vegetation that's necessary for desert quail reproduction, hunters might want to carry a few extra shotgun shells when the season opens Friday, Oct. 13.

A Great Year!

"This should be a great year to chase Gambel's quail," said Dr. Larisa Harding, small game program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "It's a plus that so many young quail were seen on the ground this spring, with significant winter precipitation that created a lush green-up that quail are so dependent on.

"The winter rains that induced breeding activity should translate into higher Gambel's numbers come harvest season."

Meanwhile, hunters should note that the season for Mearns' quail doesn't begin until December 1. It's summer rainfall that plays a key role in nesting success and population numbers of this species. After a spotty and relatively weak monsoon across southern Arizona, these birds are likely to be found only in pockets that received sufficient precipitation this summer.

Valid License Required

A valid Arizona hunting or combination hunt and fish license is required for all hunters 10 and older. Those hunters under 10 must either have a valid hunting or combination hunt and fish license, or be accompanied by an adult who possesses a valid hunting or combination hunt and fish license. Licenses can be purchased online or at license dealers statewide. A youth combination hunt and fish license (ages 10 to 17) is $5.

The general bag limit is 15 quail per day in the aggregate, of which no more than eight may be Mearns' quail (when the Mearns' season opens Dec. 1). The general possession limit is 45 quail in the aggregate after opening day, of which no more than 15 Gambel's, scaled or California quail in the aggregate may be taken in any one day. After the opening of the Mearns' season, the 45-quail possession limit may include 24 Mearns' quail, of which no more than eight may be taken in any one day.

Attention, Southern Arizona Quail Hunters

Recovery efforts for the endangered masked bobwhite quail continue in southern Arizona. Captive breeding and reintroductions have been successful in and around the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. As a result, game management units 36A, 36B and 36C have recently been occupied by the endangered masked bobwhite quail.

As with all hunted wildlife, each hunter is legally liable and responsible for knowing their target before shooting. While Gambel's quail and scaled quail are notably different, Mearns' quail and masked bobwhite quail share similarities in appearance and behavior. It could be difficult to determine the difference between these two species when flushed.

Protected: Masked Bobwhite Quail

While the Gambel's, scaled and Mearns' species are legal to take, per the "2023-2024 Arizona Hunting Regulations," the masked bobwhite quail is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. Killing a masked bobwhite quail is a violation of A.R.S 17.309.A.10 and could result in license revocation (A.R.S. 17-340), a minimum civil assessment of $8,000 (A.R.S. 17-314) and additional federal fines, fees and jail time. Know your target.

Visit https://www.azgfd.com/2023/10/11/southern-arizona-quail-hunters-know-your-target/ to open a flier that details how to identify the four quail species, as well as a map that shows where masked bobwhites are potentially present.


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