Arizona Hunters Seeing
Good-Sized Quail Coveys
Experiences vary, but on the whole during opening weekend quail hunters reported seeing good-sized coveys of quail from the lower elevation desert areas to the mid-elevation ones, said Arizona Game and Fish Department officials.

The quail season opened October 12. Gambel's quail reproduction is keyed to good winter and spring rainfall. Arizona experienced near-record rainfall last winter, and then had fairly good spring rains throughout much of the state.

Small Game Supervisor Ron Engel-Wilson explained that because of a prolonged drought in the state, quail numbers were down significantly, resulting in a reduced carry-over population of breeding adult quail. "With a smaller base population, hunters will not see what we call a 'bumper crop' of quail out there."

Hunters can expect to see fair to good-sized coveys of quail with lots of young birds. The prime quail areas are typically from 3,500 to 4,500 feet in elevation. However, many hunters have reported finding nice coveys along desert washes and stock tanks as well.

"The key to finding desert quail is locating the water source, then hunting the washes and arroyos leading to that water. Also try major washes and the intervening ridges," advised Joe Janisch, Information Branch chief.

At two check stations in southern Arizona on Freeman Road and Willow Springs Road, hunters were checked representing 911 hunter days, with those hunters logging 3,773 hunter-hours.

The birds-per-day at the Willow Springs checkpoint was 3.1, which was the best seen there in seven years (the average over the years is 3.3 birds per day). On the Freeman Road checkpoint, hunters did not do as well — they averaged 2.4 birds per day, which was three times better than last year.

"Hunters were generally happy and had a good time — very few complained about a lack of birds, but rather, a lack of marksmanship," said Tucson Regional Game Specialist Jim Heffelfinger. He added that 80 percent of the birds checked at the two stations were juveniles. "That is a reflection of the low carry-over of adult birds from last year and a very, very good reproductive effort this spring. There are a lot of inexperienced birds out there in large coveys," Heffelfinger said.

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