We are fortunate to have many different things to hunt here in California. If you love to hunt and love being in the Sierras (two of my favorite things in the world), you can actually hunt quails and deer in the same day. That’s a hunter’s dream!
While grouse are excellent eating (and also in season), they often take a bit more work. After a long morning stalking deer, the last thing you probably want to do is hike some more. So, that’s why I like to hunt quail when I’m deer hunting. I see them all over the place, and like deer, they are usually found near water sources. It’s like a two for one deal that’s almost impossible to pass up—at least for me.
In California, we have three different types of quail. The first (and smallest) is the gambel’s quail which is usually found in the southwest deserts. Next comes the California quail (usually called valley quail), which is slightly bigger than the gambel’s quail, and quite abundant throughout the state. But if you like more bang for your buck, head to the mountains to find the mountain quail. These beautiful and delicious birds are quite a bit larger than the valley quail and bigger means a bigger target and slower flying than the rest, which is great if you’re not the best shot.
Mountain quail, like all quail, prefer thick cover and are usually never found more than a mile away from water. The best time to find them is early in the morning after they feed or right before dusk ( just like deer). The best place to find them is in brushy areas that you can’t easily walk through and that you can see over the top, like manzanita and buckbrush. Unlike the other two species, the male and female look alike. They are bluish/gray with a white chest and are easily distinguished by the black plume on top of their head. They love to run along from cover to cover and love to run up hills to escape danger. You will almost always find quail around water and berries. If you find both, chances are good that there are quail hidden in the brush.
Of course, you don’t have to be a deer hunter to hunt quail. If you venture into the Sierras anytime, you are apt to spot quail running across the path. Mountain quail season opens up the second Saturday in September and runs through the last Sunday in January. Mountain quail opens up a month before the general quail season and that’s another plus.
If you choose to take your shotgun with you this deer season, you will have the added bonus of being able to hunt quail (and grouse) too. A 20 gauge is a great gun for quail. As I said earlier, I always spot quail on my way to my deer hunting spot so I already have an idea of where they’re at. Quail usually go back to the same place and don’t venture too far from that spot. If you don’t want to do a morning and evening deer hunt and want to break it up a little, take a morning or evening off and go for quail. It offers a different hunting opportunity and gives the deer a break so they settle down and don’t feel as much pressure. Done intelligently, you have pretty good odds of filling up the freezer with both.
Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons