Arizona Road Trip: Gambel’s Quail

Patty and I booked our Arizona quail hunt with outfitter Don Lee of AZ Quail Guide and he in turn put us together with guide Patrick Flanagan of Border To Border Outfitters.  So far this hunt has earned high marks from both Patty and me!

(By the way, thanks Patrick for taking photos for this post while I was carrying a shotgun.)

Patrick brought eight of his dogs so Patty and I both would have plenty of professional help for the day.  Patrick knew the country and his dogs knew the quarry.

We saw our first covey of Gambel’s quail as the truck was rolling to a stop at our morning hunt site.  That bode well, I thought, for the hunt to come.  They scurried off into the mesquite and I had a big smile on my face while we got our gear and the dogs ready to hunt.

Patrick’s liver roan GSP Rita hit the ground first and she was ready to show Patty the ropes.  Patrick gave me the basic plan and all four of us headed off.  We saw red tailed hawks, harriers and a great horned owl.  We saw jack rabbits, cotton tails and even a group of javelina as we worked our way through the brush.

We never did see that first covey again but no worries, Rita was working hard and with purpose.  Patty was working too but until he got a good nose-full and learned exactly what we were hunting, he was less effective.

Gambel’s are runners and when Rita finally did find us a covey, Patrick had me close in as quickly as I safely could.  They’d already slipped away so he allowed Rita to re-position and we repeated the drill.

When the covey flushed, I should have been more ready but I was slow on the uptake.  I managed to get one shot off and one female dropped.  Rita was quick on the retrieve while Patty was watching the escapees.  I was very pleased with our first ever Gambel’s quail and first bird in Arizona too.

First time Gambel’s quail hunter.

Watching great working dogs work in some big country and having good company are two elements of a great day outside.  The kill isn’t the most important part but we were hunting after all and a little success felt pretty good.

We hunted the split up covey for a while with mixed results.  Rita pointed up a pair that split on the flush.  I spun on the bird on the left and managed to squeeze off a shot that dropped him just before he would have disappeared into the brush.  My second Gambel’s was a male with the rich rufous color on his head and a creamy yellow breast along with that signature deep black top knot.

Patty had his first point a few minutes later.  I walked in but there was no flush.  Thinking that it might be a false point, I released him and of course another pair popped up out of the grass in front of us.  I didn’t even get the gun up.

Patty’s first point on Gambel’s quail.

Patrick planned for us to hunt an area that was about a section in total.  We put up one other small covey and ran into quite a few more singles and pairs as we worked our way around the big pasture.  Rita continued to lead the way and found most of the birds but we had some strong points from Patty too.  Regardless, I never pulled the trigger again.  I was always either too slow or in the wrong position or, full disclosure, Patty, in his excitement and inexperience, ran over the pointed birds.

In the end, all was forgiven since it was our first hunt on wild Gambel’s quail.  I was pleased with two birds in the vest and even more pleased that Patty had gained experience on a new bird in a new environment.

Thanks Patrick and Rita!

Thanks Rita!

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