By James Elledge
February 14, 2018 - When quail is mentioned, most people immediately think of the bobwhite quail. In fact, the phrase “I’m going quail hunting” typically leads most folks to believe it’s hunting for bobwhites. Well, we went quail hunting last weekend in west Texas and let me tell you – it’s a lot different than your typical quail hunting.
First off, when they flush, they fly at least 200 yards! They covey up, sure, but once you flush them, they scatter immediately. If you don’t get on them fast, or even if you do, they will be out of shooting range. At that point, it’s time to walk up the side of a hill (more like a mountain) through some rough terrain to chase a single. The next challenge is the fact that blue quail love to run. In fact, they would rather run to escape a predator than fly. So, if you’re chasing after a bird, you better get a move on and be ready to shoot at any moment. That tried and true method of sauntering up to a covey of bobwhites in a line is largely irrelevant with these desert-dwelling birds. We set out from Austin on Thursday, February 8 for Alpine, Texas with the mission of harvesting scaled quail – otherwise known as blue quail, blues or scalies. The plan was to hunt the Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) and we had The Noble Lab guys with us to film and take still shots. We camped out under the bright stars of west Texas -- or far west Texas as they like to call it out there -- and woke up excited to get after some birds. We knew it was different terrain, and that they are wild birds on public land, but we soon found out why few hunters go after scaled quail.
It was certainly a gratifying feeling once we finally shot our first blue quail on the WMA. Our pointer did a great job on the point, and even though it flushed pretty far up the side of the hill, we were able to get close enough on the second run to get a good shot off. On our way out of the WMA, we stopped at the hunter registration hut and tore off the left wing of the birds to put in the wing collection survey box. We had earned our grub that day, so we went back into town and treated ourselves to a couple draft beers and a bison burger.
Scaled quail populations are healthy. In west Texas, hunting has not been a negative factor as it relates to quail survival rates. In fact, hunting scaled quail can positively affect the population in large part because they can be prolific breeders. Researchers have found that hunting quail results in “compensatory mortality” – in other words, hunting mortalities substitute for natural mortalities that would have occurred anyway. Once an individual bird has been removed from the population, there are more resources (food and water) available to the remaining birds, thus increasing the likelihood of their survival.
The scaled quail can be frustrating to chase, but it is so much more rewarding once you harvest one. I would encourage anyone who enjoys wingshooting to plan a trip to get after some blues!
Have questions/comments about hunting scaled quail? Leave them below! We’d love to hear from you.
– James & the Duck Camp Team