We were on a small flat area about two thirds of the way up a small mountain range just below where the road slipped into the saddle between two buttes before heading down the other side. We were not hearing any quail calling, so Tim and I decided to head up hill and out of the low mesquite and palo verde trees to get the lay of the land and make sure we were in a safe place to hunt. We found ourselves standing next to a monolithic red edifice that rose another 1000 feet above our heads. This small range of rugged volcanic mountains swept steeply down into a flat desert plane below. From our vantage point we could see the entire valley spread out before us in a magnificent hodge-podge of saguaro, prickly pear, small thorn bushes, and low desert trees. Every so often a cholla cactus would poke its yellowish arms out of the shrubbery in a sadistically inviting wave. Our view stretched all the way out to the next range of low craggy mountains some thirty miles to the west of where we were without even the hint of building in sight. Perfect quail habitat was laid out before us as far as we could see and we smiled to each other in anticipation.
This was a new area for both of us so we started out just kind of wandering around and getting a feel for what was around. This lasted for about an hour when I decided to stop and take a drink of water. In the pause I heard the soft chatter of quail. I turned silently towards them and slowly started to make my way closer. Tim saw me creeping in with my head cocked to one side and said "what are you doing?"
I quietly replied "don't you hear the quail clucking to each other?"
The rather dismissive reply came in the form of "Those aren't qua..." KABLOWEE!
My shot missed and the quail disappeared around a tree leaving me a bit frustrated. when I looked at Tim I saw the complete look of dumbfounded shock on his face and almost lost myself in laughter. He is the more experienced hunter and had no idea what sounds quail make other then the "CHI-CAAAA-GO" when they are trying to locate each other. After I quit laughing at him I said "Now you know." and started walking in the direction the quail flew.
It didn't take long at all before we were hearing the quail chattering away again. With cocked heads and slow quiet walking we both started to chase after some more birds and got separated by about 30 yards or so. we kind of kept pace and went in the same direction so when the second bird flushed almost directly out in front of me I didn't hesitate to pull the trigger. I watched the quail fold and hit the ground, but before I even lowered my gun that thing was running for the trees and I was calking my gun again. The second shot missed and that bird was gone. I looked for that poor little quail for about fifteen minutes before I finally gave up. I heard the report of Tim's shotgun and decided to go over and see if he got one.
|The Two I Got|
The rest of the morning went about the same way. Whether Tim and I were together or apart made no difference we would get close enough to see the birds and they would vanish without a trace. We were on these ghost birds all morning long, but only managed to bag three of them. I got two and Tim got one. These quail just seemed to stay on the ground far enough ahead of us that we never caught up. Or they held tight and never flushed out for us. Even though we didn't bag that many birds, the action was constant and fast paced, and we both learned a lot about our quarry and how to hunt them. This was one of my favorite days in the field so far and I can't wait to get back out to this area again!