Monday, February 4, 2013

A Cotton Tailed Quail Hunt.

North Side Foot Hills Of The  Santa Rita Mountain Range
 This entire quail hunting season I have been searching for a good area not to far from my house for Gamble's quail. There are quite a few articles about depicting the north side of the Santa Rita Mountains as a hot spot for quail hunting in Arizona, so I jumped on Google earth and went looking for some open land in that area. I found an area that looked promising. It had every thing good quail habitat should have. Plenty of open areas for them to run in, jagged canyons with flat sandy bottoms separating relatively flat plateau like areas with low berry bushes for food and shelter, and a lot of sparse grass, plus the added benefit of a couple of nearby (1-2 miles from where we were) high end neighborhoods with plenty of people that like to feed them. It was the perfect area to go check out so I called my son and set up a hunt for Saturday morning.



We left the house early enough to get out there well before the sun topped the hills. The area we stopped at had a large wash right next to it. We started to get our vests loaded up and ready for the hunt when I stopped to listen and hear a lot traffic noise. I looked in the direction of the noise and could see the headlights from the cars as they traveled along the main highway that we had left nearly a half hour ago! Without realizing it we had left the main dirt road and taken a small track that curved slightly back toward the highway. The only choice we had was to pack everything back up and go back up to the main dirt road and go find a new place a little further away from where we were. The next time I parked the truck twilight had taken hold of the surrounding mountains and illuminated a small valley that weaved in between two mountains. There were no homes or major roads anywhere so I felt good about hunting this area.

The morning was chilly, but not cold so we decided to head up to the nearest hills and then come back to the truck to drop off our jackets when it warmed up. With relatively sparse vegetation and flat ground the walking was easy for the most part. A few small washes cut across our path and we diligently searched them for any quail tracks and stopped often to listen for their tell tale song. We never saw even a track that could possibly be a quail and no quail let out any calls at all. What we did find were cotton tailed rabbits, and lots of them. One would flush out in front of us about every ten minutes or so. Finally my son asked asked what the laws were for shooting rabbits. He has been hunting with me several times now, but has not had the fortune of getting any birds so I think he may have been looking at this as an opportunity to get his first kill. I told him that Arizona has an open season on rabbits with a bag limit of ten per day, but, if he shot it he had to clean it and eat it because I am allergic to the fur. He just kind of grunted that he understood and kept right on walking beside and a little behind me. The next rabbit we saw flushed out in front of me and went bounding out across a wash and into a large bush. When I yelled out "Rabbit" Johny went on the prowl.

I had a good view of the bush from where I was and could see the rabbit move around inside it. I directed Johny where to push into the bush and he kept the rabbit tight to the back side of it. as he circled around trying to see inside the rabbit flushed out close to the top of the small canyon and Johny snapped his shotgun to his shoulder and fired. He kind of muttered to himself and looked at the ground. then he yelled over "I missed him."

I told him not to be so sure of that and go look around where he saw the rabbit run. The bush was about waist high on him at that point so I didn't actually see if he had hit the rabbit, I just had a hunch about it. a couple of seconds later i see him take aim and pull the trigger again. I watched him just kind of stand there for a moment looking at the ground before I yelled over "Was that him?"

Johny's reply came as a short swift "Yea! He was still alive"

Johny's First Kill.
I quickly crossed the small wash and found Johny still kind of just staring at the rabbit on the ground under a bush. I asked what was wrong and he complained about the bush having thorns, so I told him to grab a stick and pull it on out. When he finally got it out he held it up by the hind legs to get a good look at it. It was a smallish looking cotton tail, but had some Beautiful brown and tan markings on it. Johny was all smiles as he put his Very first kill in the game pouch on his vest, and we headed back to the truck to get rid of our jackets.

I tought him how to field strip and skin the rabbit out there so my wife wouldn't skin me for doing it at home. when we were all done I asked Johny when he was going to eat his game meat he grinned wickedly and said "I am going to cook him up for dinner one night at my dorm. Probably when there are a bunch of girls in the kitchen."

I just laughed and thought to myself  "I can't fault him for that, I would probably do the same thing."

We hunted for another couple of hours and flushed out a grand total of seven rabbits and zero quail. The Santa Rita Mountains skunked me again! I counted up the number of times I had searched for quail in these mountains and came up with eight attempts, and as we loaded the truck to leave I was confused as to how all of those stories could lead me to an empty game bag every time I came out here. I thought about it the whole way home and the only thing that I came up with was a two fold realization that the stories I had been reading were old, and why in the world would the authors give away the location of their quail honey hole? I have yet to find any quail within about an hour drive of my house. I guess I just need to travel to find them.

4 comments:

  1. Classic upland hunt. Good reaction and shooting.

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    1. Thanks Reverend. We had a really good time out there just the two of us, and that's what it's all about.

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  2. Great story; reminds me of my rabbit hunting days back in Mississippi. I do have to admit I would rather bird hunt. What type of quail is the Gamble quail? Enjoyed the post.

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    1. I am glad I could bring you some fond memories, Bill. As far as the Gamble's quail, It is one of three quail species native to Arizona, and the most common. I am going to have to do a post about them. Thanks for the great idea!

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