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Arizona Faces a Tough 2018 Quail Season as Season Gets Underway

Submitted by:  Backcountry Press Outdoor News 
Posted on: 10/22/18
News # -11931

Disclaimer:  The views expressed on this site are that of the authors and not necessarily that of TBC Press
When it comes to scaled quail, found mainly in Cochise and southern Graham counties, Zarlingo said populations have been hit hard by drought and habitat degradation from tree and shrub invasion into grassland areas. Local wildlife managers report poor call counts for scaled quail, so prospects for this season do not look good.

Meanwhile, hunters should note that the season for Mearns’ quail doesn’t begin until Dec. 7. Zarlingo said Cochise and southern Pima counties are the traditional strongholds for these birds, which favor oak-grassland or pine-grassland savannas. The outlook for this season is much better, as brood survival is predicated on timely monsoon rains.

“The summer monsoon moisture was good statewide, with rain falling throughout the summer,” Zarlingo said. “Without surveys associated with Mearns’ quail, we’re expecting a good year for brood production.”

The season for Gambel’s, scaled and California quail, which receives little hunting pressure and is found along the Little Colorado River drainage near Springerville, opens Friday, Oct. 19, and runs through Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. Mearns’ quail can be hunted starting Friday, Dec. 7, 2018, through Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019.

A valid Arizona hunting or combination license is required for all hunters 10 and older. Those hunters under 10 must either have a valid hunting or combination license, or be accompanied by an adult who possesses a valid hunting or combination license. Licenses can be purchased online or at license dealers statewide. A youth combination license (ages 10 to 17) is $5.

The general bag limit is 15 quail per day in the aggregate, of which no more than eight may be Mearns’ quail. The general possession limit is 45 quail in the aggregate after opening day, of which no more than 15 Gambel’s, scaled or California quail in the aggregate may be taken in any one day. After the opening of the Mearns’ season, the 45-quail possession limit may include 24 Mearns’ quail, of which no more than eight may be taken in any one day.

More quail-hunting information can be found on the department’s website

As a reminder, AZGFD still is accepting registration for hunters to participate in the Arizona Small Game Challenge, a new concept created in partnership with the Valley of the Sun Chapter of Quail Forever that highlights the state’s abundance of small game hunting opportunities.

The Arizona Small Game Challenge is comprised of four individual challenges — including a  Native Quail Challenge:

  • Desert (harvest five of seven): mourning dove, white-winged dove, Eurasian collared-dove, cottontail rabbit, Gambel’s quail, Mearns’ quail, scaled quail.
  • Mountain (harvest five of seven): Dusky (blue) grouse, chukar, band-tailed pigeon, cottontail rabbit, tree squirrel (Kaibab, Red, Abert’s).
  • Native Quail: Gambel’s quail, Mearns’ quail, scaled quail.
  • Upland Bird: Dusky (blue) grouse, chukar, Gambel’s quail, Mearns’ quail, scaled quail.    

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“The winter precipitation patterns (last year) were not good for Arizona’s desert quail (Gambel’s and scaled),” said Wade Zarlingo, small game program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Gambel’s quail spring call counts were 50 percent below our 10-year averages, meaning breeding activity was poor.

“We had good monsoon moisture throughout Arizona and habitat conditions to support chick development and survival. With poor winter rains and good monsoon moisture, we usually see very spread-out hatches with low brood survival for Gambel’s and scaled quail.”

So, where are the quail?

“Overall, desert quail numbers seem to be much lower than we typically see,” Zarlingo said. “Gambel’s quail are very widespread south of the Mogollon Rim, and there will be pockets where it will be possible to harvest a fair number of birds.

Those record-setting rains that soaked most of Arizona, including the Valley, over the first two weeks of October?

 If you’re an Arizona bird hunter, keep your fingers crossed there’s even more on the way over the next few months to help give quail populations a desperately needed boost in 2019-2020. 

As for the 2018-2019 season, which began Friday Oct 19, well below average might be the best way to describe statewide quail-hunting prospects. On second thought, it might be too kind.

Arizona Faces a Tough 2018 Quail Season as Season Gets Underway