“Our added winter moisture and active calling period led to a very long nesting and hatching season, starting in late April and extending into early summer, with chicks hatching as late as early July,” O’Dell said. “From a population standpoint, we are out of a deficit for the first time since 2001-2002. Quail are starting to pop up in places they haven’t been seen in a while. 

“If you’ve never had the chance to experience what Arizona quail hunting built its name on, then this would be the year to get out and enjoy it.”      

Meanwhile, hunters should note that the season for Mearns’ quail doesn’t begin until Dec. 4. It’s summer rainfall that plays a key role in nesting success and population numbers of this species. After a spotty and relatively weak monsoon across southern Arizona, these birds are likely to be abundant only in pockets that received sufficient precipitation this summer.       

A valid Arizona hunting or combination hunt and fish license is required for all hunters 10 and older. Those hunters under 10 must either have a valid hunting or combination hunt and fish license, or be accompanied by an adult who possesses a valid hunting or combination hunt and fish license. Licenses can be purchased online or at license dealers statewide. A youth combination hunt and fish 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 (when the Mearns’ season opens Dec. 4). 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 at https://www.azgfd.com/Hunting/. Another resource for both new and experienced hunters alike is “An Introduction to Hunting Arizona’s Small Game.” Written by Randall D. Babb, the 196-page, full-color book covers where and how to hunt small game birds (like quail), squirrels, rabbits, ducks and geese. It also includes how to prepare and cook your harvest, with illustrations and recipes. The book can be ordered for $16.95 at www.azgfd.gov/publications.

Finally, hunters should check out O’Dell’s techniques for field-dressing quail at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gRwZAcWzzk.   


Publishers Notes: OUT OF STATE HUNTERS, FISHERMEN & OUTDOOR ENTHUSIASTS; Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, there could be limitations for OUT of STATE hunters, fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts to include a 14-day quarantine requirement or negative COVID-19 testing alternative. Please check with the State's Department of Natural Resources BEFORE you travel or apply for the 2020 Fall Hunts.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed on this site are that of the authors and not necessarily that of TBC Press
North America Sportshows
Wyoming/South Dakota Elk Mountain Bighorn Sheep Sightability Study

Submitted by:  TBC Press
Posted on: 03/22/21
The Backcountry Press
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News # 14278
Garnering an accurate population estimate of this herd is vital to its management. Two methods have been tried with limited success:  A ground-based survey relying on radio-collared bighorns was developed as part of a graduate student project in 2013.  This method has produced estimates with very wide confidence intervals that limit its utility and completing the number of surveys needed each year has proved difficult.  In addition, securing access across private lands for data collection in Wyoming has become impossible without paid access agreements, and this technique requires ongoing radio-collaring efforts.  A forward-looking infrared (FLIR) survey was attempted in June 2018 to replace the ground-based survey.  However, the FLIR system was not able to effectively detect bighorns in the Black Hills.

We are now in the second year of the sightability project, and it has been much more successful than the first.  Last winter, we were only able to collar three ewes.  This was because the mild winter resulted in sheep quitting the bait site, seemingly every time we got ready to trap.  In addition, we did not have expandable collars and so could not collar rams. 

This winter, things were much improved.  After three successful drop netting efforts, we managed to get a total of 21 ewes and five rams “on air.”  Then, we were able to contract helicopter capture with Native Range Capture Services and, in short order, collar 12 more rams for a total of 38 collared bighorns.  We hope to deploy the last two collars by darting sheep as the opportunity presents itself.  Another bit of good news, disease testing of all the captured sheep to date has not revealed any significant concerns.  Although, we are still awaiting lab results from the 12 rams recently captured.

Next winter, we will begin model development and, hopefully, moving forward, have a new tool in our box to estimate sheep numbers in this part of the country.  That can’t come too soon, as we have struggled recently to get a good handle on the numbers of sheep in this population and how they are trending.  But, we still expect to continue with 100% hunter success in the coming year, success that has yielded some truly quality rams.


Publishers Notes: Our country is still battling COVID-19. To avoid the spread of this virus and continue to enjoy outdoor activities, ALL outdoor enthusiasts (man, woman, child) should follow the guidelines set by nps.gov. These guidelines include; social distancing, the Leave No Trace principles, including pack-in and pack-out, to keep outdoor spaces safe and healthy.

The Elk Mountain Bighorn Sheep herd resides on the Wyoming/South Dakota Stateline southeast of Newcastle, Wyoming, and has been managed jointly by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (Department) and South Dakota Game Fish & Parks for 18 years.  The Wyoming portion of the herd falls within Hunt Area 20, and the South Dakota side lies in South Dakota bighorn sheep hunt unit BH2.   This bighorn sheep herd has been hunted since 2008, and currently, six licenses are issued annually, with three any ram tags valid in South Dakota and three in Wyoming. 

The three-year Elk Mountain Bighorn Sheep Sightability Project aims to develop a helicopter-based model to estimate bighorn sheep numbers in the Black Hills, specifically on Elk Mountain.  The Department is conducting the study in tandem with South Dakota Game Fish & Parks.  It entails capture and very high frequency, or VHF radio-collaring of 40 bighorn sheep, disease testing of captured sheep, helicopter and ground-based surveys of sheep, and a model to estimate the population from a helicopter compensating for topographic and vegetative cover that results in sheep not being detected.