Quail hunting is one of the best experiences you can have. There are few hunts where you can be consistently surprised as you will be when hunting the Bobwhite Quail.
The thrill of busting birds never seems to dull even with years of experience hunting them.
There is something special about busting a covey of quail from a fencerow or the short grass just feet in front of you where you could not have possibly thought that many birds were hunkering down.
Your first few coveys might startle you so much you do not even get the gun up in time.
It is a wonderful experience!
If you are reading this article, I hope you get the opportunity to witness the flurry of a dozen quail launching into the air in front of you.
Not only is it a great opportunity to build bonds with your hunting partners, but also quail meat is fantastic.
If you can find an area that has a decent quail population, you might just find yourself a new hunting addiction.
I had the good fortune of being able to hunt quail in my earlier years when they were still prevalent. I still daydream about the quail hunts my father and grandfather talk about in their youth.
In this article, we want to take a look at how to prep and go about finding and hunting these upland birds.
Whether you are a beginner or have experience under your belt, we hope this article provides a clear and comprehensive guide on how to go about finding and hunting them effectively.
Something to keep in mind that hunting quail has a lot of similarities to pheasant hunting.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, where Trek Warrior makes a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Quail Hunting Gear
One of the great aspects of quail hunting is the simplicity of the gear. You have your gun and ammunition. That is all it takes. Now, some additional pieces of equipment, especially specific clothing, can make hunting much more enjoyable.
Quail Hunting Guns
For hunting quail as with any other upland bird, the shotgun is the law of the land. As for a particular gauge, just go with what you have or what you prefer. The 12-, 20-, and 28-gauge are all sufficient for quail.
Another choice you have for a shotgun is the type of action. Semi-auto, pump, and double barrel break down models can all be successful in the quail fields.
If you notice, most upland bird hunters prefer double barrel shotguns, either side by sides or over/unders.
There are several advantages to these types of shotguns when it comes to hunting quail. First, they are lighter than semi-autos and pump shotguns. This reduced weight might not feel like much when just handling the gun in the store or beside your truck.
However, when you are carrying it around for miles a day chasing birds, this reduced weight can make a huge difference. The lighter weight reduces fatigue and makes you a more alert and diligent hunter.
The second advantage double barrel models provide is that you can customize your choke pattern as well as the type of load that you can use per barrel.
What really matters is the size and type of shotshell and your choke pattern.
Quail are not big birds and do not take a whole lot of lead and power to bring down. Now, how far out birds will be flushing is different scenario and calls for different loads.
Normally, the shots you take for quail are going to be in the 15 to 30-yard range. You might get some tight holding birds flushing closer and you may have some skittish birds busting further out.
There is not a definitive answer for the best load to use for quail.
Every hunter has their preference. This again is where having two barrels can come in handy.
It's a good idea to have a way to carry plenty of shells on you.
A shell bag that you can wear at your waist is a perfect solution if you don't have a vest.
For those hunters who enjoy sitting around the truck talking about strategy as much as they enjoy the actual hunting playing around with different loads eventually puts you in the sweet spot.
On the other hand, some hunters might just want to stick with one type and be done with it.
You never know until you get in the field how the birds are behaving. You can usually count on a 1 and 11/8 ounce 8 or 71/2 shot to work just fine with the 12 gauge.
As you gain some experience and see how birds are flying, you can always adjust. These loads are more than enough to take down quail. They also do not devastate the bird, which is important if you plan on some fine dining—which I highly recommend.
For chokes, the best all-around choke is light modified to modified. It is still open enough for close range shooting when birds are holding and can reach out far enough for wary birds late in the season.
This is where an over/under really changes the game as you can go with a more open choke in the first barrel and then switch to a tighter pattern that can reach out further on the second shot.
With this type of setup, a more open choke can be used such as an improved cylinder and the second choke a light modified to modified.
It is up to you since you know your shooting skills and limits. I have seen many hunters go with improved modified and full on their second choke then reach out and drop birds at a good distance.
Quail Hunting Vests
While not necessary to hunt quail, a quality hunting vest makes your life a lot easier.
It provides you a lot more storage for personal items as well as a convenient way to store your shot shells and your birds.
Many options are available in a wide price range.
As with most gear, you are going to pay for quality.
Some of the cheaper starter vests work just fine too. They also vary in storage capacity and material.
If you are hunting in warmer environments early in the season, you might want a light material or even a vest with mesh.
We recommend Gamehide and also Primos for upland bird hunting vests that give you many options to fit your hunting preferences.
While hunting, you will find yourself in some prickly situations trying to flush birds, especially when they are holding tight.
In addition, when you do not have a dog, you might be the unlucky partner who has to play the part of the bird dog.
It is a good move to invest in a pair of briar or brush pants for that added protection around your legs.
They can be a lifesaver and make wading through that junk much easier. Carhartt makes a double front utility pant that holds up perfectly to briars and whatever else you might run across.
A day hunting quail can easily turn into a day with a dozen miles logged. Good hunting boots can be a godsend in the field. It also helps to have them broken in before heading out.
Having boots that have decent soles and are lightweight are optimal. But remember, the main thing is to be comfortable!
Other variables that might influence the type of boots you purchase include when and where you are hunting.
You might want waterproof boots, boots that have some better thermal properties or boots that are breathable.
In addition, a decent pair of socks improves your condition. Sore feet are the biggest reason for hunts ending prematurely. Merino wool socks can help keep your feet dry and blister free.
Quail Hunting Tips
The absolute best area to find quail is in natural grass fields with vegetation such as native grasses and weeds.
Another good place is in more woody vegetation that provides a little extra cover. This type of field is going to provide some cover for the birds, a lot of natural seeds, and insects that quail like to feed on.
As you can imagine, quail do not have many natural defenses. Because of this, they need quite a bit of cover.
If you have located several fields that look promising, hit overgrown fencerows or natural hedgerows that line these fields. These are great places for holding coveys.
Additionally, drainage ditches are natural travel lanes for birds as they move from feeding to roosting areas.
We will talk a little more about travel lanes in the next section. Quail especially like woody cover, and unfortunately, this often involves briars. Be sure you have your brush pants.
You should also be mindful of working transition areas. While the areas we specified above normally are in these transition areas, even changes from wooded areas to fields will often hold quail.
Woody draws near open fields are a great place to look for birds, especially in mid-morning and mid-afternoon hunts.
Finally, always be mindful of where there is adequate water, especially when in dry spells. Quail get a lot of moisture from the seeds that they feed on.
When it is particularly dry, you are more likely to find birds around areas where there is a consistent water supply.
The truth is, with the decline in suitable habitat you might find yourself struggling to find decent quail populations. If quail populations are still thriving in your part of the world, consider yourself lucky and do not take it for granted.
It might take some scouting around your area to find good chunks of land that hold quail. With states and other institutions looking to improve land for quail, you might have some success there, but be sure to check regulations.
The regulations might be strict in some areas. Do not be sheepish to ask landowners for permission to hunt their fields as it might turn into some quality hunting. With some courtesy, you might be surprised how many do not mind.
If this is the case, be sure to hunt responsibly, offer the owner some game, and pick up after yourself, including empty shells. It's like visiting their home; be polite.
It might also be practical to check out some hunting reserves in the area. Though you might have to pay a little more for the chance to bust birds, you are likely to get in some shots. Most reserves raise birds to be as close to their natural habitat as possible.
Right Place at the Right Time
You have an idea of the type of structure and areas that quail love to hang out in, but they are not going to sit in the same place all day.
As the day wears on and depending on the weather, quail move from area to area. Understanding this movement increases your chances of finding some birds.
Quail are going to be most active in those first few hours of sunlight when they come off the roost and begin to feed.
Having a field already scouted and hitting it at this time is your best chance for bagging birds. Around midday, the quail are not going to be feeding. Working open fields is not going to be the best option.
It is during this time that heavier cover might yield more results especially in poor weather conditions or heavily hunted birds. Hit that cover and especially transition areas that are near feeding fields.
Near late afternoon, the birds will become a little more active with feeding and those weedy fields are going to be more promising.
Check The Weather
Like most hunting, the weather affects how the birds behave. In some cases, their movements in response to weather might be anecdotal.
Often, predicting their movements during certain weather patterns is based on old hunter's sayings; though we do tend to put some stock into those for good reason.
Generally, quail are going to be more active on cooler, overcast days than they would on hot, humid days or uncomfortably cold days.
It does not mean that you cannot hunt them effectively on those days, but your tactics must change.
When the quail are not active, focus more on hitting heavy cover where they might be holding versus more moderate temperature days where they will be actively feeding.
Hunt Into The Wind
Like most hunting situations, for quail, you want to be downwind of the birds. Not so that they do not catch scent of you, but because it is helpful to your dog.
It will help him catch wind of birds earlier and give you more time to be ready for a shot. It also helps put a little resistance against the birds when they take flight. Quail also rely on hearing a predator approaching to escape.
Hunting with the wind in your face reduces their ability to hear you earlier. Though it may not slow them dramatically, you should take every available advantage.
Quail have a tendency to flush when you are least expecting them. This is especially true if you are not hunting with a dog that can point them out and flush them when you give the signal.
While it is entertaining to watch your buddy fumble around when birds flush right under his nose, in the end, it is a lot of wasted energy to not get off a well-placed shot. Always have your gun in a position where you can quickly swing it up and get off a clean shot.
Always remember to practice safe firearm use.
Taking A Shot
It is quite disheartening when you jump a big covey and come away with nothing. I think the biggest mistake quail hunters make and the biggest reason for missed birds is not keying in on one specific bird and instead, taking shots at the entire covey.
A busted covey can be exciting, even for more experienced hunters. When you see fifteen birds flush in front of you, it is hard not to just shoot towards the middle of them.
You have to be quick, and it takes practice, but over time you will become much more efficient at picking out a single bird, aiming, and putting some lead in the right spot.
Also, though we should not have to say it, be mindful of the other hunters around you and especially the dogs. Never take a shot at a running or low flying bird with dogs around.
Give The Covey A Break
Unfortunately, as we have discussed, there are areas of the country where the quail population is at its lowest point since we have been monitoring.
While there is a lot of hope of its restoration thanks to universities and other non-profits, there are still areas where the population is hurting. We hope that you are mindful of this.
It can be extremely tempting to keep chasing after a flushed covey. The problem is, if you take out six birds in a covey of twelve, you have drastically hurt the chance of survival for the remaining birds.
Once a covey has been flushed, you can watch for where they land. Often you will begin singling out individual birds. Historically, this is how hunting is done and is part of the process.
I am not going to sit and tell you how you should hunt. Once the covey is busted you may want to chase after singles. Go for it but keep in mind our duty to help the quail population as well.
Declining Quail Population
As hunters, we must hold ourselves responsible for protecting the environment and making sure that animal populations will still be around for generations to come.
Unfortunately, many areas, particularly the Southeast, have seen a drastic decrease in the number of Bobwhite Quail for the past two decades.
Increased numbers of predators and changing farming practices have reduced wild quail numbers to dangerously low levels in some areas.
Luckily, some areas of the country still have excellent quail populations. Several institutions and government agencies are pushing to provide better habitat management policies and bring back the bobwhite quail.
My intention for this article is not only to provide those looking to learn more about the sport with useful information to hunt, but also to educate on the status of these birds.
Quail are unique and intriguing birds that are rewarding to hunt and also serve as wonderful table fare. Hunt responsibly and always keep their well-being in the back of your mind.
The best thing you can do to help restore these birds, and in turn provide better hunting, is to support your local institutions that are working to restore their habitat. We want our future generations to be able to enjoy the thrill of hunting as we have.
Huston has spent over 18 years chasing trout, deer, turkey, and game birds across the Southeast and Midwest United States.
As the founder of Discovery & Learning Writing Service, he enjoys helping businesses generate trustworthy and quality material in the outdoor, science, and education fields.
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