How to prepare for a Quail Hunt

Words by Jan G Roosenburg

November 01, 2022

How to prepare for a Quail Hunt

There are different types of Quail and different ways to hunt them. We will limit ourselves here to Bobwhite Quail, which is considered the king of Quail and the most pursued bird in the USA.

Where To Find Bobwhite Quail

They used to be very common in many areas, from Southern Mexico to Massachusetts and all the way to the Rockies. Now they are mainly encountered in the wild in some areas of the South East and in Texas.

The main culprit for this has been changing agricultural methods by using insecticides. Insects are vital to a Quail chick, it is all they can eat the first two weeks of their life. Another major impact on the Quail population has been the arrival of the Imported Red Fire Ant from South America, which arrived by boat in Tampa, FL and are very good at walking and reproducing. Unfortunately, we do not have ant eaters and our birds do not eat them. Our best hope is probably the much-maligned Armadillo which have ants in their diet, although not yet this variety. Lastly, the population growth of natural enemies such as hawks, bobcats, foxes and egg-eaters such as snakes, crows and raccoons also make the life of a ground nesting quail not easy.

So, when you go to pursue the wily King Bob, as he is endearingly named, there are three possibilities; a. Wild birds, this is almost purely possible on private plantations in the South East and private ranches in Texas b. early released birds, this means releasing the birds a couple of months before the hunting season opens. This gives them time to learn to covey up. This is mainly practiced by clubs for their members. c. Release birds, also called put birds, that will be released in the field the day of the hunt, which is the most common way to hunt bobwhite quail.

What To Wear On A Quail Hunt

We start with wearing the right gear. Blaze orange is a definite requirement. A good quality shirt in the fall or early spring, with a jacket over it in December and January, both with blaze orange on the shoulders and arms. One often hunts in tall grasses, that is why it is important to be able to see each other. A blaze orange cap is also a must. Brush pants reinforced on the lower half and often on the front of the thigh are a very good idea, the cover can be full of brambles or other plants with needles or sticky stuff. A strong pair of rubber shooting boots and on warmer days, when snakes may be about, a pair of walking boots with turtle skin gaiters.

When Is Quail Hunting Season?

The season varies by state and depends on whether you are hunting public land, private land or on a preserve, but as a general rule one can use mid-October to early March. Later than this is not a good idea as the birds start to mold and they start pairing up to produce chicks for next season.

What Is The Best Shot Size For Bobwhite Quail?

You need a license, again depending on the type of property and the state they vary. Most properties require no guns bigger than 20 gauge. I prefer to shoot a 28 gauge with 28” barrels and improved cylinder choke, with good quality 28 gram 7 1/2 shells.

Of course, what works for me is not necessarily what works for you, but whatever you want to use, take the gun to a patterning board and try out four or so different brands of shells. Even though they will have the same specifications, they will throw different patterns. Where I shoot Quail we do not allow .410 guns to be used. The reason for this is that we found that too many birds were getting wounded but not killed. This is not a strict rule and many places will allow them. 12 Gauge is not a great caliber to use on Quail.

Next I will get into the actual hunt.