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Gambel's Hen

The crack of the 20 gauge split the morning silence and as I gathered the plump Gambel’s hen, I could not help but smile. Normally when tromping through the desert I like to have the heavier 12 gauge which I know has a little more “umff” and, when the birds are spooking farther, can really prove advantageous. Since my decision was last minute, I was out of shells for the 12 and decided to take the smaller 20 gauge for which I had a few more boxes laying around. The 20 gauge is a Mossberg 500CT and will never win any beauty contests. Whenever I show up to hunt with some buddies, it always raises a few eyebrows and looks of disdain. Sure it has more than a few nicks and scratches and sure after every use I have to tighten up the stock so it stops wiggling, but this shotgun has sentimental value, as most older “well loved” guns often do. This particular scattergun used to be my grandfather’s who I am guessing put most of the signs of use into the gun. It was passed to my father who ultimately passed it on to me. Every once in a while, like yesterday, it is nice to break out a classic and go hunt some birds.


The weather held cool and sunny and made for perfect walking weather. Early in the morning, I hunted several large coveys and pulled a couple birds from these groups. These large coveys were scattering far ahead of me and took some stealth to get into a respectable distance. Birds were very vocal and there were several times that I had to stop and try and isolate the closest group of birds which was actually difficult with all of the birds calling at once.

Quail Country

I hunted several ridges out into the desert and then swung around to hunt several adjoining ridges back. The style of hunting changed dramatically and I think it was due to both the hunting pressure that the two different ridges receive and the hour of the day. Regardless, instead of large coveys flushing many yards out, birds were sitting in singles and doubles and would flush literally at my feet. I imagine that this style of hunting is more in tune with the rest of the country’s bird hunting or how it would be to hunt with pointing dogs. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed jumping several different sets of birds and bagging a couple in the process.

Male and Female

This will probably be the last quail hunt for me in the 2010 calendar year. I did not do as much quail hunting as I normally would and I think it is safe to blame fly fishing for that. I have been getting geared up for another archery javelina season and I hope to avoid another pig-less debacle like last year. Several new elements are coming to the Arizona Wanderings site and should be going into effect in these next few days. Please check back often and bear with me as I get everything up and running.


Gambel's Quail

The weather report prophesied cloudy skies and a chance of rain, not really the perfect start to my first day of winter break. I decided instead of risking the treacherous drive into my favorite spot, I would check out a new area that was more accessible and see what it held. Rain dotted my windshield, and I fought the urge to just turn around and go back to bed. In the end, I am pleased that I persevered, because as I put the truck in park the sprinkling stopped. I donned my vest, marked the coordinates of my truck, checked my water supply, and set out. The morning started eerily quiet and I walked about a mile before I heard the Gambel’s waking up.


The walking is never easy nor quiet on the crunchy desert floor, but the recent rain kept my footfalls relatively quiet. Even though this area is more traveled than a couple of my other spots, there was no shortage of birds. They were a little spooky and it took great care in getting close enough for shooting range. I ended up with three birds in the game vest, but I rolled two more that I searched high and low for but could not locate. Credit must be given to the Gambel’s quail. They are some of the most rugged birds that even when downed never quit. Usually after I have a bird on the ground, I waste no time in moving right in for many times even though mortally wounded, they still have enough kick to flop or run into a crevice or into a bush, never to be seen again.

Cactus Jungle

While after the quail, other wildlife was in abundance. I jumped 3 different herds of javelina and upset a wild burro with my bird hunting. The javelina scattered as they usually do, but it was nice to see several piglets in the mix. Unfortunately, my January javelina tag is in another unit or I would take advantage of hunting pigs this close to town.

Last pig of the herd was all I could capture on film...

At this point, I have a nice batch of birds in the freezer that will make a perfect feast, once a few more are added to their ranks. Hunting Gambel’s quail is extremely rewarding even when the amount of birds taken home is small. I cannot help but admire their beauty and tenacity for survival in such a harsh climate. With this nice break from teaching, I am hoping to get into some fish on the Rim, but I will be back chasing some birds shortly.

Arizona Landscape