|Blue and Pearl found them in the Creosote|
New Mexico, in January, yielded a lot of the same. From some locals, I learned the rains were on time and plentiful in the spring for the hatch, but then the spigot was shut, and the rain quit. The hatch was excellent in many areas of the Southwest. It is a banner year, in fact.
|Cap and a couple of Gambel's|
We finally discovered the secret of the dry wash. Those rascals like to roost in the safety of the washes, in the trees and shrubs and bushes. They'll head out of the wash in the early morning to eat seeds on the rocky hillsides, retreating to the washes to loaf during the day, safe from the avian predators, their primary danger. Early afternoon, they'll once again brave the edges of the washes to finally go back to the safety of the trees and shrubbery for the night. All of this usually on their feet. To fly is to die (from hawks, falcons, etc.), so they would much rather run/walk to and from the food. That said- check for tracks. It's the easiest way to see if there are birds in the area. I always welcome a rain or snowfall, because it will wipe out the old tracks leaving fresh ones.
|Looking for quail tracks is a great way to find birds. |
This time of year, it can be very cold in them morning. It was 12 degrees one morning at the motel, and the Brits were toasty in their kennels with moving blankets over the top of them and in the insulated topper on the back of the Beast. During the day, it went up to the mid-60's, and felt like a day at the beach! One day, near the end of my trip, a wind warning was published for winds of 25+ mph sustained with gusts up to 45 mph. It turned out to be my best hunting day for desert birds all season! The birds don't like the real strong wind, I think because the aren't able to hear predators. I found the low areas and draws held birds all day long. When we trailed a covey out onto the hillsides, they would flush back towards the washes, or to another wash. They just didn't like the blowing wind.
|Blue and me on the side of a dry wash.|
In the picture above, you can see the straight stock on the my new 28 ga. I was bound and determined to hunt with it all season. I almost made it. These fast flushing and flying desert birds laid it on me, and I never seemed to be able to catch up! Also, after one day knocking down 14 birds and only recovering 10 of them, I began to question my gauge, shot size, dram equivalent plan. I finally switched to the old, reliable 20 ga. SKB double, shooting high brass #6's, switching from 7 1/2's. A broken wing on these birds means many times they will run down a hole, or be totally out of the area by the time the dogs arrive. It's a lot like pheasant hunting in that regard. I know guys that shoot a .410 out there. For me, a 28 ga. will be as small a shot as I'll use, and I'm leaning towards using my 20 ga. on these birds. I don't see any requirement for a 16 or 12, other than your personal preference.
|Male and Female Gamble's Quail|
|Blue and me resting during a warm afternoon.|
The bottom line, for me, is the sheer pleasure of hunting these wily, tough birds. A few days, I didn't put any in the bag. One day, I never saw a bird! We explored and looked for new areas, and that did not always pan out. Rather than hunt the same area over and over, we drove the dirt roads with our GPS App designating the public lands. Many times, doing this, we will discover a real sweet spot, after many hours and many miles and many days of effort. It's then I realize why I drive 25 hours to walk through the desert looking for these worthy adversaries.