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Bobwhite Quail Tactics

Today I will share with you a little bit of what I think I know, as I do not profess to be a bobwhite quail expert.

Early season quail are typical of any hunted game.  Even though they have the instinct to survive, the yearling birds are uneducated about their new predator, man and dog.  So with a lethal learning curve, the survivors of the first covey flushes learn quickly.

Early season bobwhites have their daily routine and if you’re an experienced hunter of bobwhites, you generally know where to hunt depending on the weather and terrain.  Once you get late into the season, their patterns will change with pressure.  This is a hard lesson to learn for the novice. 

Humans, being creatures of habit, will not change and adapt as readily as the bobwhite.  The human will continue to hunt the same cover over and over even though the quail numbers there have dwindled.  The novice will assume that he has ‘hunted the quail to low numbers’.   In fact, the coveys may have just moved or been split up.

My experience as a wild quail-hunting guide has proven this theory over and over.  After a few hunts on the same covey, they will move, at least temporarily.  If I come back to the same cover within a 2-week time frame (later in the season), they probably won’t be there.  If they are there, they are low in numbers or perhaps scattered.  If I wait at least 2 weeks before coming back to that same covey location, they are more likely to have returned and settled back down into their comfortable covert.  If I continually flush the same covey over and over throughout the season, they will move and/or become wiser about how to listen for you and your dog and how to escape unnoticed.

Here is an example of one particular covey I found last year on one of the ranches I guide on:

The first part of the season, the covey could always be found on this little knoll, a small hill that was open but the ground was covered thickly with prickly pear cactus, and the ridges of the hill had live oak tree thickets with some turkey berry brush.  This is ideal habitat. (The covey was actually closer to being called a bevy because there were 30 to 40 plus birds in it – not to contradict my writings in another story, this covey was the exception not the rule when it came to covey sizes). 

A pond was just 1000 yards away from this covey if they needed the moisture when it was dry.  I could always find the covey either in their favorite habitat or somewhere on a line between the knoll and the water.  Mostly though, they stayed on their knoll because they derived a lot of their moisture from the prickly pears and turkey berries that they ate.

The covey could be faithfully found the first few hunts of quail season.

Because this covey was so large and healthy, I would hunt this covey often simply because of their numbers.  Later in the season, they left.  After a few dry runs, I figured out that they had changed their patterns and began to make a logical search of the surrounding countryside.  I found them a hunt or two later in similar habitat that had better escape routes.  They could use the new terrain better to flush from.  How?  The new terrain offered several escape routes that involved brush and trees.  They would flush low and behind the brush and trees to shield themselves from us.  It worked.  Most of my hunters couldn’t even pull the trigger because of the brush between them and the birds.  Those who did connect felt justly rewarded for getting a wily late season bob.  At seasons end, the covey was still fairly large and intact.

Were we doing much damage to the covey size?  No.  Not to digress, but my statistics show that the average party of 2 veteran bird hunters will shoot approx. 1.5 birds on a covey rise.  So you could flush that same covey 10 times and kill a total of 15 birds out of a covey of 40.  10 flushes of the same covey is a lot considering the fact that within a four month season we would only hunt that same covey a maximum of 8 times (using my one flush per two weeks rule).  Also keep in mind that the folks I guided last year were different from week to week so the skill level wasn’t consistent.  There were multiple instances where coveys would flush and not one bird would be touched.

The bobwhite is very resourceful and is thrilling to hunt.  Equally as thrilling is the dog work.  Prey and predator.  A domesticated animal using its wild instincts to locate wild game.  The artistry in field.  Fair chase for fair game. 

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