Quail Hunting Gear and Tips Guide for Beginners
- 21 Mar, 2021
The most common quail hunting scene in paintings and pictures is a good-looking dog, paw in the air, and birds in the distance. Many think of that picturesque scene and a well-trained dog as a key component of quail hunting. Most first-time quail hunters don’t have the luxury of such a dog. But there’s good news - you don’t need a dog to quail hunt. In fact, quail hunting is pretty easy to get into.
Finding good habitat and “busting brush” can be an effective tactic if your hunting party only has two legged hunters. Essentially, you walk through quail habitat at a slow, deliberate pace, keeping your eyes out for the sight of birds. As you walk, if there are quail in the area, they will likely “flush” or fly out of the brush as you approach. The real key here is moving slowly and quietly, as birds will run or fly away while still out of shooting range if they detect you too soon. If you use this tactic effectively, you’ll be able to shoot quail as they flush from cover at a short distance.
While the central part of the US is generally thought of as prime quail habitat, you can find them across the country. Look to your local state game agency to get a start. Many states have public land with good numbers of quail that make for great hunting if you don’t mind burning some boot leather. Start early in the morning, when birds are still vocal and can be found in more open, grassy areas. As the morning gets later, birds will move to areas with better cover and be much harder to get within shotgun distance before they flush.
Another tip for hunting without a dog – watch carefully when a bird falls after the shot. Quail feathers are natural camouflage in most habitat, and birds can really blend into the grass or dirt when they fall. A good quail dog will be able to retrieve a bird without much thought from the shooter, but you have to be much more focused without a dog.
If you’re just getting into quail hunting, don’t fear – it’s not a gear intensive sport. With a few basics, you’ll be ready to go on your first quail hunt. If you hunt other species, even big game, you’ve probably already got most of what you need.
While quail hunting conjures up images of pricey Italian over/under shotguns for many, an extravagant firearm is not a requirement. Just about any shotgun in any gauge from .410 to 12 gauge will work, though most hunters stick with 20 or 12 gauge. If you have any shotgun in that range, don’t buy a new one for quail hunting. If you’re in the market, check out this buyer’s guide.
Your duck, goose, or even deer hunting shotgun will work as long as you have the right load. Number 7 shot is a go-to size for quail. When picking a load, you want to strike a balance between a quick, ethical kill and the ability to make follow up shots if there is more than one bird. Many manufacturers make dedicated quail loads that take a good middle ground.
Next, you’ll need something to carry birds you’ve harvested. This is usually either a vest or belt-attached bird bags. Many manufacturers make these dedicated for quail, but your dove or squirrel hunting gear can work, too. Just about anything that allows you to store a few birds will work. If you use the kids’ backpacks, just be sure to wash them up before school the next week.
As with every other species, you’ll want to check your local laws to see if blaze orange is required (it is in many states, some even on private land). Even if it’s not required, wearing blaze orange is still a good idea. Things happen fast when quail hunting, and flushing, moving birds make it easy to lose situational awareness when shooting. With several hunters in the same area, that can make for a dangerous situation. Hunters should always talk through scenarios and designate safe shooting lanes, but blaze orange is one more layer of safety that can help prevent a terrible accident.
With a short gear list and plenty of opportunity, quail hunting should be on your to-do list this season.
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