Habitat is the Key to California Quail

By Gary Lewis

Gary Lewis Books and DVDs

If there's anything easy about hunting California quail, it is finding quail habitat. Where the four essential elements of habitat are found - water, food, space, and cover - the chances of locating birds increase substantially.

The birds must have water. If there is one reliable water source at hand the chances of finding the birds increase. When water is abundant in an area, birds may be dispersed and harder to find.

For California quail (also called valley quail), food and cover are synonomous. Where blackberries and wild grapes grow, there may be a covey of quail close by. Quail are often found around old homesteads too, thriving on the crops that were once planted and now return voluntarily each year. While bird hunting, I never miss a chance to walk around an old pile of brush or broken down equipment. Such places often pay off with a covey of quail.

Sunrise to mid-morning is the best time to watch for feeding birds. They are seldom far from cover. Sage, willow thickets, young aspen groves, leafy bushes or conifers will be close by. In our state, much of their range is on private land, though good hunting can be found on public ground as well.

In late afternoon, walk feeding areas near water. Listen for their call anytime of day, but pay closest attention in the evening, as feeding birds reassemble prior to roosting. When you spot a covey, keep your dogs close to start, allowing them to search out the birds when you get into position.

Pay attention to the kind of cover you see each time you encounter a covey of birds. Then look for such places anytime you carry a shotgun in eastern Oregon. Habitat is the key to quail and to the lasting memory of a full game bag at the end of the day

In western Oregon, valley quail hunting runs from October 16 through December 12. In Umatilla and Morrow counties, the season runs October 9 through December 31. In Oregon's remaining eastern Oregon counties, valley quail season runs October 9 through January 31, 2005. Bag limit is 10 quail.

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