Mearns’ quail season opens Friday, Dec. 3
Posted December 1, 2021
PHOENIX — Sure, there will be birds for hunters who are willing to get out and climb the hills and canyons of southeastern Arizona when the season opens Friday, Dec. 3, for Mearns’ quail.
But the fact remains that it’s going to take more than one summer of decent monsoon rains to give populations a desperately needed boost and improve lagging harvest rates.
“Montezuma (Mearns’) quail numbers have been low since we’ve not had a really good monsoon since 2018, and they respond to summer moisture for nesting and brooding chicks,” said Larisa Harding, small game program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
“Birds on the landscape now are primarily carryovers from past years; our wing barrel data showed a significant decline of juvenile birds harvested in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, suggesting low reproduction occurred prior to both quail hunting seasons.
“However, with the great monsoon rains that covered most of the Montezuma range in July 2021, we’re hopeful that if there were birds on the ground that they would be going gangbusters in the lush habitats that the summer storms produced. We expect there should be a good crop of young birds on the landscape this fall, but it will take more than one season for Montezuma numbers to rebound.”
The season for Mearns’ runs through Feb. 6, 2022. The season for Gambel’s and scaled quail has been underway since Oct. 15 and also closes Feb. 6, 2022.
A valid Arizona hunting or combination license is required for all hunters 10 and older. All youth hunters 10 to 17 can purchase a youth combination license for only $5. Those hunters under 10 must be accompanied by an adult who possesses a valid hunting or combination license. Licenses can be purchased online at azgfd.com/license/, or from license dealers statewide.
The general bag limit is 15 quail per day in the aggregate, of which no more than eight may be Mearns’ quail. Since the beginning of the season, the general possession limit has been 45 quail in the aggregate, of which no more than 15 Gambel’s, scaled or California quail in the aggregate may be taken in any one day. After Friday’s opening of the Mearns’ season, the 45-quail possession limit may include 24 Mearns’ quail, of which no more than eight may be taken in any one day.
Meanwhile, the department is inviting quail hunters in southeastern Arizona to help gather data for quail management purposes. The department has placed five wing barrel stations along popular travel routes, where quail hunters can submit one wing along with brief information like date, harvest location, hunter effort expended.
While submitting wings is not mandatory, the information collected from wing barrels provides the best means for the department to index quail reproduction — particularly for Mearns’ quail — harvest rates, and hunter effort and success.
For more information about the wing barrels, a photo that shows what a wing barrel looks like, and a map, see page 78 in the “2021-2022 Arizona Hunting Regulations” booklet. For more information about Arizona’s quail species, visit www.azgfd.com/hunting/species/smallgame/quail/.