North of South

If you go just north of as south as you can go in the Arizona you enter the quail hunting nirvana that is border country. This is the land of overlap. Where nations and biomes blend, there’s no other place like it. Stunningly beautiful and with a sense of remoteness many places are losing. A place with the potential for all all three species in Arizona quail living on the same slope. We zeroed in on the rolling oak hills that are the homes of Mearn’s Quail. I have never taken a Mearn’s in the field and after a strong monsoon season and associated hatch its been a great year for these colorful birds.

Mearns country

Mearn’s quail offer a more relaxed hunt, no reason to get up early and not much in the way of cactus where they live. They do however make you earn it, up and down and up and down is the name of the game. With a plentiful hatch this past season the hardest part of the hunt is finding a spot not filled by an out of state plate. With northern seasons ending a flood of Montana and Idaho plates are crowding this corner of the state. Driving down closed roads and rutting up muddy ones, leading to land owner and land managers forever closing them. For how particular many individuals are about out of state people fly fishing their states in the summer it sure is funny how many of them you see disrespecting another state. Shooting the same covey all week or destroying roads and campsites. But hey they don’t have to deal with the problems they leave behind, they can just head up and complain about someone catch and release fishing in the summer, but I digress..

Looking into Mexico

Pavement only takes you so far for these birds and after an hour or so on dirt and only one border patrol stoppage we arrived. The truck stayed on top of a ridge that looked down a series of short valleys. Almost like a bed sheet that was pushed up to form a series of small folds. The folds were covered in gold grass and dotted with live oak in clumps and individual stands. Knowing the country looked right we started walking.

Waist high grass and evergreen cover (there’s a dog on point right in front and to the right of the Manzanita)
Water break at a small creek in the valley bottom

Someone else had pulled in behind us and was hunting the adjacent valley finger. This was all an assumption because at some point in our journey down valley we were joined by an English Pointer who seemed like he wanted to join us instead of who he was with. The pointer ran with us for about a quarter mile before the near constant buzzing of his e-collar sent him packing over the ridge. Almost as soon as he left, a group of around a dozen gadwall busted out of what we had assumed was a dry tank. A flurry of shots from us followed but they were moving high and fast by the time we reacted and I’d be surprised if we had the composure to even come close.

Old antler bonus find

With the first bit of excitement down my friends dog got real excited about a group of doves and we noticed that some of those doves were flying a lot more like quail. My first covey of Mearns that we actually got a good look at! The birds darted up valley and settled into the tall grass. I want to take a moment to say that I had heard that a dog was almost mandatory to hunt these birds and in my head I thought helpful yes, mandatory maybe not.. Well now I know, these birds will hold under a dogs nose or between your legs. The dogs did fantastic and we would have been lost without them. We found, bumped and shot at the covey multiple times moving up the valley with and handful of birds brought down between us. Both dogs performed incredibly, even if our shooting didn’t follow suit. It was a glorious day of points, flushes and shots. By the time we got back to the car a few hours later we decided it really couldn’t get much better and called it for beers and burritos.

The happy hounds after a good long run
Just enough for the table and the dogs with the majority of the covey left for next year
If you know, you know

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