The little 6-ounce rockets are starting to fly through the tall pines…that’s right folks: Quail Season is upon us. It’s with great anticipation that we lace up our boots and follow the dogs looking to bust up some coveys.
Quail hunting is the quintessential Southern hunt, akin to a fox hunt across the pond. It’s as much an event as it is a chase to harvest meat. Given that the wild bird population has taken a hit over the last few decades, it’s commonplace to hunt pen-raised birds. Not to worry, they fly well, and taste just as good.
As with most hunting, chasing quail is very addictive. The hunts become more about watching the process rather than shooting as many quail as possible. The early morning, the steam off the dogs, the fields, the smell of gunpowder, and the retrieves are all a worthy lead up to the lunch afterwards. I get as much pleasure watching my friends make a great shot, or watching the dogs work.
Getting into quail hunting can be a bit of an uphill battle. As with most new hobbies, there is some entry cost, but buying smart will save you in the long run. Here’s a list of what you need to start quail hunting:
Shotgun: It can get a little crazy here. I’ve hunted with guys who were carrying $250K Holland & Hollands, and guys who carried a 40 year old Remington pump. The birds don’t care what’s behind the business end of the barrel. To get going, you’ll need a 20 or 28 ga. shotgun. Over/Under is preferred (as there is a gentlemanly agreement of two shots per man), but side-by-sides and semi-autos are fine too. Remember all the safety rules: always keep your barrel up, no shots below your shoulders, don’t swing your gun beyond your target area, and make sure everyone else is following the rules as well. Gun safety is first and foremost the single most important thing. And carry it in a good case.
Boots: Quail hunting is a walking sport, so make sure you invest in a good pair of boots. Something water resistant, and tall enough to protect your ankles.
Pants: While trudging through the fields and tall pines, you will encounter briars, branches, vines, etc. Ensure that your legs are protected with a good pair of briar britches. These will take a beating, but your knees and shins will thank you.
Layers: As the sun comes up, so does the temperature. You’ll probably shed that heavy waxed coat by 10AM, but still need a vest or sweater to fight off the chill. Remember to always keep your core warm, and your fingers warm, since they are what pull the trigger.
Blaze: Most plantations require some amount of blaze orange per hunter. Check with the manager before you arrive. For the most part, a blaze orange hat should do the trick, but make sure it’s visible to all the hunters. If you are hunting in heavy cover, add more. Blaze has no affect on the birds, but it does alert other hunters. Don’t get shot.
Shell Holder: Not too big, but not too small. You’ll usually be on a 35-45 minute stint chasing dogs, so you’ll want to have enough shells to quickly reload after every busted covey. There are a couple options: either a strap vest, where a front bellow pocket can be used for shells, or a belt pouch. Either work, it’s more of a personal preference.
Buggy Bag: Since you’ll be carrying gear, it’s a good idea to have a buggy bag. Think of this as some sort of tote or backpack to keep all of your gear from getting in the way. It’s a great place to store shells, shedded layers, a water bottle, some snacks, and whatever other gear could get in someone else’s way.
Good Attitude: This is the most important thing to bring with you. Be fun to hunt with. Be overly cautious about safety. Be a good guest. Don’t steal other hunter’s shots, and don’t claim birds that you aren’t sure you shot. Always say thank you to the manager, pet the dogs, and tip the guides well. This is the easiest way to get invited back…and that’s what it’s all about.
Got any quail hunts lined up? Send some pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on Instagram and we’ll upload them here. Happy hunting!