Hunting Hotspots: February 2014

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Your Best Bets for Blues
 
One of six quail species native to the United States, scaled quail, also known as blue quail, are found mainly in the Southwest in parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma.
 
Hunting blues is considerably different than the more traditional bobwhite quail hunting, and the birds’ tendency to run – not unlike a pheasant - provides ample challenge for both dogs and wingshooters alike.
 
Arizona – Traveling wingshooters would be hard-pressed to overlook the Coronado National Forest, a 1.7 million-acre expanse that offers bird dogs and hunters a chance at the “Arizona Grand Slam,” blues, Gambel’s and Mearns’ quail.
 
Colorado - Walk-In Hunting Areas offer plenty of productive areas to the public land hunter. Chances are you’ll encounter little competition, as surprisingly few hunters pursue scaled quail. In fact, hunters take only 6,000 of the tasty game birds each year. In addition to Walk-In Hunting Areas, southeast Colorado is home to the Comanche National Grassland, located in Baca, Las Animas and Otero counties. The total land area of the Grassland is approximately 443,784 acres. Sand sagebrush and cholla cactus are the best habitat types to look for these birds.
 
Kansas – A major drawing card for hunters is the Cimarron National Grassland, which is the largest parcel of public land in the state of Kansas. Located in the southwest corner of Kansas, more than 100,000 acres of the best grassland to be found in the Sunflower State has been preserved. In addition to scaled quail, pheasants and lesser prairie chickens may be encountered.
 
New Mexico – In New Mexico, scaled quail are the most widely distributed of its quail species, and southern New Mexico also holds Gambel’s and Mearns’ quail in addition to scalies. With so much public land, the best bet here is to contact the state Game and Fish department as well as the Bureau of Land Management before setting your compass.
 
Oklahoma – While they likely won’t be encountered in high numbers, many of the Wildlife Management Areas in southwest Oklahoma and the panhandle offer at least a chance of seeing blues. The 15,000-acre plus Rita Blanca in the panhandle’s Cimarron County has blues, and because few if any bobwhites are present, it doesn’t receive the bird hunting pressure other areas do.
 
Texas – Quality hunting options for Texas public quail hunters include Elephant Mountain and Black Gap Wildlife Management Areas, both vast desert areas in the Texas Trans-Pecos.
 
Photo credit: Greg Schechter / Flickr CC