Dry, southwestern grassland is where you’ll find scaled quail … sometimes. Not always. In Guadalupe County’s Vaughn, New Mexico there are only 446 people, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. That’s down from the previous census when there were 539. So, that makes Vaughn a fine place to hunt because good hunting ground is often situated in places where everybody else isn’t.
But even good hunting ground goes through tough seasons. This was one of them. Still, on a hunt trip that’s not fruitful, hunters can find fruit. Or — in Bob Robb’s case — eggs, black beans and jalapeno peppers.
Bob Robb is Grand View Media’s editorial director; and here are his dispatches from Guadalupe County. (There are also a few bonus field notes mixed in.) — Amy Hatfield
Two of Jim Morehouse’s four hardworking shorthairs. Day 1 ended. The tally: 9 hours drive from home to the ranch. Hunted last 3 1/2 hours of daylight. Temps about 40 degrees with 20-25 mph winds. Saw zero quail. But, as Scarlett O’Hara once so sagely said, “Tomorrow is another day …”
Field Note #1: German Shorthaired Pointer
The German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930, but its origin dates back to the 1600s. The breed is a versatile gun dog suitable for land and water. GSPs, like most gun dogs, are high-energy, but easily trainable. For off-season training tips, go here.
Here in lovely Vaughn, New Mexico for dinner and a room. I’ll report in an hour or two. The room won’t be even two-star. I can promise you that.
(Right. It wasn’t a two-star.)
72-year-old Jim takes down 14-year-old Ian Holehan in a diner throw down. Jim is a retired Army lieutenant colonel, who was awarded two Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam.
Yikes! (Since this photo was taken, Bob has been prescribed Lipitor. Good luck, Bob!)
(OK, we were kidding about the Lipitor. Look! Bob is working off that gut bomb.) Hit one covey of 10 scaled quail, dogs went on point after a half mile chase and I managed to kill the only bird we flushed! Awesome! Off to try and find some more.
Lunch time and it’s grim. Found a track! But no more birds. Still out cruising and looking …
… OK we are done for the day, and the hunt is basically over since there are no quail. Essentially, there was no moisture this spring, so the chicks got hammered. A big cold winter storm blew through a while back, and we think it killed most of the adults. Glad it’s worked out so far.
Field Note # 2 Scaled Quail
Scaled quail populations vary depending on moisture. Reproduction suffers in dry years. They prefer arid country with a mix of grasses and scattered shurbs for cover and shade. They tend to run rather than fly when disturbed. For food, these birds would rather have mesquite seeds over grass seeds and the scaled quail eats more insects than most other quail.
Get more facts about habitat, diet, quail behavior and listen to the scaled quail’s songs and calls at Audubon.org.
Tail between our legs, we’re eating tomorrow’s lunch for dinner tonight in our cheesy motel room. With no hope, we’re heading back to Arizona tomorrow at 0500. (Hey, is that crab salad? Looks like crab salad. Crab salad in the desert. How about that?)
For perspective — and to explain why I drove 9 hours each way to chase the elusive scaled quail — here’s Ian showing off a good day at this time last year. Obviously I am the jinx.
The getaway breakfast at Penny’s Diner this morning. BAM!
Got any stories of your own about Scaled Quail or the unusual places you’ve seen on hunting trips? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!