quail crossing sign

How to Hunt Quail in California

Learning how to hunt quail may be one of the easiest upland bird species to master in California. In fact, quail hunting requires minimal hunting gear compared to hunting other game. Shooting quail on the other hand is a different story. In this article, you will learn about California’s quail, what gear is required for quail hunting, tips and tactics for your first quail hunt, and more. 

Quail Hunting is an arduous task requiring moderate physical conditioning. Although using dogs to hunt quail can be convenient, it is most definitely not required. Flushing and ultimately shooting quail can be done by beginners and novice hunters if you understand the species of quail and how they behave. 

California Quail Hunting Season and Zones

In California, quail cannot be hunted all year long. The State is split into 3 quail hunting zones and each of them has its own season. The zones are identified as Zone Q1, Zone Q2, and Zone Q3. Each zone has an identified season start and end date as well as a bag limit. 

quial in a tree

2021-2022 Quail Hunting Season (per CDFW)

Q1Mountain Quail OnlySeptember 11- October 15
All QuailOctober 16 – January 30
Q2All QuailSeptember 25 – January 3010
Q3All Quail October 16 – January 3010

The quail hunting seasons in California change slightly each year. It is important to check state and local regulations prior to hunting. 

If you are unsure what quail hunting zone you’re in, click the link for an interactive quail zone map by county. 

It is important to note that there are separate seasons for archery and falconry that we will cover later in this article. 

Quail Hunting Gear for California

There are a few things that are required to hunt quail in California. You will need to obtain a hunting license to start. Most, but not all, game species in California require a hunting license issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The whole process can be done painlessly online here.

After obtaining a fishing license, it’s time to gear up for the hunt. The great thing about quail hunting is that you only need a few essential items to get started. Let’s start with the basics and move up from there. 

What to Wear Quail Hunting 

First and foremost, it’s essential to be safe while quail hunting. Wearing blaze orange is always a good idea. That being said, it is not required in the state of California. Wearing camo while quail hunting is another option to consider. Good footwear and rugged pants are recommended as quail tend to live in thick, rocky, and sometimes dangerous terrain. 

Quail hunting often requires long walking distances away from our vehicle. Having a way to carry your qual, water, snacks, and maybe a small first aid kit. Simple yet effective items to help you do this include a durable bird hunting vest and a backpack. Having a way to track your location and notify first responders is another excellent tool to carry on you. 

What Gun for Quail Hunting in California

When it comes to choosing what weapon to use for quail hunting, there are a few different but very similar options. The first and most popular weapon for the fast, easily startled quail is the shotgun. As you already know, shotguns shoot multiple “shots” or bb’s that spread over distance. This allows hunters to shoot close to or near the game in hopes that one or more bb’s hit their target. Common styles for quail hunting are 12 and 20-gauge shotguns. Utilizing over-under, pump, semi-auto, or break-action shotguns for quail comes down to user preference. 

You can find the best shotguns for hunting upland birds here. 

Another weapon to consider for quail hunting is a bow or crossbow. Although not ideal for preserving meat, it adds a more significant element of sport and difficulty to the hunt. This method of taking quail may be popular among preppers or minimalists as the bow and arrow can be used multiple times for different kills. Adding a special basket head to the arrow will increase your chances of getting quail and preserving meat. 

Where to Hunt Quail in California

California has so many locations to offer quail hunters. To start, let us split the state into two sections, north and south. Both areas have a tremendous amount of public and private lands available for hunting. 

Northern California has a vast and abundant amount of rivers, farmland, and levi systems throughout. This provides a great habitat for quail as well as a fantastic option for hunters. You can find numerous areas that offer paid hunts in and around the Sacramento Valley. Another great option is moving into the high country and hunting the National Forest lands. These areas provide a good chance at mountain quail. 

Southern California provides great opportunities as well for quail hunting. It easily rivals Northern California when it comes to quail. The southern part of the state holds more population of Gambles quail than anywhere else, specifically San Bernardino and Imperial counties. Guidelines and outfitters are abundant in southern California as well as self guided hunts. 

Finding public land in California is not hard to do. Buying a map from amazon or using mapping software can prove beneficial. Something like OnX maps is a great option. 

How to Find and Flush Quail

There are a few different factors that can affect how and where you will find quail. Some of the most popular are;

  • Time of Day
  • Heat vs. Cold
  • Predators in the Area
  • Human Factors

Hunting in cold or wet weather can be tremendous if done correctly. Quail hunting during the rain is a great time to get out and try your luck. 

Quail will travel into open spaces to feed while weather and predators permit. Usually, during dusk and dawn, coveys will be feeding in less dense areas of vegetation. As the sun comes up, quail will move to a thicker cover. The key is to cover some ground kicking brush in order to flush birds. 

Hunting dogs may also be used to flush upland birds. A good quail dog can make life so much easier for hunters, although not required at all to find success. 

Don’t forget to take some time and sit still. Oftentimes quail hunters are constantly moving, mocking noise, or just walking right by quail sitting tight to brush. One of my favorite things to do is find a nice null or hill to sit atop of. Sit still for 15-20 minutes and listen as well as look for quail. Using a quail call can also help locate coveys. Sitting and watching may also indicate if other hunters are in the area. This is very important for obvious safety reasons. 

Key Places to Hunt for Quail

  1. Hunt Brush Near Water
  2. Edges of Isolated Brush
  3. Dirt Roads
  4. Gullies and Valley Bottoms
  5. Mid Slope Roads

How to Shoot Flying Quail

Flying quail, while sometimes difficult to shoot, is not as hard as shooting a flying dove. When shooting quail, it’s essential to be patient. Quail are smart and once flushed become extremely difficult to get a second chance. 

There are a few things that can help you hit more flying quail on a rise. 

First, when you flush a covey, pick out one bird and target only that bird. Quail tend to jump all at the same time and scatter in order to confuse or make predators hesitate to have a better chance at survival. Shoot at the same bird until it’s dead. 

Second, practice in the offseason. I know this sounds obvious but are you practicing the right way? Walk as you would be in the field. Have a partner hand throw clay pigeons from the side or behind you. This will improve muscle memory and train your brain to find a single target to isolate on. 

Third, make sure you feel your cheek on the gun and keep swinging with your gun. As you swing the gun, be prepared to make a second or maybe even third shot. Keeping your cheek in the correct position will help make more accurate shots. 

Fourth, don’t forget to move your feet with your swing. If you are lucky enough to get multiple shots off, moving your feet to maintain a forward lean is vital. It is also worth noting that it’s unsafe to take an unbalanced shot. Don’t get lazy or reckless. 

Finding Downed Quail

So you’ve taken your shot and believe the quail to be down. The next and maybe most important step is locating your kill. Wounding an animal or bird and not finding it is something no hunter strives to do. Here’s how to find injured or down quail.

  1. Birds fall forward from where they were shot. 
  2. Quail tend to roll or tumble after hitting the ground. 
  3. Crippled quail are hard to find. Get there quickly. 
  4. Use dogs whenever possible. 
  5. Listen for the sounds of wounded birds.
  6. Look downhill from the landing area. 
  7. Search through close-by vegetation.

Depending on the terrain, quail may make their way into rock outcroppings or very dense brush. I have even found a quail sitting on the top of the brush. The ground is not the only place they may be. 

man hunting quail

I think it is important to say here that after hitting a quail it’s imperative to reload before moving toward the bird. They may take flight again or if you’re lucky you may flush another quail. Missing an opportunity because you were not ready would be unfortunate.

Final Thoughts on Hunting Quail In California

Hopefully, you learned a little more about how to hunt quail in California in this article. Quail are a delectable and healthy meal for those looking for a healthier lifestyle. There are hundreds of recipes online to help you prepare your meal. 

Quail are extremely fun to hunt and creates a challenge when hunting quail without dogs. Remember to embrace the challenge and not get frustrated in the field. You won’t hit every bird you shoot at, and that is entirely normal. 

If you didn’t get your question answered in this post, please reach out and contact us. We will get back to you as soon as possible.