For immediate release Sept. 25
Get ready for some exciting small game action this year.
Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists said this is a good year for tree squirrels and rabbits, the late dove season ought to be a ball, plus you can add Eurasian collared doves to the bag.
Although the overall quail outlook is ďless than optimal,Ē southeastern Arizona is looking decent for Mearnsí, Gambelís and scaled quail. You might be able to triple-up this year once the Mearnsí season opens in November on the day after Thanksgiving.
Thanks to summer rains, cottontail rabbits are plentiful and tree squirrels have been feasting on abundant mushrooms. You might want to load up on some non-toxic shot for your shotgun Ė thanks to all the precipitation, the stage is also set for a promising waterfowl year.
This is a good year to consider mixed -bag hunts, also called ďcast-n-blast expeditions,Ē to maximize your recreational time and dollars. For instance, if you are going after tree squirrels, take along the fishing pole for some high country trout.
Keep in mind that some of the better quail densities in central Arizona are located around premier bass lakes, such as Roosevelt, Bartlett and Apache, and along the Colorado River corridor. If you are headed to southern Arizona to hunt quail, you might try Patagonia Lake for bass or Parker Canyon for trout.
Once seasons are underway, try hunting desert stock tanks for quail, rabbit, dove and waterfowl
With a few exceptions, you will find quail hunting less than optimal this year in much of the state, although there is a bright spot Ė Mearnsí quail in southeastern Arizona.
In fact, all three quail populations in southeastern Arizona are decent, so this might be the year to try for a triple: Gambelís, scaled and Mearnsí.
The general quail season is Oct. 12, 2007 to Feb. 11, 2008 for Gambelís, scaled and California quail. The Mearnsí quail season is Nov. 23, 2007 to Feb. 11, 2008.
Southeastern Arizona received above average winter precipitation and the quail populations should begin to recover from several years of poor desert quail recruitment. This should equate to decent Gambelís quail hunting and slightly better than fair scaled quail hunting. This portion of the state has a large amount of private property, so hunters should be cognitive where they are hunting.
For most of the state, another relatively dry fall-winter-spring negatively impacted all species of quail to varying degrees. Gambelís quail, which rely on winter precipitation and the corresponding green-up for good reproduction, will be most affected by the lack of winter precipitation.
Areas that had good densities of Gambelís quail last year will likely have fair to good quail numbers of birds this year, although the coveys will consist of fewer juvenile birds and will be tougher to hunt.
However, the spotty nature of this yearís winter precipitation was such that some local areas in the central part of the state may provide good Gambelís quail hunting. You might locate higher quail densities, and possibly some young birds, around lakes, along riparian (stream) corridors, and along river bottoms. Pre-scouting would be wise this year. For more information on quail hunting, visit the departmentís Web site.
Cottontail rabbit hunting should be good to excellent again this year (rabbit season is year round).
Areas such as the southern part of the state which received good monsoon rainfall will provide excellent rabbit hunting, while the drier parts of the state will simply be good. Cottontails offer an excellent supplement to the hunter's bag and some very tasty meals.
Walk ridge tops in the early mornings and late afternoon, using binoculars to search for rabbits in the washes below. You should dress bagged rabbits at the first opportunity and throw them on ice.
Dove hunters should watch for rabbits along field edges while hunting. Walk thick cover such as tumbleweeds, before you finish your morning hunt. Quail hunters are likely to encounter cottontails most anytime but especially along desert washes and thickets.
Arizona has more different species of tree squirrels than any other state and the outlook this year is promising for the Oct. 12-Nov. 25 season. Consider a hunt for the Arizona big five (Abert, Kaibab, gray, Apache fox, and red squirrels).
The abundant summer rains in the high country resulted in a good mushroom crop this year, especially above the Mogollon Rim and in the White Mountains. The San Francisco Peaks and adjacent country experienced a decent mushroom crop. Coupled with consecutive mild winters with good squirrel survivorship, this is shaping up into a good tree squirrel hunting year in the higher elevations.
Keep in mind that tree squirrel populations are spottier below the Mogollon Rim, but you can expect to find some pockets of decent hunting.
Start your hunt early in the morning when squirrels are most active. Quietly walk along logging roads and search for squirrels on the ground and in the trees. Once a squirrel is spotted it may be shot on the ground or rushed so it runs up the nearest tree.
Chasing squirrels up trees at 7,000 feet elevation is more work than it sounds. Add an up-hill incline and you have the makings of a cardiac arrest, especially for older hunters (should be just good exercise for young hunters). If you donít have the able assistance of a young hunter, a well-trained dog makes squirrel chasing much easier.
Abert squirrels spend a lot of time on the ground foraging for mushrooms and fallen pine cones in the fall and are more likely to be seen there.
Gray squirrels prefer riparian corridors of sycamore, walnut, and ash. The canyons under the Mogollon Rim are a good place to try for gray squirrels and you'll probably find some Abert squirrels too. They are a bit harder to come by and can make for a challenging hunt.
Red squirrels are found in the higher elevation spruce/fir habitats and most easily found by listening for their "wurring" call.
Try using a .22-caliber rifle for squirrels instead of a shotgun, itís a lot more fun and you don't have to worry about shot at dinnertime.
Bring a pair of binoculars to help you to spot squirrels in treetops or while they are foraging in shady areas on the ground. Glassing can make all the difference. Plus, squirrels provide youngsters a superb opportunity to learn how to glass. They might even discover other animals lurking in the forest, such as turkey, deer and elk.
Late dove season
The late dove season (Nov. 23, 2007 to Jan. 6, 2008) is becoming more popular each year, even though white-winged doves have migrated south. Plus, there is something new this year Ė you can hunt Eurasian collared dove all year and there is no bag limit on them.
Some of the best dove hunting is in the afternoons when the doves are heading to water, then to roost. Doves establish flight patterns and follow them. Watch tree lines, washes, canals, field corners, or other structural features that birds may follow. Even a field that has lots of birds using it will have a few spots that will offer the best shooting.
Spend time scouting. A few reconnaissance trips can pay off in great hunting. Check agricultural areas for cut grain fields or fields that may be cut in the near future and feed lots. Late season doves frequently shift their flight patterns and feeding areas, so the more spots you have lined up the better your chances are for consistent good hunting.
Roosting sites often make for good shooting and should be watched for. Doves will typically pick densely vegetated areas for roosts. Mesquite bosques, tamarisk (salt cedar) thickets, and citrus groves are typical roosting sites.
Desert water holes can often offer spectacular evening shooting during the late season, a great way to combine dove and quail on a hunt.
Watch the edge of fields for rabbits. Cottontails are plentiful this year and make excellent table fare.
Above average summer rains in most areas of the state produced good holding areas for waterfowl, so the upcoming season is promising; how promising depends on storms north of us pushing waterfowl down the flyway to us.
Once again this year, there is a two-tiered season for waterfowl with mountain and desert zones. You can obtain a copy of the waterfowl regulations at the departmentís Web site.
At the very least, this should be a good year to jump-shoot desert stock tanks. You might even consider having a multi-bag outing for waterfowl, dove, rabbits and quail.
In the mountain zone, the White Mountains especially experienced good summer rainfall, filling pot holes and improving the traditional marshy areas. Even some larger ponds that had been dry for years are now holding water.
This might be a good year to go for squirrels, waterfowl and trout in the White Mountains. You might even look for some grouse as well. Be sure to check the regulations for the appropriate season dates.