I just got home from a marathon seven-week desert quail hunt in Arizona. From humble beginnings a dozen or so years ago when hunting buddy, Shawn Jones, and I decided to head down there more or less on a 10-day lark, not knowing much more than “yes, there are three species and yes folks do hunt the little rascals.” We relied on the sage advice of legendary desert quail and gundog guru, Web Parton, to point out where to start. Beyond that “you boys are on your own.”
For dog power that first year we brought to two young wirehairs. Kate, 10-months old, with a somewhat remarkable first Montana season under her belt, whereby we had shot something like 80 wild birds over her points was about it; as Shawn’s 6-month’s old wirehair, Hershey, was just then starting to shed the training wheels. Hardly what you would call a fine tuned hunting machine still somehow we managed to turn a lark into one the best hunts ever. Way more points and birds than in our wildest dreams we each managed to bag all three species—Gambel’s, Mearn’s and scaled.
These days “Arizona Quail Camp” involves a half-dozen fellow Montanans and a whole string of dogs—veterans and pups of several breeds. We set up Spartan camp’s in the desert—where depends where the hatch is best; which with desert quail ebbs and flows driven by timely, adequate rainfall. Naturally we move around until we find the “best hunting” and have at it.
Which brings us to the dogs. All of us run pointing dogs except for Dave, who runs a Lab. Especially Terry’s dogs—Elhew pointer, short-haired pointer and Brittany—run big. Big enough that keeping track in the often steep and broken terrain would be mighty difficult without some sort of Tracking System. Terry swears by the Garmin Astro purchased from LCS, “Without it I would not be able to run the Brittany and the other two would be lost much of the time.” Shawn’s Britts don’t range near as wide but as he says, “the Astro just makes life a whole lot easier and I really like being able to load the GPS Hunt Maps and knowing some rancher isn’t likely to raise hell I get on the wrong side the fence.” The rest of us rely on the various Beeper Collars from LCS to keep track.
Dealing with multiple dogs in camp, we all use LCS Better StakeOuts or LCS Chain Gang. One of this year’s pups tended to bark for attention; LCS provided a SportDog Deluxe No Bark Collar which proved a quick cure.
Contrary to popular belief dog boots really aren’t needed so much for dodging cacti (jumping cholla gardens excepted) but are a godsend for sore feet. The desert floor can be and often is rocky as hell, can and often does render dog feet tender. To help prevent sore feet we all recommend and purchase products such as Tuf-Foot and or Pad Heal from LCS.
Other don’t-go-near-the-desert without items (all available from LCS) are first aid kit, tweezers, hemostats, dog comb, pads to lie on, water bottles (you cannot carry enough water to last a pair of hard-charging dogs all day), feed and water pans, etc.