Outlook mostly bleak for quail and chukar season opener next weekend
By JIM MATTHEWS
The outlooks for next Saturday’s opening of the general quail and chukar hunting season is mostly bleak throughout the western Mojave Desert and foothills of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountain ranges, according to field reports from this area. Overall poor production has left mostly smaller coveys of mature birds going into this year’s season.
Nick Rojas, a long-time hunter in the west Mojave has been scouting the region since May and is “disappointed.”
“I just haven’t seen a whole lot. The most chukar I’ve had on my game camera photos was 24,” said Rojas, and that was in a spot where he has photos of over 200 chukar in a single image in past years.
“We got some rain, we just got it at the wrong time,” said Harold Horner, a chukar guide in the west Mojave who said bird numbers are so low he is not taking any clients this season. “The only place I’ve seen chukar has been to the north in the Rands – and those are all holdover birds. I haven’t seen any young.”
The southern Sierra Nevada, on both the east and west sides, and the Red Mountain region also had slightly better production this year, but bird numbers are still well below normal and most coveys of chukar and valley quail consist mostly of mature birds.
Tim Mahoney with the Ridgecrest Chapter of Quail Forever was blunt in his assessment for chukar even for the Rand and El Paso mountain ranges in the Red Mountain-Ridgecrest region.
“It looks dismal. We had a little hatch and very little carryover,” said Mahoney. “Most of the guzzlers don’t have birds on them at all.”
The Scodie Mountains and canyons draining the eastern Sierra Nevada look a little better than the Rands and El Paso region, with at least some production of valley quail that has maintained bird numbers at a below normal level for this season.
There are some slightly brighter reports from the eastern Mojave Desert, especially the higher elevation areas of the Mojave National Preserve. In this area, there was fair to good production for the second year in a row. Combined with significant holdover numbers, this area should provide fair to good hunting for both Gambel’s quail – and chukar in some areas.
However, at last weekend’s junior quail hunting on the Mojave Preserve, the hunting was tougher than past seasons, but this was largely due to rains scattering birds.
“I have participated in this hunt for the last five years and this was by far the worst,” said Jeremy Corselli, an avid bird hunter from Norco. “We hunted areas that typically held nice coveys of quail only to find nothing. After an extremely tough day we did see three coveys out of seven different locations. Two coveys were under six birds and the largest was 12. Most kids got nothing, I did speak to one 17 year old who got five quail.”
Rains have a tendency to scatter both quail and chukar, allowing them to move away from traditional haunts near water sources. Additional rain this weekend will just make matters worse for hunters next weekend, especially in areas with low bird numbers.
California Deer Association
giving away guzzler maps
during meeting this week
Deer hunters who hunt D11 in the Wrightwood region will be especially interested in this month’s meeting of the The High Desert Chapter of the California Deer Association beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday at pin Georgio & Luigi Pizzeria Sportsbar & Grill in Victorville. The club will be giving away maps to 11 guzzlers in that area.
Club members are seeking information on the condition and water levels in these combination big and small game drinkers so they can schedule work and maintenance of these important water sources this coming spring and summer. All D11 hunters who attend this meeting will be provided these maps.
The High Desert Chapter has received funding for materials and equipment to do this work from the state organization. This will just be one of many CDA work projects conducted by chapters of the CDA over the coming year to improve deer habitat in this region, according to Jake Barlow, a biologist with the CDA.
For more information, contact Karen Shackelford at 760-887-1092.
Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 909-887-3444.