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Quail, chukar season set to open in Upland

By Jim Niemiec
Special to the Daily News

VICTORVILLE -- Upland game bird hunters can look forward to some pretty good shot-gunning come opening day of quail and chukar season Oct. 16.
The rains came at the right time in the spring, and summer thundershowers should contribute to a good population of young birds on the ground. Conditions in the high desert are prime for valley and Gambel quail, and the outlook for chukar season appears to be the best in more than a decade.

There are good numbers of valley and mountain quail along the western slopes of the High Sierras, especially on forest property southeast of Lake Isabella. The foothills above Porterville are loaded with valley quail, and it looks like those who gain access to Jawbone Canyon Arroyos off State Highway 14 will have little problem bagging an opening-day limit after a long hike into this rugged terrain.

Harold Horner heads up High Desert Guide Service, and he reports that the higher elevations between Hesperia and Barstow and west to the Wrightwood/Pearblossom area are holding good numbers of valley quail. Another area pinpointed by Horner for unattached hunters to begin scouting for quail is southwest of Kramer Junction and as far out as Ridgecrest.

"This part of the desert had a pretty good carryover of adult birds, the hatch was good and we are seeing big coveys around springs and in the more rocky outcroppings of the desert. The rains of last month kind of spread out the quail, but they should covey back up pretty good before opening weekend," said Horner, a veteran bird hunter.

Gary Burke spends a lot of time working with Quail Unlimited and Safari Club International on the development of springs, guzzlers and the repair of old wells in the Mojave Desert.

"Things are looking good for quail and chukar in the desert now that we have been able to gain access to some old abandoned wells," he said. "The parks department has just granted us access to 10 wells that had been shut down and a group of volunteers are standing by to go in and get these wells operating again.

"Having this water available soon will not have too much effect on the bird population we are seeing in the desert today, but it should improve the carryover for next spring's hatch of both valley and Gambel quail."

Burke also said chukar hunting will be good on public land especially around Ridgecrest and in some of the draws on the eastern slopes of the High Sierras off State Highway 395.

The best area for chukar hunting in the Owens Valley will be on the east side of Highway 395, where there is some public access available.

"Plan on doing a lot of hiking over some pretty rugged terrain if you want to bag a few fat chukar," Burke said. "They will be tough to hunt, but this year is looking pretty good in many parts of the high desert."

The red flag fire alert will most likely keep a lot of national forest property closed well into November. Access roads have been gated and no one is allowed in areas where there is extreme wildfire danger. Despite good habitat and lots of quail, hunters will be kept out of prime quail hunting areas in the Cleveland, San Bernardino, Angeles, Sequoia and Los Padres national forests until enough rain falls to lessen the chances of starting massive forest fires.

Dennis Schulgen of 4 Seasons Hunting said there are excellent numbers of quail in the higher elevations of the Tehachapi Mountains.

"The area received just the right amount of rain, and there was a very strong carryover of birds from last fall," he said. "Hunters should find some pretty big coveys when hunting shoulder high sage and chaparral. It's going to be a dry fall and quail will be coveyed up around springs and seeps."

The public can also hunt Gambel quail on the Wister Wildlife Refuge north of Niland. The area had a fair hatch of quail, but hunting will be tough because of thick growths of salt cedar and native brush. Gambel quail like to run and getting a good covey rise in this part of the desert doesn't happen often.

Quail hunting will be allowed at Wister on Mondays and Thursdays during the pheasant season only. Opening day is Nov. 22 and the season closes on Dec. 23. The daily permit fee is $13.50 and those with annual passes can hunt for free. All hunters must check in at the Davis Road station before heading out to the fields.

The quail population along the lower Colorado River is showing good numbers of birds above and below Blythe. Rick Francis, outfitter for Ultimate Guide Service, reports that the area got a double hatch of Gambel quail and said this year's shooting should be better than average, at least for the first couple of weeks of the season. Francis hunts quail on the Arizona side of the river, but there are also good coveys of birds on the California side around Palos Verde.

Jim Niemiec covers hunting for the Daily News. He can be reached at


Quail season opens Oct. 16 and continues through Jan. 30. Hunters over the age of 16 must have a valid hunting license and a Heritage upland game bird stamp must be attached to the license.

The daily bag limit on all species of quail is 10 birds and the limit on chukar is six, a possession limit after opening day is double the daily limit for quail and chukar.

Hunters will be facing some hot weather during the first couple of weeks of the season so plan to bring water. Snakes will also be hiding under brush piles or sunning on rocky outcroppings. Also, take a current Thomas Guide, BLM map or DeLorme Atlas to make sure you are hunting on unposted land.

Guide services: High Desert Guide Service, (760) 447-1030; 4 Season's Hunting, (661) 304-0711; Ultimate Guide Service (928) 857-3581.

State land: Wister Wildlife Refuge, (760) 359-0577.

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