How to Hunt Quail 101: Upland Bird Hunting Tips and Tricks

Hunting quail is a popular pastime. Many bird hunters go wild quail hunting because when cooked properly, they taste amazing.

When you head out on a hunting expedition, you can’t just go out without a plan. This guide is all about how to fill your bird vest safely and effectively, no matter who is in your party.

You need the correct gear to have a better chance at finding quail. This includes the appropriate guns and ammo. Depending on the season, you’ll need to pack the appropriate clothing for your hunt, too.

Whether searching for quail or upland bird hunting, you should know the best places and times to get out in the field. While these can vary by location, weather and season, there are some universal guidelines that you can apply on your next hunting trip.


1. Where to Find Them

Hunters and dogs quail hunting
Image credit: Steve Oehlenschlager via Instagram

You will find quail in the central part of the United States, for the most part. They are more prevalent in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas.

You can also find them throughout the Southeastern United States including eastern Mexico.

When overseas, you can even find quail habitat in Japan. Quail populations have been in decline over the years. This makes it harder for people to find suitable hunting habitats.

Proper networking between hunters ensures people can learn where they live. But no matter where you go, ask about the local regulations for hunting quail.

All states and territories have their own rules for quail hunting. You might need a license to hunt in a certain area, too. Check with local game boards in area you want to hunt to avoid trouble.

2. Ideal Weather Conditions

Although you can find quail any time of the year, the best hunting tactic is to go to areas where they are more visible. They thrive in damp, exposed areas where they can forage for bugs and worms, their favorite food.

Insects are easy food to find after the rain. Therefore, it is best to hunt following rainfall. Because quail appear not long after it rains, a damp surface works best for setting quail bait.

Another aspect regarding the weather is to go out during calm conditions. You shouldn’t attempt to go after them when it is too windy. It is harder to detect movement in the long grass and scrub in the wind.

The wind conditions could also cause your shotgun ammo to move off your target, making it difficult to hit your mark.

3. The Many Different Types

There are many types of quail you can hunt. Knowing how to identify them will make for a successful hunting trip. Here are some types of quail you may find during your hunt:

  • Bobwhite: This is the most common species. Its distinctive features include a brownish body with a white streak on its head. You can find the Bobwhite in open fields with brush and close to woodsy areas.
  • Button: This quail likes sandy surfaces. It has a series of small spots on its body and a yellowish appearance. Some brown and black tones are present all around its body. There are no noticeable white streaks like the Bobwhite Quail.
  • California: This bird has a bluish tint on its front. It is visible mostly on the western end of the United States, but its range has expanded to other parts of the country in recent times.
  • Japanese: This quail is visible in many parts of Asia, but they are breeding it in parts of North America now, too. It has a rounder body and a brownish tone to its body with a white look on its front.

4. The Best Time of Day to Hunt

As you look for quail, consider the time of day. Here are some simple tips for finding them:

  • In the morning, look in open fields. It is easier to spot quail early time of the day in wide open areas without cover for protection.  It’s best not to hang around your camp, sitting in a chair, waiting for them to come to you.
  • During the middle part of the day, look in wooded areas. Quail look for shady areas of vegetation such as trees, bushes, and shrubs during the hottest part of the day.
  • Late in the day, move back into open areas. They usually feed again before the sun goes down. Hunt for a quail roost when they are preoccupied with food, so they don’t notice you.
  • During the evening, look in long, grassy areas. This is where they go for safe sleeping.

Knowing how to hunt quail means looking in the right places. This way, you’ll save time and have a more productive hunt, too.

Also, if you know any quail calls or whistles, it might make the finding grind that much easier.

5. Best Terrain for Hunting

Look for known areas where quail may reside in when you prepare to hunt. Look for fields with annual weeds and enough grass to offer fowl protection. Check in briar patches near open spaces, too.

Quail often hide in the briars. They do this whenever they feel threatened. Be prepared to walk through extensive patches and spot your prey. Avoid looking in areas where the grass is too short or too thick.

It is tough for quail to move through thick grass and weeds. They may also feel vulnerable when in open fields where the grass is bare.

A brownish or rough surface of a field of devoured grass is a place where they won’t hang around for long. They prefer to hide where they are sure they can hide.

It goes without saying, but if you want to hunt on private property be sure to ask for permission from the landowners first. 

6. Hunting Gear to Wear

Get the appropriate clothing ready when you get out there to hunt quail. You might be heading into thorny, dense spaces where bushes, trees and other things might get in the way. Always wear long-sleeved clothing and pants when hunting for quail.

Keep your body protected and covered during the hunt. Bring a small pair of pruning tools to clear out any brushes or trees in your way. Long pant legs and shirt sleeves can protect you from bugs as well as thorns. Successfully hunting for quail means being prepared for anything.

7. Guns and Ammo

Dead Quail beside Rifle
Image credit: Mankeli Avci via Instagram

The best firearm to use on your quail hunting excursion is a 20-gauge shotgun. This style offers a long barrel to keep your shot focused and supports eight load shells.

Such shells offer an extra bit of coverage and a wider range of fire, too. The 28-gauge shotgun has become popular for all types of small game. This style is lighter in weight and a little easier to shoot.

The key is to find an option with a barrel long enough to handle the ammo as it moves outward. A 26-inch barrel or greater offers enough room for the ammo to move out easily. You can also use a .410 or even a 10-gauge shotgun.

The key is to find something you are comfortable with. Regarding ammo, nothing larger than an eight-load shell works best for quail. This is powerful enough to take them out without being too rough.

It offers a large enough spread to concentrate the fire on just one part of the quail’s body. Do not use anything smaller than a 6-shot. Such small-sized ammo might be too weak to kill the bird and will not cover the entire body of the quail.

You can also use a .22LR rifle, but it would require extra precision to avoid ruining the meat.

8. Don’t Use Bows & Arrows

Although you can use a bow and arrow to hunt for quail, it is not ideal. The problem with a bow and arrow is that you must be extremely precise when shooting. A typical quail is only six to eight in length.

Quail are a small target at only three to six ounces in weight as an adult. An arrow could ruin much of the meat. Put simply, use a shotgun. A bow and arrow could work, but it would be a challenge to avoid destroying the bird.

You want to make sure you have some edible meat left if you decide to de-feather them and cut the meat.  If you want to know how to hunt for quail effectively, avoid using a bow and arrow.

9. What Bait to Use

Quail feed off seeds, plants and some insects. Gather traditional bird seed to place in an open area where they populate. You can use dried corn, too. Any plant matter you add to a bird feeder should be sufficient to use as bait.

Don’t forget to look for small insects and fresh worms that you can place on any surface. Add them to wet areas, so the quail will find them quickly. Make sure the bait you use is fresh. It should not be overly dry. It is easier for them to devour bait when it is moist and tender.

Bait is especially useful to find a nest of females with babies, which hatch in the spring.

10. Do I Need a Hunting Dog?

Pike Fishing With an Effective Wire Leader
Premierwingshooting via Instagram.

Quail require a special breed of dogs, with the English Springer Spaniel and the Brittany being two of the most beloved bird dogs for quail.  Your four legged friend can make your life easier when quail hunting, but if it is poorly trained you’d be better off leaving it at home. 

Not every dog shares the same prey drive and makes a great quail hunter. Some are great at flushing but dreadful retrievers (you might want that quail in one piece when Fido brings it to you) while others might get a little too playful and chase quarry away by wing, and so on.

You can read more about the best hunting dog breads along their strong points and weaknesses before deciding over a breed: What Breeds Make the Best Hunting Dogs? Our Top 10 Picks!

11. Stay Back and Use Binoculars

Stand back far enough from the quail when hunting or else the bird will notice you from afar. You can use a pair of good hunting binoculars (here are our top picks for the year) to confirm single bird so you don’t have to get too close.

Crouch down about 10 to 20 yards away from where they are located. Crouching gives you enough room while ensuring your shotgun will be able to take the game without scattering.

12. Safety Tips & Advice

For both experts and beginners, always use the proper safety measures when hunting for quail. Hunting safely means:

  • Pointing the muzzle on your gun upward until you are ready to shoot.
  • Keeping your gun’s safety lock on until you are ready.
  • Checking your gun’s range of swing works before you shoot, so you know how many centimeters your ammo spreads.
  • Don’t shoot at quail when they are flying. Plan to shoot at them while they are on the ground looking for food.

13. Awareness

Always be aware of your surroundings when hunting. Go after quail in wide open areas, so you know what is around. Also, check out what is visible when in a tight wooded area. Hunting for quail in tight woods where trees often hide things can be dangerous.

Although you can hide behind a tree when out on a hunt, keep an eye out for whoever else is in your party. Do this while ensuring the area you are shooting in is wide open. Only go after birds in areas where you can identify the species by their feathers.

Final Thoughts

Quail hunting is a thrilling activity. It lets you go after one of the top game birds in the world. Be sure to prepare yourself properly with these quail hunting tips, so you can get the most out of your hunt. Make sure you follow safety rules and local regulations.

Hunting wisely means being cautious wherever you go. You don’t want to risk injuring anyone or yourself during the hunt.

The Out sider

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