Bella, my German wiredhaired pointer, rounded the prickly pear cactus and jammed onto a staunch point. I quietly motioned Tyrell and Harrison towards either side of her quivering body. As they approached, the Gambel’s quail rocketed out of the cactus cover. Two shots rang out at precisely the same moment. The bird fell to the ground and Bella was on top it—followed by a quick retrieve. They both had hit the bird!
Tyrell and Harrison were participating in a three-day mentored quail hunt with 13 other new adult hunters in the Southern Arizona desert. Joined by a few past participants as assistant mentors, the Arizona Chapter of BHA partnered with the Northern Arizona University Collegiate Chapter of BHA, Southern Arizona Quail Forever, Arizona Wildlife Federation, Arizona Game and Fish (AZGFD), and Boss Shotshells to host a small game Hunting for Sustainability (H4S) workshop. Held North of Tucson, the quail were plentiful, food abundant, and the campfires community building.
Prior to heading out to the field, shotguns and ammo were discussed with an emphasis on safety. The participants each got a chance to shoot clays with the helpful guidance of folks from Southern Arizona Quail Forever and BHA Arizona Chapter leaders. Some of the participants had never shot a gun and emotions ranged from eagerness to trepidation to excitement as clays were dusted.
In the field, participants realized how difficult it is to shoot a rocketing quail. The heart pounding excitement of a covey rise often resulted in missed shots or even no shot at all—awestruck at the whirring sound of 20 birds simultaneously lifting off the ground. Yet, plenty of shots were safely fired and a few doves and quail made it into the game bag and eventually into our mouths.
The H4S workshop wasn’t just about finding and killing birds; education was a key component. Fireside discussions during breakfast, lunch, and dinner revolved around small game hunting—from quail and rabbit biology and habitat to hunting with bird dogs to AZGFD regulations to conservation and advocacy. As one participant exclaimed, “I had the great opportunity to attend this program with my 13-year-old son. Attending this program showed how important it is to be good stewards and set the example for the next generation so these animals and lands are here for them and many years to come.” Following a short demonstration, participants got their hands dirty plucking and butchering quail and dove. One participant skinned his rooster Gambel’s with the guidance of Larisa Harding from AZGFD—a physical memory of the hunt with the skinned meat going into the dinner’s frypan. The cooking demo featured an Asian sauce stir fry featuring tiny dove legs and relatively plump quail legs with some added breast meat and hearts. Emphasis was on using the whole animal.
The value of our H4S workshop is illustrated by several participant quotes. “I already was a little interested, but now I'm all in. I want to share this with everyone...” Another participant added, “I never really looked into hunting before and any previous thoughts leaned towards the negative side. This was my first opportunity to learn about the sport and it was a great first impression.” And another, “this was my first opportunity to get into hunting...ethics are important to me so having the workshops and talks contributed to the decision to continue with the sport...”
Speaking for other mentors, we can’t wait to hunt again with our new-formed community of hunters and conservationists. We’re looking forward to getting together for a pint night; but, especially for another hunt and the many laughs and stories around the campfire.
Keep an eye on the Arizona BHA events page for more opportunities like this to connect with hunters from all backgrounds and experience levels and share in your public lands bounty.