The very first time I ever saw a scaled quail was on a friends 40,000 acre ranch in southwestern Kansas. We were invited to his ranch to evaluate the incredible whitetail and mule deer hunting. Of course, I was there to sample the lesser prairie chickens that were said to inhabit the ranch by the thousands. In fact, we were told the ranch held the largest concentration of lessers in the US.
This ranch had 3 center pivots of corn out in the middle of the rolling sand sage with prairie grasses on the fringes. At O’dark-30 we’d spread out on the end of the pivots and wait for the chickens to wake the sand sage with their raucous calls…just at sunrise, they sped into the corn at waist height. We’d all get some shots off, but rarely saw feathers drifting. The excitement was over in a few minutes and then we’d spend the majority of the day trying to walk up chickens…with out much success, but it was dang fun.
One afternoon we were headed back to the ranch from a Kansas gut-bomb-burger-greasy-fries lunch. We saw a large flock of birds land in a tree near one of the ranch houses. We all looked at each other and the same thought crossed our minds…what the heck are those birds? Wayments being Wayments (and a curious lot we are), we decided to chase the birds out of the trees and across a pasture…and we herded them into the adjacent sand sage. We then did what any normal upland enthusiasts would do…yes, we released the pointing dogs!
From that point on, I was addicted to scaled quail. Addicted is a potent word…but I dreamt in scaled quail! Passion can become addiction! Over the next 5 or 6 years we learned the ranch and all the coveted coveys it held! At one point, we knew where there were 30 coveys of scaled quail…some coveys were 100 plus birds. Gary Ruppel and I were told that we could hunt this ranch for the rest of our lives…but all good things come to a perceptual halt and end abruptly! Sad day…the ranch changed hands!
My next experience with these wonderful birds was on the Cimarron National Grasslands near Elkhart, Kansas. I had just finished Tom Huggler’s book on quail hunting in North America (a must own for quail hunting fanatics like myself). Tom was fortunate to meet and hunt with a native of Elkhart who adored the birds on the grasslands! Lawrence Smith loved the birds so much that he became an advocate for them…even donated a great deal of time and energy/resources into the national grasslands in the way of water guzzlers and habitat.
I was fortunate to meet and spend several days afield with Mr. Smith on the grasslands. The Cimarron is one of the greatest pieces of prairie that our Creator ever made. My friend Mark and I headed to the grasslands with nothing more than a notion that the scaled quail were to be found south of the river corridor. Opening morning, Mark and I headed out in search of guzzlers per Tom’s book and happened upon a lone, lean, bird-dog-less man. We eagerly watch the man walk deliberately in circles around the guzzler…finally, he waved us over to him. I told Mark that I suspected this man to be none other than the scaled quail affectionado Lawrence Smith. Indeed it was Mr. Smith. I learned most of the things I know about scaled quail from Mr. Smith on the Cimarron…these schoolings I have been able to apply to the birds of southern Colorado as well.
Scaled quail hold a special place in my heart. Below are some photos and memories of chasing them in Colorado and Kansas.
Birddogdoc on the Colorado prairie after a glorious day afield
Looking for a bird that went down a gopher hole
Lawrence Smith, Author John Taylor, Dylan Wayment, and Robert Ong on the Cimarron
Dr. Walt Cottrell, DVM from the Upland Almanac on the Ranch
Double click on this photo to see all the scaled quail in the air at once in front of Dylan
Author John Taylor
Notice the doors left open on the truck…that’s how we get on the birds fast
The junk yard held both scaled and bobwhite quail