A desert quail hunt fuels Lew Carpenter's drive for more hunting and more conservation.
While most of us have been more tuned in to big game hunting applications this past spring, the recent stay-at-home order gave me a chance to organize some gear, too.
Picking my way through a year of fishing and hunting gear, my thoughts swirled around two key activities: 1) Keeping the teckel tracker trained up and active for next fall, and; 2) Upland hunting – specifically quail in Arizona and New Mexico.
It’s easy to understand, as my last hunt before COVID-19 was an Arizona quail hunt south of Globe in a lush band of perfect habitat peppered with hundred-year-old Saguaro forests, stomping javelina and full-moon, box canyon, fire-grilled quail for the reward.
I think we all have hunting and fishing experiences that feed an aching passion and drive us onward to the next season.
I’ve also found another activity during down times that fuel my passion for the sport – conservation advocacy. And, I know, there’s an overwhelming stream of online advocacy clawing its way through your social media channels, e-mail boxes and digital forums. Making sense of it all can be daunting.
I like to keep it simple and, if you haven’t visited the Arizona Wildlife Federation’s website recently, I’m certain you will be pleased. Most of the big issues affecting hunters and anglers nationwide can be found at - and ways to easily become engaged. From public lands issues, to conservation funding, recreation infrastructure, the Grand Canyon and more. It’s a great website and a noble place to further your engagement in things that matter to sportsmen.
But back to the quail…..
The fall won’t come quick enough for me. And relishing in that last AZ quail hunt keeps me going. How could it not? I brought three friends from Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia for their first desert hunt. We didn’t have any hunting dogs with us, just keen eyes and quick triggers.
The hundreds of small washes weaving through thick brush were loaded with quail tracks, and the low expectations of the crew elevated as we saw first a pack of javelina and then a running bevy of Gambel’s quail.
It took us a awhile to develop a strategy for pinching in on these small groups of quail. And, chasing singles and doubles as they ran beneath and through brush so wicked I’m surprised we didn’t leave a spiked eyeball in that harsh environment.
Quick and accurate shooting got us what we needed for dinner, and before dusk – in a classic box canyon – we spatchcocked the quail, rubbed them in oil and spices, dropped them on the fire and watched the sun set and the moon rise (so bright we didn’t need the flashlights). It was a delicious and epic end to the one-day hunt.
So. I sit here, planning the next hunts this fall, winter and spring – securing the time and hoping travel will be less complicated than it is today.
In the meantime I’ll do all I can to ensure we have access and good habitat for my hunting and fishing by advocating as a sportsman and using my voice.
The Great American Outdoors Act will fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund while investing in a backlog of public land maintenance, providing current and future generations the outdoor recreation opportunities like boat launches to access fishable waters, shooting ranges, and public lands to hunt as well as the economic stimulus we need right now.