Californian Quail


Mabo with a Marlborough Quail that we flushed out of some gorse.

Shooting Californian Quail is something of a passion and I would rather hunt Calis than shoot anything else, or fish for that matter.

What makes Calis so interesting to shoot is they are small, fast and break unexpectedly. They will often hold up high so the dog doesn’t flush them, but break from behind when you have passed them.

Where I shoot them is usually pretty thick cover, so it is unusual to get more than a snap shot at a quail, and to get multiple shots at the same bird is a real bonus. They dive behind cover, they turn rapidly to put structure between them and the gun and they only occasionally provide open shots.

The open shoots are relatively straight forward. The shots in cover are not, and they require a very specific set of skills to shoot them consistently well. This starts with selecting the right gun and ammunition.

If you are not shooting regularly it is important to have a gun that shoots well for you. If in doubt go for the heaviest, longest gun you can get your hands on as this will shoot far better than a light or short gun.

Chokes are relatively important too. You need something open to get the close birds, though this means having a much wider spread at long range for the birds that jump a long way out or you get multiple shots at. In my 686 20g I have Modified & Improved Cylinder chokes, and I have made the trade off that I want a good spread close rather than a tight spread a fair way out.

Ammunition for quail where I shoot is not something I am particularly fussy about. Hit a quail and it will tend to go down. Have too heavy a load and the close birds will be torn to pieces. I use 7 1/2s and 8s, and unless I am using my Benelli M2 20g I don’t really have a preference for load. The M2 doesn’t cycle 24 gram target load, so I have to use 28 gram.

When I am hunting upland I load for pheasant to start with, then change over when I get onto some quail. The logic to this is that I can put down quail better with pheasant load than I can put down pheasants with quail load.


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