Mountain quail are found in the mountainous regions of the West Coast, from northern Baja to Washington and eastward into Idaho. They prefer thick, brushy mountainous areas ranging in elevation from 2,000 feet to 10,000 feet.
Mountain quail are the largest quail species. Identifiable by two long, straight plumes that jut slightly backward from top of head. Gray-blue breast and neck, brown throat patch, and flanks that are heavily barred with white. Breeding occurs in spring, with females laying 9-10 eggs. Feeds on bulbs, pine nuts, berries, insects, and wild legumes.
Widely regarded as the absolute toughest quail species to hunt, thanks to the ruggedness and verticality of their preferred habitats. They like the high country, and are sometimes found at over 10,000 feet above sea level in the Pacific Coastal mountains.
They will come to water every day, and are usually found within a ½ mile of standing water. The birds like berries, and will frequent areas that produce wild grape, hackberry, blackberry, snowberry, poison oak, manzanita, and other species.
The birds will often be found in areas that are virtually too thick to hunt, so keep in mind accessibility when choosing locations. Look for places where the thick cover is broken up by openings, and consider bringing along a close-working pointer that’s not afraid to dive into the thickets and pinpoint coveys of birds. Flushing dogs also work, but you’ll want to keep the dog close at hand so that he’s not busting birds that are out of range.
When hunting slopes, you and your partners should spread out vertically on hillsides and work in a cross-slope direction. Mountain quail will run uphill and then fly downhill, so multiple hunters might have a chance on the same covey of birds. Mountain quail will run if you catch them out in the open, so be prepared for a chase across rough ground if you want to get them up into the air.
Use heavy game loads with 6 or 7 ½ shot fired through modified chokes.