Does anyone understand quail hunting? This question, found posted in a hunting forum, was in reference to the practice of pen raising quail and other game birds to be released in predetermined areas to be hunted commercially. That is to say, people go to these places and pay a fee not just for the use of the land but for the number of birds to be released.
Many hunters bash quail hunting preserves as being the equivalent of a canned hunt for bigger game. This, they argue, is not hunting. These opinions come from what seem to be hunting purists. Their argument is interesting and valid; worth exploring.
Does quail hunting on a hunting preserve qualify as real hunting? When pondering this quail hunting quagmire one should first consider the definition of hunting. The first dictionary definition of hunting describes hunting as the chase and search for game and other wild animals for the purpose of catching or killing. By this definition it seems that preserve hunts qualify as hunting. If a hunter is so inclined to bring a shotgun and even a hunting dog to a quail preserve it can be readily assumed that his or her intent is to kill a quail or two.
But hunting purists use an operational definition of hunting that specifies hunting to be the pursuit of wild game with a heavy emphasis on the word wild. To them, hunting on preserves is the same as shooting fish in a barrel. They say that the experience of a quail hunting preserve pales in comparison to quail hunting in the wilderness. The main difference is the element of the unknown. On these preserves, hunters pay for a specific number of birds to be released so when a covey is flushed, the hunters know it is there. When hunting in the wild, there is no guaranteeing that any game will be found. And if a covey is flushed it could range in size from just a few birds to a few dozen but there is no way to know until the birds take off. This is what makes quail hunting exciting and interesting. This is what captures the hunter’s attention and molds the hunting experience.
Of course, the unpredictable nature of hunting in the wild can be frustrating, especially to new or recreational hunters. Many quail populations have dwindled in a lot of regions and there just aren’t as many birds to be hunted out in the wild. Proponents of preserve hunting claim that a young hunter or one new to quail hunting will benefit from preserve farms for training. The same can be said for hunting dogs. While the wild quail hunt may be the best, if a dog is new to hunting or a little rusty from the off-season, a preserve farm may be a good way to get them into the swing of hunting. Then again, many people who choose to do their quail hunting on preserves may not have hunting dogs and can benefit from a guided hunt.
As I am new to quail hunting, I decided to test the theories of both sides. But first I needed to stock up. I immediately went to quailhuntingstore.com to find the perfect shotgun and quail calls for my excursion. I bought a 20 gauge shotgun as this was highly recommended by my guide. Then I discovered they even had training decoys so I could get my dog warmed up for the trek. One stop at quailhuntingstore.com and I had all I needed for my training experiment.
Purists still argue against the training theory in that a new hunter may become frustrated with the difficulty of wild quail hunting and revert to the “easy way�? the next season to eliminate the guess work. This argument is based on the notion that penned quail don’t act like wild birds, hence the fish in a barrel perspective. The rebuttal argument is that in a well managed preserve quail should act just like they would in the wild, making the hunting experience just as difficult, with no guarantee that each bird released will, in fact, be shot.
The birds not shot have been raised to be strong and healthy and given plenty of opportunity to breed and make more quail for future hunts and bigger populations. Since these preserve farms are commercial businesses and have a natural interest in increasing quail populations to increase revenue. But profits are not the only goal of many preserves. Since wild quail hunting suffers from decreased quail populations those birds not bagged while hunting on preserves are frequently released to the wild to help boost natural populations, improving the quality of hunting in the wild. It seems that preserve hunting can never be the same as true wild quail hunting. However, I missed several birds on my excursion, allowing them to roost another day outside the pen. It may have its flaws but there is indeed a niche as the failures of farm hunting can lead to wild quail hunting success.