Tips For Quail Hunting On A Preserve

Quail hunting preserves strive to maintain the history, heritage and social aspects of quail hunting culture. Photo by Phillip Gentry

Tips For Quail Hunting On A Preserve

by Phillip Gentry

Upstate Outdoors
January 30, 2020 - 1:18 pm

Before Big Game hunting of whitetail deer and Eastern wild turkey became the flagship species for hunters in the southeastern United States, bobwhite quail was king. Back in the days when boys used to roll up into the high school parking lot with shotguns perched in gun racks in the back window of the truck (and no one minded), it was common for the boys to stop along the way to school and kick up a covey of quail before heading to class.

Back in those days, the “waste lands” that made the area much more rural consisted of cut over fields and farm lands. Those areas were perfect habitat for rearing quail, rabbits and other small game species.

Unfortunately, changes in land use from farming to timber management and urban sprawl have also changed the landscape for the hunter. The fields and farms that once held abundant quail and other small game are too few and far between and the small game animals were unable to adapt to the changing landscape the way deer and turkey have.

But does that mean that upland game hunting is a thing of the past? The answer is a solid no.

What has replaced the old days of quail hunting on the lands of your relatives and neighbors where permission was never needed is a more organized and more planned version of upland game bird hunting. It’s called a hunting preserve.

Hunting preserves began showing up in the Carolinas when it became abundantly clear that the bobwhite quail was fighting a losing battle for habitat.  A typical preserve may encompass 500 – 10,000 acres of land and provides guided hunts for a fee or required membership to the preserve.

As a quail hunting guide for Contentnea Creek Shooting Preserve in Snow Hill, NC, Walter Claybrook has some advice for hunters who may be visiting a shooting preserve for the first time.

“Shooting sporting clays before you arrive to shoot is great practice,” said Claybrook. “Make sure you’re practicing with the same gun you’ll be using to hunt quail and make sure you’re using the right gun and the right loads for the hunt.”

In describing the right gun, Claybrook stated a lot of hunters bring their long barreled duck guns to shoot with. He suggests keeping the barrel length at 26” rather than 28” or 30” and make sure the choke is Improved Cylinder or at most a Modified choke.

“Most novice hunters shoot too quick and don’t give the bird time to get out there so the choke can do it’s job and let the shot pattern open up,” he said. “If they do hit the bird, it’s such a tight pattern it destroys the meat.”

He recommends nothing bigger than 7 ½ size shot, with 8 being the most common and on occasion size 9. He also recommends hunt parties stay at two hunters per guide, no more than three, so each hunter has ample shooting and can keep their zones of fire away from other hunters.

“Another thing I suggest is hunt with a preserve or guide who will let you go back and hunt the birds you missed,” he said. “Some clubs only allow one try at each bird. You want a guide who will remember what’s left on the field and will work back through for a second try at the birds that didn’t get killed first time around.”

Although wild quail recovery has been slow in coming, despite extensive recovery efforts by both state and local wildlife manager and user groups, the South has always been the stronghold for the traditions of hunting quail – watching the dogs work, the excitement of birds flushing, and the camaraderie of hunters who hunt together. Unlike deer or turkey hunting, which are pretty solitary, quail hunting has a lot of social aspects and fortunately, modern quail hunting preserves do everything possible to preserve that heritage.


Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM, 101.5 in Anderson, or online at

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