January 20, 2022
I still remember my first quail hunt on a southern plantation, almost 50 years ago—well-trained dogs, small gauge shotguns and wild birds. For me those days are mostly gone, and my current source of quail is from one of a few farms and suppliers that ship dressed birds, frozen and packed with dry ice. Both Manchester Farms (manchesterfarms.com) and D’Artagnan Foods (dartagnan.com) are good sources.
A standing joke at our house is that any spatchcocked bird looks like “road kill.” Spatchcocking is the technique of cutting out the backbone and flattening the bird for cooking. Cooking birds prepared this way is quicker and more even, especially for smaller game birds. A good tool for this task is a pair of kitchen shears, as the ribs need cutting.
This Greek-style recipe from D’Artagnan works well with birds other than quail— dove, wild ducks and even small chickens (AKA Cornish game hens). Gas or charcoal grills produce the high heat necessary to cook your bird with a crispy skin and moist breast meat.
Spatchcock Grilled Quail Recipe, Greek Style
Prep and Cook Time: 1 hour
- 12 quail, dressed and spatchcocked
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Zest of one lemon
- 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
- Salt and pepper
Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, lemon zest in a bowl. Rub the birds with the mix and let them marinate for 20 minutes. Then, sprinkle each individual bird with salt, pepper and rosemary.
Place them on an open hot grill, breast side down, and cook until the breast side is browned. Flip them over, cover the grill and cook about one or two more minutes. Take care not to overcook and don’t shy away from any pink meat near the bones.
Serve 3 birds per person over a bed of wild rice (I like Konriko Wild Pecan Brown Rice, available at Publix) or with a green salad.
FLORIDA’S BOBWHITE quail season runs Nov. 13- Mar. 6. Bag limit is 12, possession limit 24. Consult regulations for specific Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) to identify periods open for quail hunting— following peak months for whitetail hunting, many WMAs host small game seasons open to all holders of Management Area permits ($26.50 per year). These seasons generally open in late December and may run through February, concluding before spring turkey hunts. (Among other priorities, WMAs are managed to accommodate the various needs of different hunter groups.)
Also note: There are a few limited-entry quail hunts of above-average quality, and these require early application for quota permits: Babcock Webb in Southwest Florida, Blue Springs Quail Enhancement Area in Northeast Florida, and Blackwater Field Trial Area in the Panhandle.
Private clubs and outfitters around the state charge about $400-$550 per half day guided hunts. FS
Florida Sportsman Magazine December/January 2022