Quail hunting is an exciting and demanding form of game bird hunting. Quail are small, fast flying birds, which means quick and accurate shooting is required.

Quail in New Zealand:

The native New Zealand Quail was uncommon during early European settlement in NZ and considered extinct by about 1870. Californian quail were introduced to Nelson in 1865 and other parts of NZ soon followed. Today quail are the most common upland game bird in both the North and South Islands. New Zealand has three species of quail; california, brown and bobwhite. California quail are spread throughout New Zealand, while brown and bobwhite quail are more prevalent in the North Island. All can be hunted during the annual game bird season with a valid game bird hunting licence.

Quail Habitat:

Habitat Quail are found throughout New Zealand but prefer semi-arid conditions. Coastal dune areas, exotic forests, scrubby shingle river beds and hill country are favoured habitat and quail are likely to roost in briar, broom, boxthorn, matagouri, manuka or gorse.

Hunting Quail:

Quail are a challenge to hunt. They are noisy, ‘talkative’ birds making it easy to identify where a group or ‘covey’ may be resting but their rapid speed and small size make the shooting challenging.

An undisturbed covey will sit tightly on the ground or in bushes. When they are flushed by the hunter or by the hunter’s dog the birds explode quickly into the air. Often a rapid whirring of wings and a dark shape flying quickly past are the only indication that you have flushed a covey! When a covey is flushed it is very important that the hunter picks out individual birds to shoot and gives them plenty of lead. It is pointless to raise your shotgun and shoot blindly into the large covey flying quickly away. Quail do not fly long distances and will quickly return to ground where they re-group and sit tight, so exciting hunting can occur in a fairly small area.

Ideal weather conditions for quail hunting differ from that of duck hunting. Bright, warm and sunny days are the most productive as in these conditions the birds will be calling and moving about.

Gun Dogs:

Gun dogs are an important asset when quail hunting. The birds are small and can be difficult to flush and find when they have been shot. Retrievers such as labradors and spaniels will flush coveys and retrieve shot game. Because quail hunters often have to cross harsh terrain it is important that dogs are fit and that their pads are frequently checked for thorns and splitting.


Open choked shotguns are recommended in conjunction with number 7 or 8 shot. Due to the difficult terrain and warmer weather, quail hunting requires different clothing than waterfowl hunting - lightweight boots and clothing.

Because quail hunters often hunt in a group staggered across a line many hunters use a brightly coloured hunting vest or hat as a safety item. The vest also has plenty of room for ammunition and retrieved quail.

More Information:

If you would like more information on quail hunting in your area, please click on the map above to select your local region. Here you can read all about local regulations and hunting spots and find contact details for your nearest Fish & Game office, who will be able to advise you with specific local requirements and recommendations.

Alternatively, you can contact the Fish & Game New Zealand Council on (04) 499 4767 or fax (04) 499 4768.