Bobwhite quail was introduced in 1898 and 1899 from their natural home in eastern North America, Mexico, Central America and Cuba. Unfortunately, unlike California quail, they did not flourish in New Zealand. Today they are found in selected areas south of Auckland and in the Hawkes Bay. Some birds are raised, released and looked after by enthusiasts.
With the release of stoats and weasels for rabbit control, quail numbers in general took a huge hit, and in some areas they were even wiped out. Despite this setback, California quail is still common throughout the country. To hunt quail in New Zealand you need a Fish & Game license
and a good dog. Your local Fish & Game office will be more than happy to point you in the right direction, with many able to offer you access to crown land and forestry blocks. The shooting season for quail starts on the first Saturday in May and can extend to mid-August – please check your local regulations for bag limits and season dates.
Quail are easier to pluck in the field while still warm; take care not to tear and remove the skin. Being a small bird the skin and thin layer of fat attached helps to keep the bird from drying out while cooking. Hang the dressed bird overnight in a cool spot allowing the meat to set before cooking or freezing.