Hunting Desert Game Birds | Wood Plank-Smoked Gambel’s Quail over Live Fire

Join us for the launch of our Destination Wild West Series, on an extraordinary adventure in the southern-most reaches of Arizona, where the rich history of hunting meets the beauty of its rough, rugged and breathtaking landscapes. In this episode, our host, Chef David W Olson of Live Fire Republic embarks on a behind-the-scenes Gambel’s Quail hunt led by the legendary guide, Ian Cassidy, and his skilled pointing dogs, Demo and Indy, of Ridgeline Pursuit Guide Service.

Southern Arizona has a long and storied tradition of game bird hunting, with its unique topography and stunning vistas providing the perfect backdrop for the most serious of outdoor enthusiasts. Game bird hunting has been a beloved pastime in this region for generations, attracting hunters from all corners of the globe who are captivated by the allure of the desert.

The diverse desert landscapes of southern Arizona are not only a sanctuary for the most avid of outdoorsmen, but also a habitat for various quail species, each possessing its own captivating characteristics. Among these, the Gambel’s Quail reigns supreme as an emblematic resident of the region. Renowned for its distinctive appearance, Gambel’s Quail features a remarkable topknot plume, an intricate blend of gray, chestnut, and blue plumage, and striking white face markings. This avian treasure thrives in the arid southwestern climate, often seen foraging in the scrubby desert underbrush, especially during the cooler winter months when food resources become more abundant.

Beyond the Gambel’s Quail, southern Arizona hosts an array of other quail species that contribute to the region’s vibrant avian tapestry. The Scaled Quail, recognized by its intricate scale-like feather patterns, is another frequent visitor to the area, primarily dwelling in grasslands and shrublands. The California Quail, known for its striking plumage and charismatic nature, is often spotted in the more wooded and urban parts of the region. Meanwhile, the elusive Montezuma Quail, with its distinctive facial mask and vibrant plumage, seeks refuge in the remote canyons and grassy uplands of southern Arizona.

In this episode, we’re taking you on the hunt, behind the scenes, and highlighting the mesmerizing scenery that has made Arizona a sought-after destination for hunters worldwide. And, by the grace of our Good Lord and with great thanks to our pointing dogs, the harvest of this hunt was bountiful.

Back at hunt camp, Chef David kicks will light the fires and craft the most mouthwatering Southwest-inspired wood-plank smoked quail.

Gambel’s quail boasts a taste that is delicate yet robust, with a subtly sweet and slightly nutty flavor that is uniquely its own. The meat is tender and succulent, with a fine texture that’s reminiscent of a richer and more flavorful version of the dark meat in chicken or turkey. While there area 1000 methods of prepare quail, we’re firing up a cornbread stuffing with a kick of heat, featuring a butter-sauteed mirepoix, shiitake mushrooms, poblano, jalapeno, cilantro, toasted pinyon pine nuts, and honey-cornbread, all brought together with a homemade chicken stock. The quail, seasoned to perfection is filled with the cornbread stuffing, wrapped in hardwood smoked bacon and placed atop lightly charred wood planks, then loaded into the XL Primo Ceramic Grill at 325°F until the thigh reaches 160°F internal.

I can assure you, these savory, succulent quail are a slice of wild game Heaven!

To complement, Chef David creates his favorite cactus-style cocktail, featuring Ember Craft Bourbon, a 7-year micro-batch bourbon by Live Fire Republic. 2 oz of this premium bourbon are stirred with prickly pear syrup and a squeeze of fresh lemon, before serving over ice—a perfect pairing to elevate this desert culinary masterpiece.

Don’t miss this unforgettable journey, where the traditions of hunting, the beauty of the Arizona desert, and the art of gourmet cooking converge into one epic outdoor culinary adventure. Explore, savor, and indulge in the Southwest flavors that define this remarkable experience!

Be certain to send some love to Ian, Demo and Indy at Ridgeline Pursuit Guide Service, our friends at Primo Ceramic Grills, Matt, Olivia and Jaime at Cloth+Flame, and Nick and Mike at Arizona Fireplaces. Cheers and long live the adventure. –Live Fire Republic

Wood-Plank Smoked Gambel's Quail Stuffed with Poblano-Jalapeno and Shiitake Mushroom Stuffing

Discover the essence of Arizona in the wild with our Wood-Plank Smoked Gambel's Quail - tender, freshly-harvested game birds stuffed with poblano-jalapeno and shiitake mushrooms, wrapped in bacon, and slow-smoked to succulent perfection. Pair with a cactus cocktail for an unforgettable southwest-inspired culinary adventure.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: American, southwest, wild game
Keyword: backyard bbq, bacon-wrapped quail, cornbread stuffing, double smoked ham, gamble quail, grilled beef, quail, stuffed quail, wild game


  • 8-12 Gambel's Quail spatchcocked
  • dressed and spatchcocked
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black peppercorn to taste
  • Roasted granulated garlic
  • Dried ground sage
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup each of carrot, onion and celery roughly chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms trimmed and finely sliced
  • 2 poblano peppers roughly chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeno pepper roughly chopped
  • Fresh cilantro chopped
  • Toasted pinyon pine nuts
  • Dried crumbled honey-cornbread
  • Homemade chicken stock


  • Pre-heat a full chimney of charcoal briquettes. Set up the Primo Ceramic Grill in 2-zone fashion, with charcoal piled high on one side of the grill floor, while the other remains empty. Place a large chunk or two of juniper wood over the charcoal embers. Over the indirect side of the grill, load up a ceramic deflector plate under the grill grates for a secondary level of heat mitigation.
  • In a skillet, melt butter and sauté carrot, onion, celery, and garlic until softened. Add shiitake mushrooms, poblano, and jalapeno, and sauté until fragrant. Mix in cilantro, toasted pinyon pine nuts, and dried crumbled honey-cornbread. Moisten the stuffing with homemade chicken stock until it reaches your desired consistency.
  • Stuff the well-seasoned quail cavity with this flavorful mixture. Wrap the quail in hardwood smoked bacon. Place them on charred wood planks and set them on the directly heated grill grates of the primo ceramic grill. Close the lid and smoke at 325°F until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 160°F internal. Allow for carry-over cookin, rest for 5-7 minutes, then carve and savor the smoky, flavorful quail.
  • Pair with Chef David's favorite cactus cocktail, featuring Ember Craft bourbon, prickly pear syrup, and a squeeze of fresh lemon, poured over ice. Enjoy!
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