These two outdoorsmen are as likely to pick up a shovel as they are a 12-gauge shotgun.


But before they bag a chucker, quail or small game, Cruz Garcia and Dave Smith do their part to ensure the wild critters get what they need: water.


And that means they must travel countless miles in their 4X4s to repair "guzzlers" underground polyethylene water tanks specially designed to provide water to desert animals.


"I've put about 8,000 miles on my truck [to repair guzzlers]," Smith said. "And I'm just one guy. Others do it too."


Formerly members of Quail Unlimited, Smith and Garcia recently formed the High Desert Quail Forever chapter after the former group filed for bankruptcy. Quail Forever joins together hunters and conservationists who have the common desire to preserve the natural desert habitat and do what they can to help desert life flourish.


Already the local chapter has about 100 members. However, Smith added, about 30 are active, roll-up-their-sleeves types.


And many of the members are retired people. One even brings his granddaughter along to participate in the projects and enjoy a day in the desert sunshine.


"We have two main goals," Smith said. "One is to reserve the environment. The other is to encourage the youth to help protect the environment."


While they are out repairing guzzlers, trekking through the desert expanse or hunting, they also do whatever needs to be done to leave the environment better than when they came.


"If we see something detrimental we try to get it stopped," Garcia said. "I'll pick up trash if I see it. That's my pet peeve."


In March the group will head out to the Mojave Preserve to work on a four-day conservation project there. And soon the chapter will sponsor a "snake avoidance clinic" as a fund raising event to raise money for projects. During the clinic, sporting dogs will learn how to avoid being bitten by rattlesnakes.


"It really works," Garcia said. "It's another added piece of insurance to keep your animal safe."


And because of the rain, desert snakes figure to be in abundance.


"This year there's going to be a ton of them,"he said.


Whether they are cleaning the desert or working to ensure animals have access to water, Quail Forever members are doing it for one basic reason.


"It's something that you believe in," Smith said.


"We do it because we have a passion for it," Cruz added.


High Desert Quail Forever meets on the third Tuesday of every month. Meetings start at 6:30 p.m. and are held at the Apple Valley Gun Club, 16699 Stoddard Wells Road in Victorville.