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2013 Quail Hunting Forecast

QF 2013 forecast rotation

The prolonged winter and cool spring of 2012/13 dealt quail a difficult hand as they tried to hang on for more temperate weather.  While late, when summer did arrive, nesting quail in many states found renewed, lush forb cover due to the increased precipitation in the spring. While excess precipitation may have hampered early breeders, it was a boon for quail with later hatches as vegetative cover is ideal for brood rearing and a welcomed changed from last year’s scorched landscape.

Weather can conspire against quail, but it’s habitat loss that has the long-term and most unmistakable effect on quail populations. More widespread than any weather events in recent years are the results of accelerated upland habitat destruction. Moreover, it’s destruction that’s continuing on a daily basis, as Congress hasn’t yet heeded quail hunters’ – and other sportsmen and women’s – calls to pass a Farm Bill with strong conservation provisions; including a national “Sodsaver” initiative to protect native prairie, and re-link crop insurance payments to conservation compliance.

While it is a long row to hoe in order to get back to where quail once were, quail populations in many states are seeing population increases for the first time in years, albeit if only in localized areas. Additionally, the positive momentum and support continues to grow for quail recovery. At the time of publishing, Quail Forever reached an all-time covey size of more than 12,000 members and 127 chapters located across the country.

It is always important to note that quail are resourceful and will make use of what they can, so there are coveys to be had. In addition, if readers note the numbers of states included in this report, they will find that there is still huntable populations across multiple species of quail in over half the continental United States, giving impetus for hunters to seek out one of North America’s original upland gamebirds for yet another season.

Remember to always consult official state hunting regulations for rules and season dates, and please carry Quail Forever’s code with you into the field this fall:

As a member of Quail Forever, I believe in conserving wildlife and protecting the environment. I promise to leave the outdoors a little better than I found it. I will hunt safely and treat hunting on public and private land as a privilege. I will always ask permission before hunting private land. I will obey all game laws and insist my companions do as well.


Alabama – Mild winter a boon for bobs

From 2013 QF Quail Habitat Report – please check back for hunting forecast

Alabama had an abnormally wet spring and summer with only a handful of central and southeastern counties experiencing an abnormally dry season – a drastic change from the recent severe summer droughts. Across the state, there’s been anywhere from 17-40” of rainfall reported for the year (as of the end of July) with temperatures remaining relatively low all the way through the summer months.

“On our public lands that are managed for quail we have seen more birds this spring and summer than in past years and heard from several hunters who were pleased with bird numbers,” says Carrie Threadgill, wildlife biologist for Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.  “Also, I have had reports from landowners who say they have been hearing birds on their property for the first time in 10 to 15 years.”

This past winter Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries acquired new acreages on several management areas including Lauderdale, Lowndes, Barbour, and James D. Martin Wildlife Management Areas. Additionally, the Forever Wild program bought property that ties into James D. Martin WMA and Lauderdale WMA.

Season Dates: November 9, 2013 through February 28, 2014
Daily Bag Limit: 12
Possession Limit: 12
Field Notes: Alabama has several habitat restoration projects that are ongoing and should benefit quail. One of note is on Barbour Wildlife Management Area. The Barbour County WMA Longleaf Initiative was started approximately six years ago to restore Longleaf Pine to this area. A monitoring project was started last year to monitor response by quail and all other birds annually within the restoration area.

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Arizona – Worth hunting, not worth writing home about

It’s said even average quail hunting years in Arizona are better than fantastic years in other states for western quail. According to Jonathan O’Dell, small game biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, 2013 is still a year worth getting out for, but it may not be one to write home about.

“In Arizona, it’s all about the rain when it comes to quail. Gambel’s quail need winter rains for breeding while scaled quail use spring rains for breeding. They both rely on summer monsoon rains to survive into autumn. Additionally, Mearn’s quail in Arizona need the monsoons for breeding,” said O’Dell. “Arizona started with good winter rainfall, but it ended too quickly which may explain the lower call count numbers for Gambel’s quail. On the upside, the summer monsoons were very good this year in all areas of the state.”

Birds in southern Arizona hatch peaked in the typical late May early June time frame, the birds in central Arizona had a later peak hatching near the first week of July. However, the 2013 spring call count surveys for Gambel’s quail indicated a small decrease in breeding activity over last year.

Season Dates: Gambel’s, scaled and California quail: Oct 4, 2013 – Feb 9, 2014. Mearn’s quail: Dec 6, 2013 – Feb 9, 2014
Daily Bag Limit: Fifteen (15) quail per day in the aggregate, of which no more than eight (8) may be Mearn’s quail
Possession Limit: Thirty (30) quail in the aggregate after opening day, of which no more than fifteen (15) Gambel’s, scaled, or California quail in the aggregate may be taken in one day. After Mearn’s season opens, the 30 quail possession limit may include Mearn’s quail of which no more than eight (8) may be taken in any one day.
Field Notes: Multiple partners are continuing to work on the southeastern Arizona grassland restoration goals. Scaled quail habitat in these areas continues to remain a priority with mesquite removal projects in the Sulphur Springs Valley.

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Arkansas – Hunt hard to find bobs

Arkansas experienced weather seemingly conducive to nest and brood rearing; however, the state’s brood survey data was not good and did not reflect an increase in quail populations. “I believe that quail still need time to recolonize some areas that are actively being managed to be quail-friendly habitat,” says Clifton Jackson of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Jackson expects the 2013/14 quail hunting season to be comparable to the 2012/13 season.  Hunters should point their bird dogs towards The Ouachita National Forest. There, the Department and volunteers have performed a lot habitat work conducive to bobwhites.

Season Dates: November 1, 2013 through February 2, 2014
Daily Bag Limit: 6
Possession Limit: 12

Helpful Links:

California – Extremely dry as summer came to a close

California experienced above-average early season rain in November and December of 2012, but unfortunately, record dry conditions prevailed in the late winter and early spring months leaving much of the state extremely dry as summer drew to a close.

“Quail population status entering 2013 was deemed poor, and coupled with the dry conditions observed over much of the state in 2013, we judge that the state of quail populations for the 2013 season will be poor,” says Matt Mershriy, environmental scientist for California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  “However, local variation in population dynamics is common in quail. Gambel’s quail populations in the California’s southeast may be near average levels as local rainfall was more favorable.”

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife operates several check stations on the opening weekend of quail hunting. Reports from these check stations indicate that hunter numbers as well as quail harvest were down from the previous year with average birds-to-hunter ratio was 0.63. In addition, age ratios indicated that last spring saw poor reproductive output.

Season Dates: Varies, consult regulations
Daily Bag Limit: 10 mixed bag
Possession Limit: Triple the daily bag
Field Notes: In addition to California (valley) quail, mountain quail, and Gambel’s (desert) quail, California’s diverse upland platter includes pheasants, chukar, sage grouse, sooty grouse, ruffed grouse, and white-tailed ptarmigan.
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Colorado – Severe drought impacted quail

The 2013/14 season looks to be a fairly difficult one for quail hunters in Colorado, although there have been some reports of late quail hatches in southeast Colorado once drought conditions mediated in late summer, reports Ed Gorman of the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Severe drought has impacted nearly all of Colorado’s core quail range, particularly during the nesting and brood rearing season in 2013.  In September of 2013, Colorado’s core bobwhite range of the South Platte River was inundated with flood waters, further impacting populations and habitat.

Hunters will likely see numbers similar to or slightly improved in some localized areas from 2012 for both bobwhites and scaled quail.  In northeast Colorado, it is likely hunters will find fewer bobwhites than in 2012 due to the severe drought that encompassed the breeding season, and the impacts of the flood that inundated the South Platte River in September.

Season Dates: All seasons start on November 9, 2013.  Season closures depend of region of the state. Please check regulations.
Daily Bag Limit: 8 of each species
Possession Limit: 24 of each species

Helpful Links:

Florida – Please check back

Season Dates: Please consult regulations
Daily Bag Limit: 12
Possession Limit: 24

Helpful Links:

Georgia – Good on intentionally managed lands

Georgia experienced above average rainfall during spring and summer 2013 which has resulted in an abundance of food and cover across landscapes being managed for bobwhites. This should result in increased survival and above average hunting this fall and winter. Knowing this, Reggie Thackston, program manager for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, thinks there will be a good quail hunting outlook on lands intentionally managed for bobwhites.

This year the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, in collaboration with conservation partners, will begin implementation of a revised state bobwhite restoration plan. This plan will focus technical assistance and funding into bobwhite focal landscapes identified through the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative 2.0 revision process. These landscapes are centered on existing core bobwhite populations and include a mix of both public and private lands.

Last year, the state harvested an estimated 85,939 wild quail and 430,691 game farm birds.

Season Dates: Please consult regulations
Daily Bag Limit: Please consult regulations
Possession Limit: Please consult regulations

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Idaho – Look for areas that received moisture

Jeff Knetter, upland game and waterfowl staff biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, noted winter weather was very mild and drier than average, so over-winter survival is expected to be high.  Most of southern Idaho has been very dry during the spring/summer nesting season, so there are concerns about brood survival.  That being said, many broods have been observed thus far and the Department remains cautiously optimistic about another good year.  Late summer/early fall moisture has contributed to excellent fall green-up.

Roadside surveys are conducted in the Clearwater, southwest and Magic Valley regions.  Surveys were up 130% in the Clearwater Region, but down in both the southwest and Magic Valley regions.

Based on the roadside survey results, quail hunting should be very good in the Clearwater Region.  Hunters should expect to find areas with abundant quail along the Clearwater, Salmon, and Snake rivers and their tributaries.

The hunting should also be very good in the Magic Valley Region.  Even though numbers are down from an all-time high (survey conducted since 1990) in 2012, hunters should expect to find areas with abundant quail along the Snake River and its tributaries west of Twin Falls.

The Clearwater Pheasant Initiative in the Clearwater Region (Lewiston-Moscow area), and the Habitat Improvement Program (HIP) is implemented statewide to improve wildlife habitat on private lands.

Season Dates: September 21, 2013 through January 31, 2014
Daily Bag Limit: 10 in the aggregate
Possession Limit: 30 in the aggregate
Field Notes:  Idaho has been holding steady at around 670,000 acres enrolled in CRP/SAFE, and has not seen a significant decline like many other states.  Idaho continues to promote the CP-33 buffers practice as well as a new SAFE in western Idaho focused on upland game birds.  USDA and the Department are putting a renewed effort into promoting mid-contract management which should result in better game bird habitat on these acres.

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Illinois – Good on good landscapes

According to the 2013 Northern Bobwhite Status Report distributed by the Illinois Department of Wildlife, cooler than average temperatures and above average precipitation were prevalent in most of the state during the early quail nesting season. This likely had a negative impact on nest success for many birds during this time-frame. Dry conditions followed from late July through the end of September which may have allowed some late-nesting and/or re-nesting birds to successfully fledge broods later in the summer.

Last year’s drought and relatively mild winter (except for the severe weather in March) contrasted with a wet and cool spring in 2013. Spring brought above average rainfall and severe flooding in some areas of Illinois. Below average temperatures continued through mid-summer until early August. The second half of August and September were very hot and dry with very little precipitation across most of Illinois. Above average temperatures and below-normal precipitation continued as fall began.

The key to a successful 2013-14 quail season for hunters is finding high-quality habitat. Focus areas should include a mixture of row crops, small grains, legumes and grassland (excluding wildlife-unfriendly fescue and reed canary grass). One of the pitfalls for quail habitat is grass that is too thick and rank. Even native grasses, planted for habitat, must be frequently managed with prescribed fire, strip-disking or herbicide treatments to maintain some ‘bare dirt’ so birds can maneuver underneath the canopy. Areas with lots of annual weeds, especially ragweed, are also great quail habitat when located next to more permanent cover.

The most productive quail regions in the state continue to be south-central and west-central Illinois. Hunters that have access to good habitat should still enjoy a successful season.

Season Dates: November 2, 2013 through January 8, 2014 (North) November 2, 2013 through January 15, 2014 (South)
Daily Bag Limit: 8
Possession Limit: 20 after the third day
Field Notes: This year, observers recorded an average of 0.71 quail per route (birds per route) on the 54 survey routes. Quail were recorded at 34 percent of the stops (percent occurrence). Both the number of quail counted and the number of stops where quail were seen or heard were slightly higher in 2013 than 2012 surveys.

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Indiana – Shift in best quail populations

Budd Veverka, farmland game research biologist for the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife, reports 82 bobwhite whistle count routes across 80 counties were run during the month of June.  On these routes, 71 routes had at least one bobwhite heard in either 2012 or 2013 and were used in the analysis.  From additional data, the state found a significant 16.7 percent statewide increase in the number of whistling males observed along the state’s routes.

While data shows a significant increase in whistling males, the wet spring and limited hunter access will likely lead to a similar harvest to 2012 (preliminarily estimates are 25,000 birds), but much better than the four years previous to 2012.

“We experienced some above-normal rainfall in June with the month coming in as the 11th wettest June on record (2.08” above normal).  Due to the extra rainfall, portions of the primary quail range of southwest Indiana experience some significant flooding.  This likely had some negative effect on nesting,” noted Veverka.

Veverka also mentioned while southwest Indiana typically has the best quail populations in the state, Indiana observed significant increases and good numbers in south-central Indiana in 2013, including Lawrence, Orange, and Harrison Counties.

Season Dates: North of SR 26: November 8, 2013 through December 22, 2014. South of SR 26: November 8, 2013 through January 15, 2014
Daily Bag Limit: 5 (North) 8 (South)

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Iowa  – As good or better than 2012

While Iowa experienced a late winter and a cold damp spring, landowners and Iowa DNR staff reported a number of calling males this spring, suggesting good winter survival.  Early May snow and cold temperatures were likely detrimental to early nesting; however, quail are persistent re-nesters and the number of birds heard calling this spring led most to believe populations may be better in 2013 than 2012, reports Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Bogenschutz concluded hunting should be as good as 2012 and perhaps a little better.

The 2012 quail count improved significantly from 2011; however, the 2013 count showed statewide bobwhite quail numbers were unchanged from 2012 counts.  Anecdotal reports from the field suggest hunting will be slightly better than 2012.  This year’s index is still 30 percent below the 10-year average.  This year’s count is similar to numbers seen in 2008 and 2001.

Iowa’s full roadside survey is available here:  www.iowadnr.gov/pheasantsurvey

Iowa is part of a group of states piloting the implementation of the focal area concept as part of the National Bobwhite Quail Initiative. Over the next 5 to 10 years, participating states hope to be able to better document the benefits of quail habitat management to improvement in quail populations.

Iowa’s best quail hunting opportunities are located in the three tiers of counties closest to the Missouri border.  Look for landscapes with a good mix of crops, pasture, and timber.

Approximately 8,769 quail hunters harvested 20,474 quail during the 2012 quail season.

Season Dates: October 26, 2013 through January 31, 2014
Daily Bag Limit: 8
Possession Limit: 16

Helpful Links:

Kansas – SE populations above the 15-year average, statewide limited

Unfortunately for Kansas quail hunters, drought continues to limit production in areas west of the Flint Hills. Late summer rains throughout much of the state improved conditions for late re-nesters; however, extended periods of heavy rains in the south central and portions of south eastern Kansas may further reduce productivity.

“While no significant changes were detected from last year, densities appear to continue to have increased in the eastern third of the state and continue to decline elsewhere,” says Jeff Prendergast, small game specialist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism. “Densities in southeastern Kansas have been increasing over the past five years and are above the fifteen year average.”

Populations have rebounded over the last two years in eastern Kansas. Drought has negatively impacted production and abundance in central and western Kansas over the last few years where quail densities have been highest in recent years; consequently, the state anticipates limited harvest again this year.

Overall, the statewide bobwhite breeding population decreased significantly in 2013 compared to 2012 but there is some variation across the state.

Season Dates: November 9, 2013 through January 31, 2014
Daily Bag Limit: 8
Possession Limit: 16
Field Notes: Kansas’ popular Walk-in Hunting Access Program (WIHA) contains lands in CRP, native rangeland, wheat or milo stubble and riparian or wetland areas, providing excellent upland hunting opportunities.

Helpful Links:

Kentucky – Western and Central = 100% increase

Between 2012 and 2013, Kentucky’s Rural Mail Carrier Survey showed a 57 percent increase statewide in the number of quail observed.  The western and central portions of the state experienced a 100 percent increase in the number of quail observed per 100 miles driven.

“It appears as though we had an excellent breeding season this year statewide.  In areas with good quail habitat, hunters should experience better hunting than they’ve seen over the past few years,” says Ben Robinson, wildlife biologist, small game program for the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources.

Kentucky experienced above average rainfall throughout much of the summer months.  Ultimately, this should prove to be very beneficial to quail production, which typically occurs early to mid-July.  The state did see heavy rain around July 4th week which could have been hard on young birds; however, the late summer was dry, and it was predicted that most of the state experienced good nesting/production in late July-August.

According to Robinson, Peabody Wildlife Management Area continues to be the state’s best public area for bobwhites.  This area is a reclaimed coal mine land and hunting can be difficult, but there are plenty of birds to be found.

Additionally, private lands near Bowling Green, Glasgow, and Mammoth Cave enrolled into the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) are starting to produce lots of birds.  Robinson notes his department is receiving reports of eight covey days.  Access to these private areas can be difficult, but not impossible.

Season Dates: Varies, please consult regulations
Daily Bag Limit: 8
Possession Limit: 16
Field Notes: The Sinclair unit of the Peabody WMA will be open for the first time in two years.  For more information, call 270-476-1889 or visit www.fw.ky.gov

Helpful Links:

Louisiana – CRP in Mississippi River Flood Plain encouraging

Louisiana reported no abnormal weather events during the past nesting season, and rainfall was ample in most parts of the state, according to Jimmy Stafford, wild turkey and resident small game program leader for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

As in years past, the Kisatchie National Forest continues to be the largest area regularly burned that provides quail habitat. This year, the state also continued planning a quail emphasis area on the Vernon Unit of the Kisatchie National Forest and continued to improve quail habitat on Sandy Hollow WMA and other WMAs.

Stafford also noted reports of quail in CRP and WRP lands within the Mississippi River Flood plain are encouraging, but as these young forests grow and shade out undergrowth, quail will again be extirpated.

During the 2012/13 season, Louisiana’s 1,100 quail hunters harvested an estimated 8,200 wild quail over 4,300 days.

Season Dates: November 16, 2013 through February 28, 2014 – see specific WMA regulations for deviations
Daily Bag Limit: 10
Possession Limit: 20
Field Notes:
The Department continues to work with private, corporate, and government landowners to improve quail habitat. 4,033 acres were prescribe-burned within the East Gulf Coastal Plain Prescribed Burn Initiative.  An additional 5,415 acres were enrolled in NRCS longleaf pine financial assistance programs for 2012.

Helpful Links:

Mississippi – Limited habitat is limiting factor

The overall outlook suggests a similar trend to previous years for Mississippi quail populations. An abundance of suitable habitat is the most limiting factor for quail, and where habitat is suitable, hunters can find some quail.

“We had a cooler and wetter spring and early summer this year.  Very wet conditions in some areas of the state may have negatively affected early breeding, but there have been some positive reports of late brood sightings,” reports Rick Hammrick, small game biologist for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “Where habitat types for quail are suitable, vegetative cover and insect abundance were likely good due to ample rainfall.  Seed crops favored by quail such as legumes, ragweed, and other field type plants should be good from ample rainfall.”

Breeding season call counts (bobwhite whistle counts) were somewhat erratic, likely due to above average rainfall events this summer. Most areas of managed habitat showed some increases or at least stability, while other areas were below previous years.  More information can be found at www.mdwfp.com/quail.

“We began implementing a State Wildlife Grant aimed at prairie restoration this year. It includes habitat improvements on Black Prairie Wildlife Management Area and some private lands in the Black Belt Prairie region of Mississippi,” continued Hammrick, “We also continue to deliver the Fire on the Forty Initiative in selected focal counties and Mississippi Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program cost-shares for habitat enhancement.”

These programs contribute to localized enhancements of quail habitat on private lands, many of which are aimed at quail focal areas. Conservation Reserve Program enrollments have slowed due to high commodity prices, but some existing CRP practices have been re-enrolled in quail friendly covers or otherwise enhanced for more favorable wildlife cover (e.g. conversion of non-native vegetation and brush control to enhance native grassland habitat).

Season Dates: November 28, 2013 through March 1, 2014
Daily Bag Limit: 8
Possession Limit: N/A
Field Notes: Wildlife Management Areas and National Forests in the southern part of the state provide some larger tracts of land with good quail habitat due to longleaf pine restoration efforts and prescribed fire management. However, hunters will still need to be prepared to cover some ground to find birds. Charles Ray Nix WMA (located in Panola County in the northwest part of the state) is closed to hunting, but has dog training days open December 12-26, 2013 for those with an interest in working dogs on wild birds. This area is managed for wild quail and has an increasing population (it will be opened for permitted quail hunts via drawings in the near future). Visit www.mdwfp.com/wildlife-hunting for more information.

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Missouri – Peak Hatch July, later than normal

“Overwinter survival for quail and pheasants should be about average this year.  The winter was fairly mild, with November and December 2012 being warmer and drier than average,” noted Beth Emmerich, agricultural wildlife ecologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation.  “Precipitation increased in January, and we had two blizzard events in February in two weeks. The first storm (2/21/13) dropped 5 to 12 inches of snow across the state, with the heaviest portions in the central region.  The second storm began the evening of February 25th and continued through the next day, with another 5 to 12 inches falling. “

Kansas City and Columbia had their second snowiest February on record this year and spring came fairly late to Missouri this year. The state had below normal temperatures in March and April and increased precipitation during that period. Quail and pheasants began nesting later than usual this year; and peak hatch was likely in July.  The warm, dry conditions that followed were ideal for late nesting attempts.

Overall, hunting will be varied across the state. Hunters looking for hotspots in the “Show-Me State” should point their dogs towards the northwest, the Ozarks, and the southeast portions of the state. As always, areas with well-managed quail habitat should support good numbers of birds this year.

During the 2012-2013 season, 15, 078 quail hunters harvested 100,894 quail in Missouri.

Season Dates: November 1, 2013 through January 15, 2014
Daily Bag Limit: 8
Possession Limit: 16
Field Notes: Missouri will be conducting fall covey surveys on Quail Emphasis Areas (http://mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/bird-hunting/upland-game-birds/quail-emphasis-areas) in October, so the state will have more information after those are completed. The Missouri Department of Conservation manages 19 public areas throughout the state as Quail Emphasis Areas.

Missouri leads the nation with 22 Quail Forever chapters. Southeastern Missouri’s Scott County was the first county in the nation to meet the quail habitat and population goals of the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI).

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Nebraska – Regional and statewide increases

According the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, in bobwhite abundance increased regionally and statewide compared to 2012. Results from the July Rural Mail Carrier Survey and the Bobwhite Whistle Count Survey both indicated regional and statewide increases in bobwhite abundance. Decreases were only noted for the North-Central region (RMCS; see reverse) and West Platte region (Whistle Count).

Although staff has observed some broods so far, it appears that the breeding season was delayed postponing the peak in brood abundance. Observations among staff, particularly in the Southeast and East-Central regions support the results of the RMCS and Whistle Counts. Johnson, Pawnee, and Richardson Counties should have more bobwhites compared to 2012.

Season Dates: October 27, 2012 through January 31, 2013
Daily Bag Limit: 6
Possession Limit: 24
Field Notes: Most public wildlife management areas within the range of the Northern Bobwhite are managed for early successional habitat for quail and pheasants. Nebraska also has a Walk-In hunting program, called Open Fields & Waters, which leases private land for public hunting and fishing. Many of these walk-in areas are also managed for upland game.

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Nevada – Mostly adult carry over

From 2013 QF Quail Habitat Conditions Report

The majority of the three quail species in Nevada  (California, Gambel’s and mountain quail) were adult birds going into nesting season, making the spring of 2013 important in terms of stabilizing populations.

Unfortunately, conditions throughout much of Nevada remained dry-to-extremely-dry throughout the spring, and production looks to have been below average. Quail populations may continue to decline in Nevada, and it will likely take a couple of good production years to bring the overall quail population back to normal.

Storms in December brought much needed snow accumulations to much of northern Nevada; however, that was followed by some very cold temperatures where daytime highs rarely got into the teens and nighttime lows were often below zero. This impacted quail populations in some areas of the state; particularly in portions of Humboldt, Elko and Pershing Counties, notes Shawn Espinosa, upland game staff biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

Some mountain quail and California quail habitat was recently affected by the Bison Fire in the Pine Nut Mountains. This fire was approximately 25,000 acres in size and burned mainly in the pinyon pine and juniper tree communities with some impacts to riparian aspen and willow communities. It is expected to create some short-term negative impacts to quail populations within this mountain range, which was popular for quail hunters in western Nevada.

The extremely dry conditions across the state have placed a strain on water sources and habitat conditions. Timely, but localized, precipitation events may have encouraged production in some areas.

Season Dates: October 12, 2013 through February 2, 2014
Daily Bag Limit: 10 (Persons who harvest mountain quail are requested to report their harvest to NDOW)
Possession Limit: 20
Field Notes: California quail hunting has now firmly supplanted Gambel’s quail as the second most popular game bird in Nevada aside from chukar. For many years during the 1970’s and 80’s, Gambel’s quail hunting was the second most popular species to hunt in terms of days spent in the field and harvest.

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New Mexico – Second nesting possible

Lucky for New Mexico quail hunters, monsoon season increased in September bringing much needed rains to the state. According to informal reports received by Barry Halles of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, there have been sightings of young birds in September, especially in southwest New Mexico. “We do not know if these are late clutches or second clutches.  All in all, our field personnel believe it will be a fair season this year.  We will need a couple of consecutive years of good moisture to get back to the numbers we had a few years past,” noted Hales.

Like many western states, the habitat for quail is there once the rains return. “We have so much public land in the form of BLM lands, so there is plenty of quail cover out there if moisture comes,” noted Hales.

New Mexico quail populations are heavily based on climate driven fluctuations: when conditions are good and in sequential years, the state seems to have good populations.

Season Dates: November 15, 2013 through February 15, 2014
Daily Bag Limit: 15 per day; no more than 5 Mearns quail
Possession Limit: 30; no more than 10 Mearns quail
Field Notes: In 2005, the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management (BLM) launched the Restore New Mexico initiative with the goal of restoring disturbed lands on a landscape scale through an ambitious partnership approach. Thus far, over 1.4 million acres of impaired habitat have been treated, beginning the transition to healthy ecological states. Landscape restoration in New Mexico has focused on controlling invasive brush species, improving riparian habitat, reducing woodland encroachment, and reclaiming abandoned oil and gas well pads, all of which improves wildlife habitat and allows for the reintroduction of key species.

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Oklahoma – Up 38 percent from 2012

According to Jena Donnell, quail habitat restoration biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and the state’s upland forecast, while the 2013 August roadside quail survey showed the statewide quail index to be down 69 percent from the 23 year average, the statewide index is up 38 percent from the 2012 August survey. The average number of quail seen per route increased in most regions (northeast, northcentral, southcentral, and southwest). Declines from the previous survey year were seen in the northwest and south central regions. Of the birds seen in 2013, 94 percent were reported as either three-quarter grown or full grown.

Weather is a critical factor in quail and other ground nesting bird productivity. Even though some areas of the state experienced a severe late freeze, most of Oklahoma had a mild winter. Spring and summer rains and fewer days above 100 degrees have likely improved nesting conditions and insect availability in a majority of the state. It appears the habitat and weather conditions were favorable for early nesting attempts as most quail were at least three-quarter grown. The increased rainfall also likely increased vegetative cover along the roadways which can restrict the visibility of quail during the survey period.

The October Roadside Quail Survey results, posted the last week of October, will provide important information in determining any second or third nesting attempts and additional clarity about this autumn’s population and season outlook. The survey can be found here: http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/

Season Dates: November 9, 2013 through February 15, 2014; statewide (second Sat in November thru Feb 15.)
Daily Bag Limit: Please consult regulations
Possession Limit: Please consult regulations

Helpful Links:

Ohio – Continued declines

“June quail whistle counts show populations to be extremely low in southern and southwestern Ohio, where the majority of Ohio’s quail persist,” says Nathan Stricker, project leader, Olentangy Wildlife Research Station, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and Division of Wildlife. “Most counties surveyed were below 0.2 quail per survey stop, and indices were 60 percent below 2003 levels.”

Ohio bobwhite populations continue to decline as habitat degradation continues in southwest and southern Ohio, meaning less coveys to flush in the 16 counties open to hunting in the state. This was in part due to the wet summer with flooding in central and north central Ohio.

Season Dates: Nov. 1-Dec. 1, 2013 in specific counties. Please consult the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ regulations.
Daily Bag Limit: 4
Possession Limit: NA
Field Notes: Ohio still has several thousand acres of the popular CP33 practice available for landowners wanting to add cover for their coveys.

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Oregon – Mountain quail hunt to be better than average

Forecast: It was extremely dry in southeast Oregon during January through April, which resulted in poor grass and forb growth and consequently reduced nesting cover and insect abundance for brood rearing. California quail surveys indicated abundance was 11.5 quail/10 miles of survey route.  This is below last year and below the recent 5-year average.  Mountain quail surveys detected 1.1 quail/10 miles of survey route which is about the same as last year and above the 5-year average.

“California quail associated with agricultural operations are expected to be good and comparable to previous years as water is typically not a limiting factor in these areas,” reports David Budeau, upland game bird coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). “Away from agricultural areas in the eastern part of the state, California quail populations may be depressed due to the lack of precipitation during the growing season.”

Only small numbers of California quail are found in western Oregon, but numbers are believed to be good because water is not limiting in that part of the state.  Western Oregon mountain quail numbers are also expected to be good and continue the upswing in numbers observed in 2012.

Last year, Oregon hunters harvested an impressive 42,795 California quail and 13,516 mountain quail.

Season Dates: Varies, please see page 14 of the 2013-14 Oregon Game Bird Regulations
Daily Bag Limit: Varies, please consult regulations
Possession Limit: Varies, please consult regulations
Field Notes: Columbia Basin Habitat Initiative – ODFW, in cooperation with Pheasants Forever chapters, Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation, NRCS, and Soil and Water Conservation Districts, has been working with private landowners in the Columbia Basin, particularly those re-enrolling in CRP, to enhance those lands for upland wildlife.

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South Carolina – Weather showing positive trend

Forecast: Lucky for quail, the winter of 2012-13 in South Carolina was extremely mild, and early spring resulted in some early nesting.  There was an over-abundance of rainfall throughout the majority of the growing season, which has resulted in excellent cover development throughout much of the state. Excellent cover conditions which resulted from summer rains will result in quail populations which equal or exceed those of last year on properties where adequate nesting and brood rearing cover are present, reports Billy Dukes, small game project supervisor for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

“Managed properties in the coastal plain should experience quail numbers and hunting success at least equal to last year.  Some early nesting losses were offset by a protracted nesting season and a good late hatch.  Managers on many properties have reported seeing broods throughout the nesting season,” noted Dukes. “Likewise, across the rest of the state, areas with adequate nesting and brood habitat should maintain or see a slight increase in quail populations.  Private and public lands which lack necessary habitat components will continue to struggle.

Hunters should also be aware that excellent cover development and food production which results from good rainfall during the growing season is a double-edged sword for hunters.  While numbers may be up slightly, dense escape cover and abundant natural foods can make birds more difficult to find.

Premier quail hunting locations in South Carolina are privately-owned quail plantations in the coastal plain.  These areas, not available to the average hunter, boast quail numbers as good as any in the southeast, with covey find rates of 3 to 4 coveys per hour a common occurrence.  These high quail densities are maintained through purposeful management designed to provide for all the needs of bobwhites throughout their entire life cycle.

Portions of the Francis Marion National Forest in Charleston and Berkeley counties, and portions of the Sumter National Forest in Newberry and Union counties offer reasonable opportunities for the public land hunter to find a few coveys of birds.  The Webb/Palachucola/Hamilton Ridge WMA complex in Hampton County, Crackerneck WMA in Aiken County, Draper WMA in York County, and Canal WMA in Berkeley County also have good habitat and better than average quail populations for public lands. Public land hunters should look for areas with relatively low density pines which have been prescribe burned in the last two to three years.

Season Dates: Please consult regulations
Daily Bag Limit: Please consult regulations
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Tennessee – New biologists adding habitat

According to Andy Edwards, Quail Forever Tennessee regional wildlife biologist, Tennessee experienced a mild 2012-2013 season, and the good luck continued as spring brought no major abnormal weather events.

The overall quail population is still rebounding from years past, but due to quality habitat management in certain areas, the state is seeing population increase.. This is primarily taking place in western Tennessee and localized areas  with quality upland management. On these lands, hunter will have a better chance of finding birds.

Season Dates: November 2, 2013 through February 28, 2014
Daily Bag Limit: 6
Possession Limit: N/A
Field Notes: In 2012, Quail Forever (QF) announced the addition of three new positions in Tennessee. These positions include the state’s new Quail Forever field representative, Andy Edwards, and two Farm Bill wildlife biologists, Kevin Edge and Brittney Viers. Edwards works with chapters and volunteers to further Quail Forever’s grassroots model, while Edge and Viers work with Tennessee farmers and landowners to bring back Tennessee’s state gamebird – the bobwhite quail. So far, the biologists have positively impacted over 6,000 acres for quail.

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Texas – Populations beginning to recover

Continued drought conditions over much of the core quail hunting areas in the spring and summer of 2012 resulted in only limited production of Texas bobs. The 2012 season was well below average in most regions with some new record lows in the survey. For these reasons the quail population was sparse heading into the breeding season.

Luckily, most of the core Texas quail hunting regions did in fact receive rainfall in the spring of 2013 which resulted in a flush of new vegetation and insects. Additional late summer/early fall rains have been received in the Trans Pecos, South Texas Plains and the Gulf Coast which may trigger some late nesting activity. Additional winter rains are needed to provide greens and aid population recovery.  This according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Division (TPWD) Quail Forecast 2013-2014

The overall quail hunting outlook for the state looks better than last year’s season, but still below average, according to Robert Perez, upland bird program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Division, “We expect some hunters will find good hunting opportunities as populations begin to recover.”

Season Dates: October 26, 2013 through February 23, 2014
Daily Bag Limit: 15
Possession Limit: 45
Field Notes: TPWD was allocated approximately $4 million dollars of Upland Game Bird Stamp funds ($2M in fiscal year 2014 and $2M in fiscal year 2015) for quail conservation in Texas. The primary mechanism to distribute these funds is through TPWD’s Game Bird Enhancement Grant process, which is intended to support projects designed to restore, manage, and conserve prairie, savannah, and riparian habitats.

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Utah – Significant increase in Gambel’s

Utah hunters chasing California quail will see an average season, while Gambel’s quail hunters should expect an above average season, according to Jason Robinson, upland game coordinator for the Utah Divison of Wildlife Resources. “Standout areas are northeast Utah, south of the Uinta Mountains and Washington County.”

California quail were impacted by the cold winter, but nesting/brooding conditions were good. Gambel’s quail were not affected by the winter weather, and conditions were good for Gambel’s quail. As such, Gambel’s Quail Water Hole Survey results show a significant increase (2.8 times higher) in youth/100 adults from 2012.

Season Dates: Please consult regulations   
Daily Bag Limit:
Please consult regulations
Possession Limit:
Please consult regulations
Field Notes:
The Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative is continuing to complete quail projects statewide. Also, Utah has a five-year old Walk-in-Access program providing opportunities for sportsmen and incentives for landowners. Landowners are encouraged to participate in the state’s Walk-in-Access program.

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Virginia – More quail than usual

Marc Puckett, small game project leader for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland fisheries, notes through ancillary observation and reports from constituents and staff that the state had more quail than usual this spring and summer.

“Weather-wise we had a wet summer, but rains were during warm periods and other than in flood plains, should have caused no problems for quail. The above average rainfall helped produce lush stands of native vegetation in many areas, and insects were highly abundant,” said Puckett. “I predict a better than average quail hatch in Virginia. This summer’s weather reminded me of summers as a kid forty-five years ago when it seemed ample rainfall was never a concern.”

“Our quail hunting outlook is maybe a little brighter than in past years. I am hopeful that quail are making a small comeback in parts of Virginia. But hunting will still be nowhere near the ‘good old days’.” I encourage bird hunters in Virginia to consider combining species and focusing on times and areas where woodcock and quail may occur together,” continued Puckett.

The state’s avid hunter survey which covered the 2012-2013 quail hunting season indicated on average it takes a Virginia quail hunter about 2 hours and 29 minutes to find a covey of quail, but in the better areas in southeastern Virginia it takes about 1 hour 50 minutes per covey find.

Season Dates: November 9, 2013 to January 31, 2014
Daily Bag Limit: 6
Possession Limit: 12
Field Notes: Virginia has a relatively new forestry and wildlife best management practices program through a partnership with the Virginia Department of Forestry. These practices are offered in six quail focal regions which include 15 counties: Bland, Wythe, Greensville, Sussex, Southampton, Culpeper, Orange, Madison, Greene, Rappahannock, Essex, King and Queen and King William Counties. For more information on this cost-share incentives program contact the Virginia Department of Forestry. The four basic practices available include: thinning small pine stands, pre-commercial thinning of pine stands, short-leaf pine establishment and wildlife friendly herbicide mid-rotation release in pine stands.

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