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    2020 Quail Hunting Forecast

     

    Alabama
    By Oliver Hartner

     

    Alabama quail hunters could experience average to above-average covey counts this fall on properly managed public lands and private properties.  Though Hurricane Sally likely affected the lower region of the state, a mild winter and temperate rainfall during spring and summer contribute to this year’s overall positive outlook for quail on well-managed areas.
 

    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    Steven Mitchell, Upland Bird Coordinator for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, says, “The winter was relatively mild for most all of Alabama, so I don’t believe there was any negative impact on quail populations from winter weather. In areas with adequate vegetative cover and food sources, the birds should have had normal over-winter survival.” Though poor habitat and high predation would lower over-winter survival, many property owners from well-managed areas reported hearing more males whistling in spring and early summer compared to the previous year, suggesting better over-winter survival than last year.

“Overall, spring and summer weather conditions in Alabama have been favorable for quail production.  There was good rainfall for vegetation growth and seed production all summer over much of the state,” Mitchell reports before adding, “Heavy rains from Hurricane Sally may have had a detrimental effect on small-sized late broods in lower parts of the state where 10 to 12 inches of rain were received. Those late broods add to the overall hatch and recruitment, sometimes making up 10 to 20% of the fall population on well-managed properties.”


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    
Mitchell admits, “Unfortunately, much of Alabama’s landscape is lacking in quality upland habitat. Moderate to good upland quail habitat in the state is usually only found in areas or on properties where active quail habitat management techniques are being implemented.” That being said, he believes managed areas receiving average rainfall should be in good shape heading into fall, which includes many of Alabama’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).

According to Mitchell, anecdotal evidence suggests the 2020 hatch was average to somewhat above average depending on location. “Private land managers have been reporting brood sightings all summer since June, though brood sighting reports from WMA Biologists were average to low. With decent weather for nearly the entire breeding period, we’re hopeful quail production has been good across the state and translates into a good quail hunting season,” Mitchell says. 

Alabama’s Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries conducts fall covey calling and spring male whistling surveys on many of their WMAs. The surveys monitor year-to-year population trends and responses to habitat management practices. “Results of the surveys have varied across the board with no quail heard on some WMAs (mainly waterfowl areas) and stable but low density numbers on most WMAs,” Mitchell says.


    TOP SPOTS

    Mitchell acknowledges the best quail hunting in Alabama is found on private properties intensively managed for quail. However, if you don’t have access to those types of properties, he believes quail can still be found on most WMAs. “Just don’t expect easy hunting or large numbers of birds and dog points,” he warns. Surveys indicated the WMAs with higher densities of quail were Freedom Hills in northwest Alabama, Choccolocco in east Alabama, Barbour in southeast Alabama, and Boggy Hollow and Geneva State Forest near the Florida-Alabama line. “Hard-hunting public land sportsmen can find quail on other WMAs including: Perdido, Blue Spring, Hollins, Coosa, Sam R. Murphy, and Oakmulgee. The Talladega National Forest also contains some birdy looking areas,” Mitchell adds.


    INSIDER TIP

    Whether hunting on private or public land, Mitchell recommends, “Look for open thinned pine stands containing early successional plants with scattered thickets, field edges, young clearcuts, and pine plantings in early succession stages. Also, hunt around quail foods in those areas which may include beggarweed, partridge pea, ragweed, lespedezas, pine seeds, and acorns.”

     

    Arkansas

    Quail Forever chapters, volunteers, staff, and partners have been putting in some serious effort to restore bobwhite quail populations in the Natural State. Thousands of acres of both private and public land have been impacted through the application of timber thinning, prescribed fire, and pollinator plantings. And it appears this hard work is starting to pay off: A combination of higher-than-average brood survey results and the creation or restoration of thousands of acres of quail habitat have given Arkansas quail hunters something to smile about for this upcoming season.   


    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    “Overall, winter conditions were mild, which led to numbers of bobwhites increasing statewide with the Gulf Coastal Plains, Ozarks, and Arkansas River Valley seeing decent gains compared to last year,” reports Marcus Asher, quail program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “Early nests may have been negatively affected by the substantial rainfall in May, but dry conditions during the traditional nesting time in Arkansas, which are June, July, and August, made up for those poor early conditions, as average numbers of broods and chicks are being reported.”


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    Going into fall, all that hard habitat work seems to be paying off. “Tens of thousands of acres of habitat has been restored on public and private lands in the last three years,” says Asher. “Those areas are showing three to five trend increases in quail numbers on our annual population surveys. The number of chicks and adults seen during our brood surveys are up in the Gulf Coastal Plains, Ozarks, and Arkansas River Valley regions of the state.  When combining all the ecoregions, overall chick production increased in the state this year and has for the last three years in a row.”
Arkansas also does call count routes and focal area bird counts, but as of press time those results had not been tabulated.


    TOP SPOTS

    According to Asher, the Arkansas River valley, the Quachitas and the Ozarks are the main quail areas. “Poteau/Cold Springs Ranger District, Moro Big Pine WMA and Fort Chaffee WMA are all good bets,” says Asher.


    INSIDER TIP

    “Seek out fields and open woodlands that have been burned in the last year or two, as movement is easier for quail in these areas and seed producing plants such as partridge pea, native lespedezas, other native legumes, and ragweeds are more abundant,” says Asher. “Also, Arkansas has lots of open wooded tracts and in good mast-producing years, bobwhites can be found feeding  on small acorns such as post oak and blackjack oak. “

     

    California

    Three species of quail, a 10-bird daily limit, long seasons and vast areas of public land make California a destination state, but wildfires and drought are going to make the 2020 Cali quail season soemthing of a challenge.


    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    According to Katherine Miller, an upland game bird biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, winter conditions throughout most of the Golden State were favorable for quail, but dry conditions across large swaths of California put pressure on birds.
“In 2019, quail populations benefited from the previous winter rains, which provided forbs and insects,” says Miller. “However, the summer of 2019 was drier than normal across most of California, and this trend continued through the winter. Notably, the exceptions to this were the Mojave Desert and parts of southern California, which received more rain than normal in November and December." 
Miller says winter temperatures were normal throughout most of the state.  “This suggests that while quail numbers were good going into the summer of 2019, and the populations survived through a mild 2019-2020 winter, prolonged dry conditions stressed the populations in certain areas of the state.”
Miller says in March and April, southern California and the Mojave desert received more rain than normal, which yielded good conditions for the breeding season while the rest of the state continued to experience dry conditions. 
“This continued into the summer, and included southern California and the Mojave,” says Miller. “The dry conditions affected available food for quail, and exacerbated conditions for destructive wildfires. Overall, we expect a breeding season slightly below average, and challenging conditions in late summer, will lead to a slightly lower forecast for the hunting season.”
 


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    The big question going into fall, however, is what impact wildfires will have on quail numbers and habitat.
“This season has been particularly challenging in terms of wildfires,” says Miller. “In just those fires larger than 10,000 acres, the fires have burned more than one million acres of shrubland, one million acres of evergreen forest, and 260,000 acres of herbaceous vegetation. There are still good sections of upland/shrubland for California quail and edges of forest clearings for mountain quail that have not burned, however, hunters should be aware of where fires have burned in relation to their favorite hunting areas. Quail that survived the fires will likely be dispersed from the areas they typically use.”
According to Miller, California has not yet implemented a state-wide count for quail. “We model abundance indices (number of birds/route) with the North America Breeding Bird Survey data.  Due to COVID-19, the BBS was cancelled this summer, so future analyses will have skip the 2020 season.”


    TOP SPOTS

    For mountain quail, Miller recommends Shasta, El Dorado, and southwestern San Bernardino counties, while for California quail, San Luis Obispo, Tehama, and eastern Kern counties get the nod. For Gambel’s quail, Miller says they can be found throughout their range in southeastern California, which encompasses eastern Imperial, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.
“Hunters should check with specific land managers in regard to their favorite hunting grounds,” says Miller. “At this time Sierra, Inyo, Sequoia, Los Padres, Angeles, San Bernardino, and Cleveland National Forests remained closed. Other forests, while open, have restricted access due to the fires.”

     

    Colorado
    By Marissa Jensen

    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    Colorado’s winter season provided mild, with no unusual or severe winter weather that would impact quail. Bobwhite numbers heading into the winter season were good where suitable habitat was available, however, scaled quail numbers coming out of winter were lower than optimal, according to Ed Gorman, Small Game Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Gorman says that much like other states in quail country, Colorado has experienced less than favorable drought conditions. “A dry winter led into a very dry spring, and a droughty summer. We have finally started to get some precipitation after the breeding and brooding period has passed, although this improves the habitat for birds this winter and is very beneficial, it does not help mitigate the droughty spring and summer,” shares Gorman.


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    Habitat conditions heading into fall are below average, according to Gorman. Recent gains, however, have been noted in cropland settings due to much-needed late summer precipitation. In addition, Colorado has lost large amounts of CRP over the past three years, with the remaining acres being utilized heavily due to the summer drought. Gorman advises that hunters should expect to see less habitat overall for the 2020 season.
Anecdotally, the hatch for this year appears to be poor, which Gorman says comes as no surprise due to the severity of the state’s dry conditions. Colorado does not currently participate in roadside production counts.


    TOP SPOTS

    With beautiful views and a variety of species to admire, Colorado still offers great adventure and opportunities. Gorman shares two areas that quail hunters can zone in on this fall.
“The South Platte River corridor from roughly Fort Morgan to the Nebraska state line,” he advises. “Plenty of access exists along the river in the form of State Wildlife Areas. Bobwhite populations are not booming here, but the cover is more consistent than some of the secondary range.”

In addition, Gorman suggests the extreme southeastern Baca County. “In a normal year, this area can be excellent for bobwhites and OK for scaled quail. Unfortunately, birds in this area are very prone to boom and bust fluctuations. We highlight this area because of the number of acres enrolled in the Walk-In Access program. Much of the best habitat is enrolled and open for public access so a hunter should expect a few bobwhites to be found.”


    INSIDER TIP

    “Study the places where quail find habitat suitable and recognize that most of the state's pheasant habitat does not hold a significant number of quail,” provides Gorman. “After a string of good years, a hunter can find coveys in non-core areas, including the Frenchman Creek drainage, the Arickaree, Republican and Arkansas river corridor and others.  It also pays to be a weekend weather tracker to keep track of recent weather events, patterns etc.  This pays off in both good years and poor years.”

To learn more about public access opportunities, season dates and other available upland game species to hunt, visit Colorado Parks and Wildlife.


    Florida
    By Oliver Hartner

    Bobwhite quail have a storied history in this part of the southeast region. Dedicated landowners and Quail Forever chapters are investing time and money into best practices for habitat management, and despite setbacks from Hurricane Sally, the bobwhite quail population in Florida remains stable where best practices for land management are implemented.


    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    
Greg Hagan, Quail Biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, says, “In general, moderate weather conditions throughout the winter months resulted in improved over-winter survival. This ought to position birds favorably going into the breeding season.”
 
In regards to spring and summer weather conditions, Hagan adds, “Late spring and early summer weather patterns resulted in above average nesting and adult breeding season survival.” He adds that untimely rain events, particularly in north Florida, during the early hatch meant that brood rearing success appeared to be slightly down. 


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    Hagan says, “On areas implementing quality bobwhite management, the habitat is in excellent shape.” He readily admits that Hurricane Sally had a profound impact on the integrity of the brood and hatch cycle saying, “Unfortunately, properties located in the panhandle region experienced significant impacts (15 – 20” of rain) from Hurricane Sally in mid-September.  As a result, brood production and any late season hatch was most likely impacted.” However, Hagan adds that according to Dr. Theron Terhune, Gamebird Director at Tall Timbers Research Station, chick survival has dramatically improved throughout the breeding season, and barring any additional impacts from tropical systems, the quail should be well positioned going into the fall.


    TOP SPOTS

    
For those interested in hunting quail in Florida this fall, Hagan says, “Areas in north and central Florida have historically produced quality hunting opportunities.  As mentioned above, the panhandle region (historically a great hunting destination) may have reduced populations due to Hurricane Sally.”


    INSIDER TIP

    
For those hunting on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), Hagan advises, “If you’re planning to hunt on one of Florida’s many public WMAs, please consult the WMA brochure specific to the area you plan to hunt before heading afield as many areas have differing season dates, rules and regulations.  Information can be found at: https://myfwc.com/hunting/wma-brochures/.”

    Georgia
    By Oliver Hartner

    A persistent wet winter might have delayed nesting in some areas, but mild temperatures and agreeable amounts of rainfall through spring and summer helped the reproduction cycle for late-season birds, giving Georgia quail hunters average to above-average survival rates for the 2020 fall season on well-managed habitat.


    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    According to Dallas Ingram, State Quail Coordinator for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), “Winter 2019-20 was mild and wet, but we saw a very good survival rate going into spring.  Some of our northern areas experienced very high rainfall last winter which delayed or prevented some habitat work from being completed.”
  
Cool and wet conditions in early spring might have resulted in delayed nest initiation in some areas, but by spring and summer conditions improved. “Most areas of the state had adequate rainfall for most of the spring and summer. The areas that experienced periods of drought conditions still managed to maintain decent cover,” Ingram believes.


    HABITAT, BROODS, AND COUNTS

    Most quail hunting in Georgia takes place in southern portions of the state, but in other areas where habitat management projects and initiatives are taking place, the outlook becomes more positive every year. Anecdotal evidence suggests stable numbers for the 2020 fall season due in no small part to years of effort from wildlife biologists with the Georgia DNR, Quail Forever Focus Area biologists and volunteers, and private landowners dedicated to conservation. 

Ingram says, “We have had good late season rain and cover looks good. We are still seeing some late season reproduction and overall nest success, and survival appears to be average or above average.” Hard data gathered this past spring continues showing a correlation between land management and year-to-year stability or improvement in the quail population. “We do spring breeding bird counts in May and those results were average and above average, and we will conduct our fall covey counts for 2020 beginning in mid October.”


    TOP SPOTS

    
Southern parts of Georgia have a rich quail hunting tradition, but Ingram suggests there are great opportunities on public land all across the state. Ingram explains, “Most of the public land opportunities are under quota.  You can apply for a quota hunt through Oct 15 here. If applying for quota hunts, don’t overlook DiLane Wildlife Management Area (WMA). There are also a lot of youth quota opportunities for those under 16.  They can bring up to two adult guests and, if you don’t get drawn for a quota hunt, there is still a lot of public land open if you are willing to put in the effort required to hunt it.”
   

    INSIDER TIP

    
Ingram says, “December is a great time to hunt in Georgia.  A lot of people come south later in the season after opportunities shut down in the northern states and deer season ends.  Any time of the season, you should be prepared for warm temperatures and high humidity.  Take plenty of water for you and your dog.”

     

    IDAHO
    By Ted Gartner

     

    
Idaho remains a bit of a wild card this year, with some areas of the state receiving ample rains, while other regions might have been short-changed.


    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    Idaho is a big state with a diverse mix of habitats, elevations and climates, and the state contains a variety of upland game birds. Upland bird populations can vary tremendously on an annual basis, and their health and numbers typically depend on favorable weather conditions, which are often very localized.
 
That means upland game birds are tough to forecast on a statewide basis. However, Idaho experienced cooler than normal temperatures in June statewide, along with higher than average rainfall. What does that mean for upland hunters? It's a bit of a glass half empty/full situation.
 
"Cool and wet weather during the hatch is typically not a good indicator of strong numbers in the fall. In general, we’re crossing our fingers for good second nesting attempts," said Jeff Knetter, Upland Game and Migratory Game Bird Coordinator. "On the bright side, habitat should be in good shape, and there should be an abundance of insects for brood rearing. Those that made it through June should be in great shape."


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    Brood routes in the Clearwater were up considerably from 2019 and above the 10-year average. Counts were down in the Southwest Region. Reports in the Magic Valley Region suggest stable populations.


    TOP SPOTS

    Clearwater County in the north central portion of the state, Magic Valley in the south central region, and most of southwestern Idaho are all good areas to hunt quail. Idaho is home to California quail, which are dispersed from south central Idaho, west to the Oregon border and north to the Palouse Prairie. Bobwhite quail also exist in huntable populations in a similar distribution.


    INSIDER TIP

    Brushy riparian areas typically hold quail. Some of the best habitat occurs on private lands. Remember to ask first for permission and to consult our Access Yes! program to find private lands open to hunting: https://idfg.idaho.gov/yes.
 
And wingshooting doesn’t end with quail in Idaho. Hunters can pursue five native species of grouse - dusky, ruffed, sage, sharptail, and spruce grouse - in addition to chukar, Hungarian partridge, and a healthy population of pheasants.


    Indiana

    Like many other midwestern agriculture states, Indiana has suffered a long-term decline in upland habitat and overall bobwhite quail numbers in recent decades. However, a relatively mild winter and higher call counts in some areas mean there may be pockets of good news for Hoosier State quail hunters.
 


    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    "Based on NOAA data, the winter weather throughout Indiana was mild through at least December,” says Matt Broadway, small game research biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “In most areas where weather stations record this data, average daily temperatures were at least 4 degrees higher than normal. Precipitation and snow events were also less severe. That said, we did experience one significant snow event in central Indiana and 1-2 significant rain events lasting more than one day."
According to Broadway, it’s possible some birds succumbed to extreme weather, or predation, during those times, but any losses were likely no lower than normal given the relatively mild weather throughout winter.
"We also saw above average temperatures in late winter with less severe rainfall events in many portions of the state eventually leading to a dry spring and summer.”
 Based on spring counts, Broadway says it seems adult birds survived well.
“We detected a higher than average number of calling males during our surveys and given the dry spring and summer, we expect reproduction to be at least average. We didn't see jumps everywhere, but the typically better areas of the state; southwest, south-central, parts of the southeast, appeared more likely to increase, which we would expect.”


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    According to Broadway, a few anecdotal reports of higher-than-normal brood counts and late broods suggest a good production year, at least in some regions, but the hard data isn’t quite in yet.

    “We do annual whistle call surveys throughout the state on at least 65 routes,” explains Broadway, “but those results are not published to our website as of yet.”


    TOP SPOTSTOP SPOTS

    Broadway says the farther south you go, the better your odds.
“Private land in the south-central area near the Kentucky border is good, along with the southwest portion of the state, if you can get access.”


    Iowa
    By Marissa Jensen

    
Thinking of heading to the Hawkeye state for quail this season? We have the inside scoop waiting for you!


    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    Winter weather was primarily good throughout Iowa, however, there were two weeks which delivered snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures throughout the state’s quail range which likely impacted overwinter survival. Spring and summer were additionally good, with April and May being cooler than normal. Rainfall, however, was the lowest the state has seen in the past twenty years which is a factor that may need to be considered this season.


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    Upland habitat across Iowa is going to look like last season’s, according to Todd Bogenschutz, Upland Wildlife Research Biologist for Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “We have 1.7 million acres of CRP which is much lower than our historic peak of 2.2 million acres, and approximately 100,000 acres less than was seen in 2018.”
Iowa experienced dry weather this year, much like many of the midwestern states in quail country. The state’s drought may have impacted roadside surveys, however, Bogenshutz is hopeful that the true impact on the state’s quail population will be minimal.
“In the past we haven’t seen good reproduction in drought years, but the drought this year was not particularly long, so we are unsure if it had impacts on reproduction or not.”
Readers can view Iowa’s full report at www.iowadnr.gov/pheasantsurvey. The survey shows that quail numbers in Iowa remain unchanged from last year, however, the overall trend has slightly declined. Bogenshutz shares that counts in southwest Iowa were higher than last year, southcentral counts were lower, and southeast Iowa remains unchanged. “Anecdotally, staff have reported seeing more quail this year than last during work activities, so it’s possible we didn’t get an accurate count of birds with the dry conditions during roadside counts.”


    TOP SPOTS

    Thinking of visiting Iowa this fall? Or maybe you’re a resident looking to try somewhere new? Bogenshutz suggests that hunters visit the state’s quail distribution map to find where the numbers are highest. Additionally, the southwest region holds opportunity for quail hunters, however, don’t discount southeast Iowa as Bogenshutz indicates this area could be a “sleeper.”

Roadmaps and publicly accessible land can be viewed either online or hard copy of Iowa’s Hunting Atlas. Additionally, over 20,000 publicly accessible acres are available for hunters to consider through the Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP). Hunters can learn more about IHAP and download maps to select areas which they wish to target.


    INSIDER TIP

    Bogenshutz advises hunters to start earlier in the morning for a successful, early season hunt. “I’d suggest hunters get up before daybreak and listen for covey calls in the first month of the season. Coveys sound off with a covey call from 45 minutes to 25 minutes before sunrise each morning. Hunters may need to split up to listen to different areas.” Bogenshutz reminds us that not every covey sounds off in the morning, so if a call isn’t heard, that doesn’t mean there aren’t quail in the area. “If coveys are not calling, studies have shown that there is only about a 50:50 chance a covey will sound off.”

     

    Kansas
    By Marissa Jensen

    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    If you’re considering a quail hunt in the Midwest this season, don’t overlook Kansas for bobwhite and scaled quail. With a mild 2019-2020 winter for the state, coupled with heavy rainfall from the 2019 summer, ample grain and forb seeds provided an abundant food source for the birds to head into this year. Although spring brought dry conditions that caused some concern, rainfall throughout the months of June and July provided reprieve and improved conditions for nesting birds.
“Late summer rainfall has created good fall crops and abundant weedy stubble fields,” shares Jeff Prendergast, Small Game Specialist for Kansas Department of Parks, Wildlife, and Tourism.


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    Kansas had twenty-eight counties that were released for emergency haying and crazing of CRP, some of which are outside of the primary quail range for the state. This, combined with expiration of CRP and managed haying for contract renewals, have reduced the amount of cover provided by CRP fields this winter.
The 2020 hatch looks good, however, as promising reports continue to filter in and are supported by roadside surveys.
“Statewide quail index was stable remaining and well above average,” provides Prendergast. Readers can find a report on Kansas’ quail at  https://ksoutdoors.com/Services/Research-Publications/Wildlife-Research-Surveys/Upland-Bird.


    TOP SPOTS

    Headed to the sunflower state this fall or winter? Prendergast provides insight on three areas for hunters to consider.
“The Smoky Hills area in the north-central region provides the highest density of quail in the state this year,, while the South Central Prairies saw increases this year,” says Prendergast. “There is a good mix of habitat that provides lots of opportunity on the landscape. The southern High Plains in the southwest provides riparian areas which often hold high densities of quail.”


    INSIDER TIP

    “Don’t overlook less obvious cover,” Prendergast advises. “Lots of quail nest in upland prairies and birds will often stay out in the prairie, at least through the early season before colder weather pushes them to heavier woody cover and crop fields. Birds aren’t as easy to pinpoint as they are on crop field edges, but these coveys receive less hunting pressure and can provide for an excellent experience.”

     

    Kentucky

    A mild winter, good spring nesting conditions, and being in the upswing of a seven-year population cycle are making Kentucky quail hunters hopeful for a good quail season  


    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    “We had a mild winter over all in Kentucky this year, reports Cody M. Rhoden, small game biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources. “There was slightly higher than average precipitation, mostly in the form of rain, in the eastern portion of the state, but bobwhite should have come through winter just fine across the Commonwealth.”
Rhoden says the spring of 2020 started out on an abnormal cold snap in late April and early May, but the cold weather thankfully did not last long, and is not believed to have hurt reproduction.
“The summer precipitation has been consistent and largely average across the state, with great nesting and brood rearing for quail,” says Rhoden. “Early brood reports from public areas hint at possibly a slightly early start to the nesting season, but overall this year’s reproduction seems to be spot on in terms of timing.”


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    “The upland habitat is likely not changed a lot in the last few years,” says Rhoden. “The Commonwealth has large tracts of connected open lands, but unfortunately the vast majority is not fit for bobwhite. Our quail-centric public areas have not been able to work as much ground this year overall, but we still have areas with decent quail numbers for the mid-south.”
According to Rhoden, the 2020 hatch and broods appear to be slightly better than last year. “This year we have had better and more consistent weather during hatch and brood rearing than last year,” says Rhoden, “and our statewide population is climbing naturally from its cyclical 7-year low from 2018.”
 
Rhoden says Kentucky has two main ways of indexing the quail population: Hunter Cooperator Logs and the Rural Mail Carrier Survey. “Kentucky’s quail population cycles naturally in seven-year cycles, with a peak at year one then a low at year seven. 2018 was the worst year on record for the Rural Mail Carrier Survey, but fortunately we have seen increases in the statewide indices from last year to this summer going into the fall 2020 and 2021 season,” says Rhoden. “Quail hunters in Kentucky averaged 1 covey per 4.5 hours of hunting, and we should expect less time to coveys in the upcoming 2020-2021 season based on the observed trends.” 


    TOP SPOTS

    Peabody WMA in west-central Kentucky, Clay WMA in the northeast, and Rockcastle River WMA in the southeast are three good bets when it comes to finding some public-land Kentucky bobs, says Rhoden.
“Hunters should first focus in the western portion of the state, but we do have a few diamonds in the eastern portion of the state,” he says.


    INSIDER TIP

    “Quail hunters in Kentucky should be prepared to do some walking for the greatest reward in hunting, which is the thunderous covey rise,” says Rhoden. “Many of our public areas where we have relatively good quail numbers are also really good rabbit hunting spots. Sometimes this leads to more elusive bobwhite than one might expect. My best tip would be to try to go out and hit these areas as early as you can, or as early as your dog will tolerate. Combine this early hunting with moving SLOWLY. Many times, coveys will run before getting up, sometimes only a single from the group will flush, leaving the rest to stick to the ground and run off. Taking your time in these scenarios can lead to flushing more birds, especially early in the season.”


     

    Missouri
    By Marissa Jensen

    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    Missouri, like many midwestern states, can experience a variety of winter conditions and fluctuations. Fortunately for bird hunters, the winter of 2019-20 in Missouri remained mild, which likely contributed to better overwinter survival for the birds. Spring began with cool and wet conditions; however, challenges would arise later in the spring and summer with drier weather, which prevailed during the primary nesting season. All conditions considered and aside, it appears to be good news for quail in Missouri this upcoming season.

Habitat, Broods and Counts
The majority of quality quail habitat remains located in north, west central and southwest regions of Missouri. “Based on our August roadside surveys conducted each year, bobwhite quail populations are up approximately 33% from last year,” says David Hoover, Resource Management Supervisor for the Northwest Region with Missouri Department of Conservation. “Most areas of the state showed moderate increases in quail numbers this year.” Upland hunters will want to note that the bootheel counties (Mississippi Lowlands) were down more than normal this year. Additionally, the Northern Riverbreaks saw a slight decline this year as well, with the remaining six regions all showing promising increases in quail numbers.


    TOP SPOTS

    We asked Hoover to provide the inside scoop for readers on where to target their efforts this upcoming season. “The best quail hunting can generally be found north of I-70 Highway and west of 65 Highway in areas with a good mix of diverse native grasses (lots of broad-leaf plants and open at ground level), shrub cover, and intermixed or adjacent to some cropland.”
And don’t forget to check out Missouri Department of Conservation’s Missouri Outdoor Recreational Access Program where privately-owned properties are open for walk-in public access.


    INSIDER TIP

    Looking for more? We’ve got you covered with an insider tip from our source. “When scouting out areas for bird hunting, habitat is still the key for finding good numbers. Quail tend to be in areas with diverse plantings such as native grasses and forbs with plenty of shrubby cover.”


    Nebraska
    By Marissa Jensen

    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    Nebraska continues to be an excellent opportunity for resident and non-resident upland hunters. Transitioning from last season, the 2019-20 winter was typical across the state with no mass mortalities noted. “Although overwinter survival was likely high this past winter, Nebraska’s quail populations are still recovering from the severe winter weather events that impacted adult survival prior to the 2019 nesting season,” shares John Laux, Upland Habitat and Access Program Manager for Nebraska Game & Parks Commission. “Nebraska’s bobwhites are at the northernmost extent of their range, and populations are generally limited by extreme winter weather conditions like we experienced in spring 2019.”

Fortunately, quail are prolific breeders, says Laux, and can rapidly re-populate areas when good habitat and weather conditions persist.

Weather conditions from spring to summer were favorable throughout much of core bobwhite range, including portions of southeastern and south-central Nebraska. Temperatures were unseasonably warm during early to mid-June across the state but returned to more favorable conditions thereafter. Total precipitation was slightly above normal for the southeast portion of the state, with higher rainfall noted along the Kansas border. Rainfall was well-timed across summer months, which aided in producing and maintaining favorable habitat conditions throughout much of the nesting and brood-rearing season.


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    “Drier conditions have prevailed in many areas of the state more recently, but upland habitat is still looking relatively good across southern Nebraska,” shares Laux. “Emergency haying and grazing will impact CRP in quite a few Nebraska counties this fall, but there shouldn’t be any noticeable impacts within the core of bobwhite range.”

Laux also commented that biologists have reported seeing and hearing good numbers of quail across southern Nebraska, in areas with suitable habitat. Although quail brood observations tend to be limited, broods of various ages have been reported throughout the summer and into early fall. “Timely rains helped maintain good habitat conditions throughout the summer months and this appears to have encouraged some additional nesting efforts by bobwhites during late summer,” remarks Laux. “Calling males and paired adults were being observed in late July and August and there have been several reports of young broods observed in early September.

Anecdotally, production appears to have been relatively good this year overall, which should improve quail hunting opportunities this fall and should help Nebraska’s bobwhite populations rebound.”
Across Nebraska, bobwhite counts through the July Rural Mail Carrier Surveys, along with Whistle Count Surveys, were 14-16% lower when compared to the 2019 statistics and remain below the 5-year averages. Whistle counts declined in all regions except for east-central, northeast, and republican regions, where whistle counts remained the same or slightly increased.

To read more on this year’s survey results, along with the 2020 upland hunting forecast, readers can visit www.OutdoorNebraska.org/upland.

“Despite survey results, this year’s fall population will depend largely on production during the nesting season. As mentioned above, production appears to have been relatively good this year in the core bobwhite range and this likely was not captured in our surveys which are conducted in June and July,” provides Laux.


    TOP SPOTS

    Southeastern and south-central Nebraska remain top regions for upland hunters to focus their efforts. Wildlife Management Areas continue to provide great opportunities and are scattered throughout the southern two tiers of counties, and with Nebraska’s unique Habitat Share program, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has impacted 36,000 acres with more than $4.6 million spent on habitat improvements increasing public hunting opportunities across the state.

“In this highly fragmented landscape, these areas offer some of the largest blocks of contiguous quail habitat around, but Open Fields and Waters (OFW) sites scattered throughout the same general area should not be overlooked.”

Open Fields and Waters, Nebraska’s public access program developed with the help of many partners, including Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, along with Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, increases public access opportunities on private lands. Through this program, over 346,000 acres are now available for public access for upland hunters to consider.

In south-central Nebraska, Laux recommends that hunters target the southern tier counties (while staying east of U.S. Highway 83) and focus efforts on the edges of CRP fields, unfarmed draws, and crop stubble fields that are enrolled in OFW. Additionally, Wildlife Management Areas and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lands surrounding the region’s irrigation reservoir, supports good numbers of bobwhites while offering large blocks of habitat to explore.


    INSIDER TIP

    In the east, Laux recommends focusing on field edges and weedy portions of fields with abundant bare ground, annual grasses, and broadleaf plants (such as foxtail, sunflowers and ragweed). Although he warns that this type of habitat is more limiting in eastern Nebraska, it can often be found in areas that were recently disturbed by conservation practices such as fire, grazing and/or discing. “Overall, woody cover is very abundant in the east but hunters should avoid mature woodlots and heavily-wooded drainage. Instead, target areas with native shrub thickets and younger tree growth that are more suitable to bobwhites.”
“As you move west along the southern border of Kansas,” shares Laux, “a drier, more diverse landscape prevails. Weedy cover is still very important but is naturally more abundant. Early in the season, cover and food resources are very abundant and coveys are typically scattered across the landscape. As the season progresses, woody cover and high-energy food become increasingly important to bobwhites.”
With woody cover more limited in the west, Laux recommends keeping close to a good plum thicket, especially late in the year.

For more information on public land opportunities in Nebraska, visit: http://outdoornebraska.gov/wheretohunt/


    New Mexico
    By Ted Gartner

    
A long and dry summer didn’t do New Mexico quail any favors, but for those who are willing to put in the miles, the Land of Enchantment will continue to lure bird hunters.


    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    “It was a relatively mild winter in New Mexico, so overwinter survival was good across the State,” says Casey Cardinal, resident game bird biologist at the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “In the southwest portion of the state there have been several years of good winter precipitation, which is beneficial for Gambel’s quail.”


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    Unfortunately, spring and summer were very hot with little precipitation. Nesting and brood rearing conditions were not ideal, particularly in the southeast portion of the state. By the end of summer, much of the quail range was in some level of drought. Production was likely average to below average across much of the state this summer. There was some monsoon moisture late in the summer, so there may have been a late hatch.
 
In the extreme southwest, winter moisture benefitted habitat and conditions seemed to stay decent longer in this area, which may have resulted in increased bird numbers along the Arizona border.
 
Surveys in 2020 indicate that there could be fewer broods on the landscape in the southeast, due to dry conditions during the breeding season.  This could result in fewer birds harvested compared to previous years.  Though there may be fewer broods on the landscape, broods that were found tended to be decent sized, with some broods found with 15+ birds in September. Folks who put in the effort will still be able to find birds, but it could be after logging more miles than average.
 
Good Gambel’s quail numbers were found near the Arizona border, with broods of 20+ birds found in several areas. Though there are still fewer broods found in the southwest compared to the southeast, brood sizes were larger and more healthy than found in the last several years.
 
New Mexico’s Roadside Survey is still in its preliminary stages of implementation. Because these are new surveys, the state won’t have comparison data from previous years, but that will hopefully change by the 2021-22 hunting season.


    TOP SPOTS

    Though production was average or below, quail densities are still highest in the southeast. Scaled quail harvest will still be highest in Chaves, Lea, and Eddy counties.
 
Gambel’s quail hunting will likely be good this year near the Arizona border, including Hidalgo, Grant and Luna Counties.


    INSIDER TIP

    “Coveys near the road get hit pretty hard, and become very skittish early in the season.  Don’t be afraid to get off the road to look for birds,” Cardinal says.  “Drainages are a great place to start your search, as they have green vegetation and insects that quail readily utilize.”

     

    Nevada
    By Ted Gartner

    The northern portion of the state has been experiencing prolonged moderate or severe drought conditions, so it may be a challenge to hit the jackpot on Nevada birds this year.


    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    January and February were extremely dry in the northern half of the Silver State this year where California quail and a fewer number of mountain quail reside. Scattered rain helped somewhat in April and May, but conditions continue to be well below average rainfall totals.
 
In the southern half of the state, where Gambel’s quail call home, rainfall was considered normal, and range conditions are looking good.


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    Like so much of the west, moisture is the key ingredient in any successful quail recipe - and not just the amount of rain, but the timing of it is critical, too.
 
The Nevada Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) for California quail suggests that since 2006, California quail have been on a slow but steady rise, but it’s questionable if the 2020 season will continue that trend. The Nevada BBS also indicates increasing populations of Gambel’s quail beginning in 2014.
 
“Some significant storms that tracked through Clark and southern Lincoln Counties should have improved habitat conditions for Gambel’s quail prior to nesting,” says Shawn Espinosa, upland game staff specialist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife.


    TOP SPOTS

    Simple - go where the water is. For Gambel’s quail, mother nature seems to have provided them with all the moisture that they need. Focus on draws and dry washes that offer cover that’s thick enough for the birds to hide in, but with enough open corridors for them to make their escape on foot. Focus on Clark, Lincoln, and Nye counties.
 
For California quail, finding water sources may be more difficult, but oftentimes, these valley birds will congregate around irrigated agriculture, so it’s worth knocking on some farm doors. Most eastern and northeastern counties hold huntable populations of California quail.
 
If it’s mountain quail you’re after, focus on areas closest to Carson City. They can easily adapt to different habitats, but many times they can be located on the edges between open country and forests.


    INSIDER TIP

    Always bet on black - that’d be the black and white pages of the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s Water Development Atlas. These maps show locations of man-made “guzzlers,” or rainwater runoff collection and storage structures. They’re designed to attract wildlife, including quail. More than 1600 of them have been erected throughout the state.


    North Carolina
    By Oliver Hartner

    Dwindling habitat continues to have a negative impact on the bobwhite quail in North Carolina. Populations have stayed near record lows for several years, and quail have become nearly extinct in western parts of the state. However, there are glimmers of hope in eastern parts of the state where intense land management practices have taken place. Quail Forever volunteers are critical to stabilizing populations in the eastern part of North Carolina and improving habitat wherever else possible.   


    WEATHER AND HABITAT

    Despite having a mild winter across the region, North Carolina quail are still in steep decline. More detrimental to quail than any particular weather patterns seems to be habitat loss. Christopher Kreh, Upland Gamebird Biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commissions, says,
“In general, quality upland habitat for quail is in short supply, especially in the piedmont and mountains.  This has been the case for many years. We don’t do any quail-specific surveys or track annual changes, but information about the bobwhite in North Carolina can be found at https://www.ncwildlife.org/Learning/Species/Birds/Bobwhite-Quail.”


    TOP SPOTS

    There is a glimmer of hope for bobwhite quail in places where habitat is being managed, and there are still opportunities for quail hunters in the eastern part of North Carolina. Kreh says, “Quail populations and hunting opportunity are best in eastern North Carolina.  Hunters may want to consider special permit quail hunting opportunities on Murphy-Brown Corporate CURE and Voice of America Game Lands.  Details about applying for permits can be found at https://www.ncwildlife.org/Licensing/Permit-Hunting-Opportunities.  Deadline for application is October 1st each year.”


    Ohio

    While bobwhite quail in the Buckeye State continue to decline, there are some bright spots, habitat-wise, thanks in part to the efforts of dedicated Quail Forever volunteers and staff and the implementation of regional Quail Focus Areas.

According to Nathan Stricker, a wildlife biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the population of bobwhite quail in the Buckeye State is estimated to be around 10,000 birds. While those numbers may seem small, the season is still open in the southern part of the state. 
 


    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    "Ohio had a relatively mild winter," says Stricker. "However, research in the last decade has shown that even during mild winter years quail survival is not good. Populations continue to decline because of habitat loss and low winter survival, but the rate of decline is slower than in a bad winter year."
Poor spring nesting conditions, however, negated whatever small break the mild winter gave Ohio’s bobwhites.
“Ohio’s spring was cold and wet, which does not bode well for quail and pheasant reproduction,” says Stricker.


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    Stricker says the remaining upland habitat in Ohio is dwindling each year. However, Quail Forever is actively engaged in habitat work to reverse that trend, including programs such as the Fallsville Quail Heritage Area in southern Ohio. As for bird numbers this fall, Stricker says the whistle counts have declined from last year. 
“Ohio does a spring roadside whistle count, but counts have progressively lessened, and the most recent quail estimate in 2019 was that Ohio has about 10,000 quail,” says Stricker.


    TOP SPOTS

    Stricker says Ohio private-land quail populations are highly fragmented and generally difficult to find, so scouting is key.
“With the exception of two locations, quail hunting on public land is closed and only allowed on private lands during our 24-day season,” says Stricker. “The public land exceptions include Tri-Valley Wildlife Area in Muskingum County, which is the site of field dog trials, and Crown City Wildlife Area which is available only through controlled hunt lottery.”


    INSIDER TIP

    Given the poor nesting success this year, Stricker suggests taking extra care when hunting Ohio quail this season.
“If you are fortunate enough to harvest wild quail from a covey private lands this season,” says Stricker, “consider leaving that covey alone for the rest of the season to give the population a chance to survive into the next year.”
 


    Oklahoma

    When it comes to quail hunting, the Sooner State is a bit of a sleeper, but Oklahoma has long been a destination for quail hunters in the know. With a number of quality public hunting areas combined with a new and popular walk-in hunting program that has opened up even more access, Oklahoma’s quail hunting opportunities are on the rise.
While drought affected some portions of the state, a mild winter and an uptick in brood reports this spring and summer give hope for another good season.


    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    Oklahoma had a pretty mild winter in 2019-2020, with limited snowfall and shorter periods below freezing than normal,” says Tell Judkins, upland game biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “As a result, bird numbers appeared to hold steady coming out of winter.”
However, that mild winter was negated somewhat by droughty spring conditions across some of the better quail regions in the state.
“This spring at the beginning of the nesting season we saw drought in the northwest portion of the state,” reports Judkins. “As the nesting season moved forward we saw that drought shift to the southwest part of the state. Central and eastern Oklahoma appear to have had a pretty decent spring and summer, weather-wise.”


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS   

    Going into fall, Judkins thinks the state is comparable to where it was last year, habitat-wise. One of the problems, however, with predicting habitat conditions in a state as varied as Oklahoma is the sheer number of different habitats where quail are found within the state borders.
“Quail are found statewide in Oklahoma, which includes more than 10 different ecoregions,” explains Judkins. “Each region in the state has its own habitat concerns, but generally speaking most habitats in Oklahoma could use invasive woody plant management to improve grass/forb biodiversity. That being said, this year most of the state looks equal to or better than last year habitat-wise. The southwest region is a little worse due to drought, and there are areas in the northwest that were also negatively impacted by drought.”
As for quail numbers, Judkins says he’s getting many more brood reports this year from across the state than he did last year.
“Oklahoma State and ODWC also created a Brood Survey App,” explains Judkins, “and this year we had quite a few more quail brood reports than last year come in via the app as well.”
Regionally speaking, says Judkins, the north-central and southeast regions were up over 2019, all other regions appear to be down in the August Surveys.
“But keep in mind that August surveys don't always reflect what we see in October or what we see once the season starts,” says Judkins. “I am still optimistic for the October surveys; I expect to see higher numbers in most regions of the state over 2019.” 


    TOP SPOTS

    “Quail hunting in Oklahoma is a broad statement,” says judkins. “Quail are generally found in most counties. Northwestern parts of the state are well known for good quail hunting, areas such as Cooper, Beaver River, and Cimarron Hills WMAs, but southeastern WMAs like Three Rivers can provide a decent opportunity for a challenging hunt in the difficult terrain of the pine forests.” 


    INSIDER TIP

    “The main tip I would provide is to enjoy yourself. Oklahoma is full of unique landscapes and history. Quail can be pretty sneaky, especially late in the season, so work some ground, trust your dog, and make a memory. Enjoy the Oklahoma Outdoors!”


     

    South Carolina
    By Oliver Hartner

    
Optimal weather conditions and higher-than-average whistle counts suggest a favorable forecast for Palmetto State quail hunting. Though there’s still a lot of work to be done, years of successful habitat management through the South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative are benefiting quail on both private and public properties.


    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    
Mild winter temperatures seem to have benefited the quail, and wetter weather patterns were more a nuisance to hunters than a detriment to habitat. Michael Hook, Quail Coordinator and Small Game Program Leader for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, says, “We had a mild winter and it should have benefited quail, and though we did have some wet weather it wasn't substantial enough to negatively affect the birds.” Jacob McClain, Wildlife Biologist for Quail Forever adds, “The 2019-2020 winter was wetter than usual, but seems to have only limited hunting opportunities more than anything.
 
A wet start to the spring wound up being a good thing by the beginning of summer, Hook says. “The spring and summer weather could not have been better. We had timely rain in the spring to get the brood cover up quickly, then it dried up a bit and good rainfall followed intermittently all summer. The brooding and nesting habitat looked great all summer and anecdotally I've heard about more broods in places they haven't been seen in years this year.”


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    Where land management practices are implemented, both Hook and McClain see positive results and high quality habitat from the collective efforts of the South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative. “We have had good conditions and most places are covered in beggarweed, rag weed, and partridge pea.  Many of our Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) have been doing a great deal of habitat work and the birds are responding, especially in the Piedmont region where Jacob has been working.” McClain adds, “On parts of the Sumter National Forest the habitat looks pretty good as many timber stands have been thinned, burned, or sprayed to manage for early-successional habitat. Private landowners have put in the work as well and they’re starting to see the benefits. Pine stands that have been thinned and burned, that's where habitat looks the best.”
 
Anecdotal evidence in the Piedmont region indicates better covey counts than have been seen in almost a generation. “Many private landowners from Newberry and Union Counties tell me that they heard more quail this spring than they have in 10-15 years, and in the Piedmont region, we see the local population in the Sumter National Forest on the Indian Creek Focus Area booming from the habitat work of the United States Fish and Wildlife Services, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and Quail Forever. That's not to say we are back up to pre-1980's levels, but the population is moving in the right direction,” McClain explains.
 
After South Carolina completed its annual whistling cock survey, they found it was the second highest count they’ve had in five years. “I feel like we would have surpassed the highest count but many of our routes were not run due to cooperators having COVID-19 restrictions,” Hook says before McClain adds, “Spring whistle counts on the Indian Creek Quail Focus Area in the Sumter National Forest suggest birds did OK through the winter as we heard more cocks whistling this year than in the past five years.” They’re still gathering data from the brood survey, but in speaking with several participants, Hook acknowledges they saw a healthy number of quail broods this summer.


    TOP SPOTS

    Hook has seen the Pee Dee area in the eastern part of South Carolina as the top producer for number of flushes the last couple of years and expects that trend to continue this year. However, he acknowledges the western Piedmont is a lesser known area that might warrant a few trips this year. McClain expounds on this area saying, “The South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative has four focal areas that can be found at https://www.dnr.sc.gov/quail/focalregions.html, and these would be good regions to explore at first on Google Earth or OnX and then in the field with a bird dog.”


    INSIDER TIP

    In regards to successful hunting in the Palmetto State, Hook advises, “Don't spend all of your time on the Quail Focal Areas. Many of the named WMAs are actively managed and good quail hunting can be found if you do a little scouting. Some of the most rewarding hunts are found on the unnamed WMAs across the state. The habitat is much more ephemeral in that it might be here this year and gone next, but there are good coverts scattered across the state as these properties go through their timber cycles. The key is putting in some windshield time and keeping track of any changes to the timber.”
 


     

    Tennessee
    By Oliver Hartner

    Overall habitat in Tennessee has not been conducive to a broad population of bobwhite quail for quite some time. However, for those places where habitat is being managed intensely, the quail population looks stable, and wild coveys can be found for those willing to put in some leg work.    


    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    A mild winter across the state likely supported winter survival rates. Roger D. Applegate, Certified Wildlife Biologist for the Tennessee Wildlife Resource agency, reports, “There was virtually no snow in areas that have bobwhites and little ice.”
 
However, a wet spring and summer might’ve had an impact on nests and brood survival rates. Applegate says, “Having a wetter spring and summer can be problematic for quail nesting because nests could easily be flooded out and also damp conditions are tough on young chicks.”


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    As in many areas of the southeast, habitat loss has created problems for Tennessee’s bobwhite quail population. The heavy rains this year may have compounded the problem of habitat management as Applegate explains, “Many areas where habitat is not being managed is too dense, and due to all of the rain we have had, burning has been very challenging to complete on some areas.”
 
Despite the adverse weather conditions during the spring and summer and extensive loss of habitat, Applegate believes, “Anecdotally I can say that populations are stable-in-trend, and we look at trends and not year-to-year counts because those might give us the wrong impressions.” He also adds that limited data collection on the few sites they survey has not been analyzed yet, and he doesn’t expect a completed analysis until the end of October.
 
Applegate and other biologists don’t typically conduct brood surveys for quail due to the dense vegetation along Tennessee roads.


    TOP SPOTS

    For those wanting to quail hunt public land in Tennessee, Applegate says, “Some of the best quail hunting right now in Tennessee can be found on the wildlife areas in the middle section of the state. Our website tn.gov/twra has excellent sources on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) by region, and our hunt guide provides details on what can be hunted on those areas. There’s also a contact at the site that you can talk with to get local info.”


    INSIDER TIP

    Applegate suggests inquiring with local WMA managers for suggestions on where to find birds on their areas, and to do a lot of planning and scouting. “If you aren't already doing this, you are going to have a hard time in November,” he says.

     

    Texas
    By Ted Gartner

    Trying to forecast quail numbers in Texas is a daunting task. While one 30,000-acre ranch might have received perfectly timed rains, their neighbor might not have gotten a drop. That’s life in the Lone Star State - while the surveys don’t look particularly encouraging, there are always localized bright spots.


    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    Overwinter conditions were good for the core bobwhite and scaled quail regions of Texas. Biologists saw no significant mortality events or shortage of food/cover. Things were shaping up nicely for Texas - and then summer arrived.


    HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

    “Come summer, things really dried up in the Rolling Plains region and production likely came to a halt,” says Robert Perez, quail program leader with the Texas Department of Wildlife and Parks. “Later in the summer, insects appeared to be less available for chicks. The region was already starting from behind, so it has been a hard hill to climb.”
 
But again, Perez stresses that isolated, pop-up thunderstorms providing some timely rainfall may offer some decent hunting opportunities in the Rolling Plains. South Texas may be the best bet for quail this season.
 
“There were at least three different significant rainfall events over the summer that should lead to some improved production and differing age classes of broods. We might even see some late hatches,” Perez says.
 
The average number of bobwhites seen per route in the Rolling Plains region was 3.25 compared to 5.3 last year. This is well below the 15-year mean of 14.3. On the South Texas Plans, the average number of bobwhites seen per route was 3.8 compared to 13.8 last year, with the 15-year mean being 9.1 birds.
 
For scaled quail, the average number seen per route in the Trans Pecos was 14.1 compared to 25.5 last year - and below the 15-year mean of 18.2 birds. Blue quail also inhabit portions of the Rolling Plains


    TOP SPOTS

    Perez says the Chaparral and Daughtrey Wildlife Management Areas provide public quail hunting opportunities in South Texas. If possible, do a little advance scouting and make some phone calls to habitat managers. Because Texas is so predominantly privately-owned land, you may want to do some online research and find a guide.


    INSIDER TIP

     
“Don’t be afraid to call a local chamber of commerce in areas you have an interest in going to. They may have some information or be able to introduce you to some people that  you might not find online,” Perez says.

     

    Utah
    By Ted Gartner

    WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

    The 2019-2020 winter was mild, so quail should have had an above average survival rate going into the spring, according to Heather Talley, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources upland game coordinator. Conditions were dry in the spring and summer months.


    HABITAT, BROOD, AND COUNTS

    Habitat conditions are less desirable than last year, thanks to the dry spring and summer months.  However, Talley says riparian and wetland areas still offer great habitat for upland species, and believes that many species have increased this year due to the mild spring and abundant insect hatch.
 
“The Northeastern and Northern regions have comparable brood success on California quail as last year, while the Southeastern region has seen an increase in brood production for the second consecutive year,” Talley says. “California quail are found sporadically throughout the Southern region, but Gambel's quail have increased this year compared to last year.”
 
Formal quail counts are not available in Utah, but this year should bring numbers that are on par with or better than last year’s.


    TOP SPOTS

    Talley says it’s smart to focus on thick, brushy cover along riparian corridors.  In the southern portion of the state, look for areas with water and cholla cactus.  California quail are often found near farmland along the Colorado, Price, and Green Rivers, and in lower Huntington Canyon.  Gambel's quail can be found in the western portion of Washington County.
 
Talley also reminds hunters that the statewide youth quail hunt season dates have been modified this year to Oct. 31 - Nov. 2.


    INSIDER TIP

    Gambel’s quail relate to Joshua Trees, so direct your efforts there. Gambel’s will also inhabit dry washes, while California quail prefer water-filled, brush-filled washes.
 
“Bird dogs are almost indispensable in locating and flushing coveys,” says Talley. “If you don’t hunt with a bird dog, and you see quail running, try to close the gap between you and the birds. If you get close enough, you’ll be able to take a shot as they flush.”
 
While hunter orange is not required, Talley strongly encourages wearing it. Also, bring along a box or two of non-toxic shot for some areas. Check the Upland Guidebook for specific WMA regulations. Also, be on the lookout for birds with leg bands, and contact the Division of Wildlife Resources with the band number.
 
Finally, for an added challenge, Talley suggests participating in the Upland Game Slam, which encourages hunters to harvest a variety of upland game species, while generating money to help fund a variety of habitat and upland game-related projects. Hunters complete a slam by harvesting the required amount of the target species.
 
Each slam is designed to give you an extra challenge while you're hunting, as well as the opportunity to earn a commemorative, collectible coin. New for this year: the “Appetizer Slam,” which includes Utah’s smaller gamebirds, including California quail, Gambel’s quail, and mourning dove.

    Wolfe Publishing Group