Quail Forecast 2008-2009

KANSAS This top bird-hunting state gave up 481,000 bobwhites last year to shotgunners; and it was the second lowest tally ever recorded. This fall should offer even better hunting, with bird numbers increasing significantly in the central and south-central regions. Top counties include Norton, Rush, Comanche, Cowley, Greenwood and Washington. Heavy rain hurt bird numbers in southeast Kansas. Normally good quail areas along the Oklahoma border and in the southwest Kansas have poorer bobwhite populations due to drought. Hunting begins Nov. 8, with an eight-bird daily limit. KENTUCKY While quail numbers generally continue to decline across the state, hunting should be about the same as last year. Farmland regions in the west have the most quail. Peabody WMA is a hot public quail hunting spot. Kentucky small game biologist Ben Robinson gives an upbeat report that the state has committed to a giant 10-year quail restoration project. Kentucky has staggered quail opening hunt dates, with a daily limit of eight bobwhites. LOUISIANA Hurricanes and heavy rains may have hurt Louisiana coveys. Private plantations in the choice south-central sugar cane region report plenty of birds, however. In the north, Jackson Bienville WMA offers the best public hunting, due to prescribed burning and timber thinning operations designed to help habitat. The state daily limit is 10 bobwhites when the season starts Nov. 15. Outdoor Life Online Editor
ALABAMA Nesting conditions improved this year due to optimum rainfall, but the state is still in bobwhite decline, particularly on public land. Well-managed private quail plantations in the southern third of the state will have good numbers of birds, however, and state CRP projects promoted by Quail Forever are slated to improve 2,500 acres of Alabama habitat. Alabama quail hunting begins Nov. 15, with a daily limit of 12 birds. ARIZONA Mearns quail hunting should be excellent this season, for the second consecutive year, due to abundant summer rain. A prime area is near Patagonia, southeast of Tucson. Statewide Gambel's quail numbers are about average, with the Tonto Basin the best bet. Scaled (blue) quail hunting will be best south of Willcox. Arizona quail opening dates are staggered. Daily limit is basically 15, but check regulations. ARKANSAS While quail broods were down slightly this year, gunners can expect a season similar to last year because of habitat improvements, according to Alabama Quail Program Coordinator Steve Fowler. The Fort Chaffee WMA remains the best public quail spot in the state, and it¿s rated as "excellent." Quail hunting begins Nov. 1, with a daily limit of six. Outdoor Life Online Editor
CALIFORNIA Gambel's quail numbers are down for the third year running, but the Colorado River region is still the best bet. California and mountain quail nesting was not stellar either, according to Jesse Garcia with the state Upland Game Program. Mountain quail best bet is the Coastal Range at high altitudes. For California quail, the Western Mojave Desert, and Sierra Nevada and Southern Coastal ranges get the nod. Multiple opening season dates are in effect in California, with a daily limit of 10 birds. COLORADO The devastating blizzard of 2006 is still adversely impacting Colorado quail numbers. Most state regions slowly are rebuilding coveys, but not in the quantities before the quail-crushing winter storm two years ago, which resulted in 2.5 months of quail-killing snow cover. Southeast Colorado is the best quail range, for scaled birds and bobwhites. In northeast Colorado, the South Platte River is best in Logan, Morgan, Sedgwick, Washington and Weld counties, which should be better than last year. Take advantage of southeast Colorado's 200,000-acre "Walk-In Access Program," which targets scaled quail hunting opportunities, and the permit fee is only $20. Season opens Nov. 8, with an eight bird limit. Outdoor Life Online Editor
FLORIDA Heavy rain from tropical storm Fay wreaked havoc on Sunshine State quail numbers, thumping what was expected to be one of the best seasons in a decade. Biologists now believe hunting only will be "average," with some of the better public WMAs including: Babcock Webb, Triple N Ranch, Bull Creek, Three Lakes, Yucca Pens Unit and Allapattah Flats. Florida bobwhite hunting begins Nov. 8, with a bag limit of 12. GEORGIA Georgia bobwhite hunters should have a better season than last year, thanks to the rainfall. Landowners also are aiding birds by improving habitat field edges in the central and southeast parts of the state. The upper coastal plain region, covering 15 counties, also is working closely with game biologists to improve quail habitat. The state bob season begins Nov. 15; 12 bird bag. ILLINOIS A good case can be made that the Land of Lincoln is one of the nation's premier sleeper states for bobwhites. Last year, for example, 24,000 hunters collected 189,000 quail. Statewide bird estimates are slightly down this year over last year. The west-central and south-central agricultural regions are best. Quail season opens Nov. 1; the limit is eight. Outdoor Life Online Editor
INDIANA Southern Indiana bird numbers have bounced up 30 percent over last year. And the southwest counties of Posey and Gibson are choice. Northern Indiana quail are in decline, except in Fulton and Pulaski counties. Spring flooding may have hurt bob nesting in south-central Indiana. Last year 30,000 Indiana bobwhites fell to hunters, and similar success is expected this season. Quail season opens Nov. 7, limits varying according to region. IOWA It's going to be a tough quail season in Iowa this year, with bobwhite numbers down 45 percent due to a crushing winter. The state bird population is down 27 percent below the 10-year average. So last year's 54,000 state quail tally likely will be much lower this season. Iowa's southern half is best for bobs, but only the southwest region has an increasing bird population. Iowa's bobwhite opener is Oct. 25, with an eight bird daily bag limit. Outdoor Life Online Editor
MARYLAND Good habitat is the key to huntable quail populations in Maryland. The Eastern Shore along Chesapeake Bay and parts of southern Maryland are best in this regard, so they have the top bobwhite gunning. Most good areas are private lands managed specifically for birds, or have CRP fields. However state game biologist Bob Long says some WMAs in the eastern region have fair numbers of birds, and quail are believed to have had a good nesting year. Maryland's bobwhite season opens Nov. 1, with a daily limit of six. MICHIGAN Ice storms last winter may have impacted quail populations in parts of Michigan. State wildlife biologist Al Stewart believes shooting will be similar to 2006, when 2,000 quail were taken by 3,000 hunters. Hunting states Oct. 20, with a five bird limit. MISSISSIPPI Good weather reportedly has improved state coveys, so hunting should be better throughout much of Mississippi, according to small game program leader Rick Hamrick, with the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. Fair to good hunting can be found on Mississippi National Forests, and on some selected state lands managed specifically for bobwhites. Mississippi's quail season begins Nov. 27 with an eight-bird limit. Outdoor Life Online Editor
MISSOURI The numbers sound good, but the quail harvest in the Show Me State continues to decline. Last season 27,800 hunters collected 258,000 bobwhites– an 11 percent decrease from the previous year. And this year doesn't promise much better, due to ice storms and a wet spring. Bird numbers are reportedly 13 percent below last year, forecasting a tough hunting year for bobs. Best bets will be in the northeast, west-central and central parts of the state. On the bright side, the Missouri Department of Conservation is working hard to improve habitat on 19 public hunting spots around the state, designated as "Quail Emphasis Areas." Missouri quail open hunting season dates are varied, with a state limit of eight bobwhites. NEBRASKA Upland game program manager Jeff Lusk with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission says this year should be better for bobwhites than last year. Nebraska's North Central and Republican regions should be good for bobs. The Southeast should be good, too. While the Northeast region will have fewer birds. Good quail counties are: Gage, Otoe, Pawnee, Richardson, Saline, Butler, Clay, Hamilton, Seward and Thayer. Quail opener dates vary to region; with a daily limit of six. NEVADA California quail will be improved from last year, which was a good one. This season's harvest should be better than the state 10 year average. Choice California counties will be Churchill, Douglas, Lyon, Pershing, Humboldt and Washoe. Gambel's quail coveys are diminished in the south Mojave Desert. Best bets for mountain quail are in the western and central portions of the state near Reno and Carson City, and in Churchill and Lyon Counties. The season opened Oct. 11, bag limit 10, no more than two Mountain quail. Outdoor Life Online Editor
NEW MEXICO Mearns quail are in abundant supply, with a good carryover of birds from last year's good season. The San Mateo and Gila mountains hold plenty of birds. For scaled and Gambel's quail, the outlook is not as bright, because poor weather may have hurt early nesting. Late-season nesting success, however, could prove to be a slight uptick for Gambel¿s and scaled quail. New Mexico's quail opener is Nov. 15, with a generous 15 bird limit. NORTH CAROLINA About 30,000 quail hunters have taken 143,000 quail annually from the Tar Heel state over the last five years, and this season should be similar. Eastern farm areas have the most birds, with field-edge cover plantings helpful to bird nesting and survival. November 22 is opening day, with a six bobwhite limit. OHIO A 10 percent annual quail decline over the last 20 years has hurt Buckeye State bird populations, due mainly to habitat loss. Nevertheless, about 14,000 bobwhites are annually harvested, chiefly in southern Ohio. Good bets for birds this year will be in: Preble, Butler, Brown, Scioto, Ross and Vinton counties. Daily bag limit is a modest four quail, with a Nov. 7 season opener. OKLAHOMA Bobwhite quail numbers have improved slightly this year. So state authorities believe last year's huge harvest of 579,000 birds will increase this season. Western Oklahoma is best, with good public hunting available on the Packsaddle and Black Kettle WMAs. Shotgunners can begin taking bobs Nov. 8, with a 10 bird daily bag. OREGON Bird hunters must choose their hunting areas carefully, as good quail populations are spotty around the state. While California and mountain quail are found statewide, southwest Oregon will be best for mountain quail; eastern Oregon most choice for California birds. Harney and Malheur counties and the Columbia River basin are touted for California quail. For mountain quail, head to the southwest portion of the state. Staggered quail opener dates are on tap for Oregon. Daily bag limits vary to region, too. Check regulations for details. Outdoor Life Online Editor
SOUTH CAROLINA Good nesting weather this year will help bobwhite numbers in the Palmetto State, up from last year's drought conditions. The Upper Coastal Plain is best, where there is extensive agriculture. For public hunting WMAs, try Crackerneck, Manchester State Forest, Draper, James. W. Webb, Hamilton Ridge, Marsh and Santee Coastal Reserve. Quail hunting begins Nov. 24, with a 12 bird bag. SOUTH DAKOTA Quail hunting is marginal in the state, because it's at the extreme northern range for bobwhites. Last year about 1,200 shooters bagged 1,000 quail, chiefly in the southeast and south-central parts of the state. The season opened Oct. 18; bag limit of five. TENNESSEE Volunteer State quail numbers are said to have increased this year over last season, especially in the western region where field-edge habitats have improved. Bobwhite hunting starts Nov. 8; limit of six. TEXAS Dry winter weather was tough on Lone Star bobwhites in the usually choice southern region. But autumn and summer rain helped a late hatch and plenty of young bobs are reported available in the south and the rolling plains parts of the state. Scaled (blue) quail also are climbing in number in the Midland to El Paso area. The season opened Oct. 25, with a 15-bird limit. UTAH This should be another hot year for Gambel's and California quail, better than even previous seasons, which have been good. The southwest desert hosts most Gambel's quail hunting opportunities. California quail prosper best in urban areas, so locating hunting spots for these top-notch birds can be a challenge. Hunting for quail begins Nov. 1 (scaled quail season is closed), limit five. Outdoor Life Online Editor
VIRGINIA Drought and declining habitat have hurt bobwhites, but the Tidewater region east of I-95 holds the most birds. However, quail numbers did increase in the Northern region 20 percent, and are up 15 percent in the West Piedmont area. The Virginia Quail Action Plan is on tap for implementation this fall, which should aid future bird numbers and hunting. Bobwhite gunning begins Nov. 8, limit of six. WASHINGTON Quail hunting is surprisingly good and popular in Washington. Last year 14,000 shooters netted 128,000 birds. Poor weather last year was not good for quail, and coveys are predicted lighter this fall. However re-nesting recruitment was reasonably successful, and gunners should enjoy success better than the last 10-year quail average. Best counties are: Chelan, Okanogan, Douglas, Grant and Yakima. Eastern and western Washington are best for California quail. Western Washington is the only choice for mountain quail, as the eastern part of the state is closed for hunting the species. Check state hunting regulations for season opening dates, as it changes according to region. Daily limit of 10 quail is statewide. WEST VIRGINIA Quail hunting is limited due to minimal choice habitat. But birds can be found in the Greenbrier River valley, the eastern Panhandle, and in select spots along the Ohio River. Annual harvest is under 1,000 bobs, making them trophies for gunners. Nov. 1 is opening day, with a three bobwhite limit. WISCONSIN Heavy snow and a wet spring will result in fewer bobwhites in the Badger State. Yet some pockets of nice covey holdouts can be found in Green, Iowa and Grant Counties. Wisconsin quail hunting started Oct. 18, five-bird limit. Outdoor Life Online Editor

A state-by-state rundown on where to find America’s best quail hunting. By Bob McNally