Quail Forecast 2009-10

No state is reporting a massive turnaround in bobwhite quail populations. But there are many small habitat success stories helping birds throughout the nation, and they are big steps forward in producing more quail. States are reporting bobwhites resonding well to Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) "Bobwhite Buffers". There are over 210,000 acres nationally in this program - and there are many new CRP "State Acres For wildlife Enhancement" (SAFE) sites designed specifically for quail. Many states also have made improving and restoring bobwhite quail habitat a priority through new initiatives, which combined with federal conservation programs and the ever-expanding presence of Quail Forever, bodes well for birds. Shotgunners still looking to set-up a hunt should note Kansas looks like the premiere quail destination this year, and virtually all western states will have strong quail numbers and plenty of mixed bag opportunities. The following state-by-state forecast comes from Quail Forever (www.quailforever.com).
Arkansas Spring call counts were at a record low in Arkansas, and with an extremely wet summer, the hunting outlook is poor to fair. The Fort Chaffee Wildlife Management Area and the Pine Bluestem restoration areas of the Ouachita National Forest will still offer some quality hunting opportunities. One positive is that demand for CRP SAFE, particularly the 3,700-acre bobwhite quail specific Arkansas Grass SAFE, has been strong and the state has nearly reached its original land allotment. Season Dates: Nov. 1 thru Feb. 7, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 6 (varies on some WMAs, check regulations)/12. Contact: www.agfc.com
California With a continued drought in most areas of the state, California is one western destination predicted to have only an average hunting season. Mountain quail and Gambel's quail hunting is expected to be up to par, while California quail and chukar hunting will be average to slightly below par. For California quail, consider the Panoche Hills of Fresno County, eastern Kern County and the western Mojave Desert (San Bernardino County). For Mountain quail, look to the forested habitats in the Sierra Nevada, Cascade Range, and Del Norte, Humboldt and Siskiyou Counties. Gambel's quail can be found in the Draper wash and other drains feeding the Colorado River in eastern Imperial and Riverside Counties. Best bets for chukars are Eastern Kern, Lassen, and Modoc counties and in the western Mojave Desert area of San Bernardino County. California hunters harvested over 382,000 California quail, nearly 105,000 Mountain quail, nearly 44,000 Gambel's and over 37,000 chukars. Season Dates: Varies, consult regulations Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 10/20 Contact: www.dfg.ca.gov
Florida Good spring and summer weather conditions bodes well for bobwhites throughout much of the state. The Panhandle area traditionally offers some of the best private-ground hunting, and that should be true again this year. Predator numbers around the state continue to impact quail, especially feral cats. Among the best bets for public hunting on WMAs are: Babcock Webb, Triple N Ranch, Bull Creek, Three Lakes, Yucca Pens Unit and Allapattah Flats. Season Dates: Nov. 14 thru Mar. 7, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 12/24 Contact: www.MyFWC.com
Georgia Georgia is working hard to rebuild its wild quail population, and results on managed lands are yielding some impressive results. Spring call counts on 40 CRP field buffer sites showed bobwhite occurrence to be about 33 percent above 2008, indicating a strong carry-over of birds through the winter. Similarly, preliminary results from incidental monitoring on Georgia's Bobwhite Quail Initiative (BQI) farms this summer show bobwhite occurrence to be substantially higher than last year. The BQI is focused in 15 counties to work with private landowners to integrate bobwhite management across working farm and forest lands and currently has 120 landowners enrolled in the program. BQI is funded through the sale of a specialty auto license tag. The Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative is being implemented statewide with high priority focus across parts or all of about 41 counties. Georgia's 22,000 quail hunters should find good opportunities on landscapes with prime habitat. For a chance at the quota hunt at the DiLane Wildlife Management Area - you must apply by Oct. 15 - see details at www.gohuntgeorgia.com. Season Dates: Nov. 14 thru Feb. 28, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 12/NA Contact: www.georgiawildlife.dnr.state.ga.us
Indiana Severe weather - flooding in central and southern Indiana during the spring of 2008, followed by severe ice storms and blizzards this past winter has taken its toll on the bird population. So hunters likely will find fewer bobwhites across southern Indiana. Hunters in other parts of the state will find numbers similar to last season, when an estimated 12,400 hunters harvested 19,600 bobwhites. Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area is more known for waterfowl, but it supports a significant quail population; though make plans early because access is limited to daily drawings. Habitat help comes from over 11,000 CRP Bobwhite Buffers, and Indiana's Northern Bobwhite CRP SAFE, which aims to enroll nearly 4,000 additional acres targeted specifically at bobs. The Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife has also created a quail habitat incentive program which has designated priority areas to focus on quail habitat management (www.IN.gov/dnr/fishwild and look under Landowner and Habitat Assistance). Season Dates: South of SR 26: Nov. 6 - Jan. 15/North of SR 26: Nov. 6 - Dec. 20 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: South of SR 26 is 8; North of SR 26 is 5 birds/2 bags Contact: www.IndianaOutdoor.IN.gov
Iowa In a state looking for some brighter upland news considering their toppling pheasant numbers, Iowa's roadside survey indicated a quail increase of 45 percent. The southern third of Iowa is the state's quail range, and the area thankfully received a normal winter, which increased bird survival. Hunters should find bobwhite numbers slightly better than last year, and should produce a harvest of 10,000-20,000. Iowa quail have benefitted immensely from the state's 23,000 acres of CRP Bobwhite Buffers, and more could be enrolled as soon as they become available. Season Dates: Oct. 31 thru Jan. 31, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 8/16 Contact: www.iowadnr.gov
Kentucky Based on weather conditions and early reports and sightings, Kentucky hunters anticipate more birds this season. Winter ice storm damage across much of western Kentucky created lots of shrubby areas and brush piles and opened up canopies across many forested acres. Above average rainfall throughout the spring and summer months has resulted in excellent brood rearing habitat. The Peabody WMA has been a public jewel for quail hunters over the last several years, but beginning this season, quail hunting will be limited to a quota hunt over a portion of the area as a large-scale research project coupled with intensive habitat management will begin this autumn (call 270-273-3568 for additional information). Hunters shouldn't shy away from reclaimed coal mind ground in the southeast part of the state, as it can offer good bird hunting. Season Dates: Nov. 16 thru Feb. 10, 2010 in select counties; Nov. 1-13 and Nov. 16-Feb. 28, 2010 in all other counties. Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 8/16 Contact: www.kdfwr.state.ky.us.
Louisiana While very dry early in the summer, conditions improved for the later portion of the nesting season and the overall outlook is that hunters should expect conditions improved over last year, though quail numbers are still very low. Portions of the Mississippi River alluvial valley (east side of the state) where CRP has impacted significant habitat have resulted in increases in quail. Some of the sugar cane production areas in south central Louisiana also have shown an increase in quail. Bobwhite hunting on public land is limited, but the Jackson-Bienville WMA and Fort Polk WMA are best bets. Bird conservation enrollment has been virtually non-existent, but if Louisiana's Gulf Coast Prairies CRP SAFE gets rolling, quail will benefit from up to 3,500 acres of grassland. Season Dates: Nov. 21-Feb. 28, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 10/20 Contact: www.wlf.louisiana.gov
Mississippi Mississippi's 2008-2009 Bobwhite Quail Harvest Survey continues to show low bobwhite quail populations, with about one covey flushed and one quail bagged per five hours of hunting. These harvest statistics are relatively consistent with the previous two hunting seasons. The population forecast for the 2009-2010 quail hunting season may be a little more favorable. Breeding season weather conditions were mostly good in 2008 and have been again in 2009, although heavy rainfall and flooding may have disrupted early-season breeding in parts of North Mississippi. Numerous brood-sighting reports were already coming in from South Mississippi in May, which is especially good considering peak hatch is usually in July. If conditions remain good, some brood production may continue throughout the state into September and October. Habitat management continues to be essential to increasing quail populations. Sites managed primarily for quail habitat maintain about a quail per 2 to 3 acres. Sites that have applied only modest habitat improvements maintain about a bird per 10 acres compared to a bird per 20 acres on non-managed sites. The results of these monitoring efforts demonstrate that habitat management is essential to increasing quail populations on public and private lands. Locally significant strides are being made on private land thanks to over 2,100 CRP Bobwhite Buffer acres. Mississippi's Bobwhite Quail CRP SAFE has been in high demand with nearly 2,900 acres enrolled. Season Dates: Nov. 26-Mar. 10 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 8/NA Contact: www.home.mdwfp.com
Missouri Missouri's 2008 quail hunting season showed a sharp decrease in quail hunters as well as bird harvest. Quail hunters were down 21 percent from the 27,830 hunters out during the 2007 season. The total number of birds harvested in 2008 was estimated at 191,172, a 27 percent decrease from the 2007 season harvest of 258,448. While hunter numbers and bird harvest continues to decrease, birds bagged per day remains relatively stable at 1.5 in 2008 compared to 1.6 in 2007. In the 2008 season, quail hunters averaged six days afield and had an average season bag of 8.9 birds. Spring brought below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation. Peak nesting was delayed due to the cool, wet weather. Late July and early August were considerably drier, and possibly produced some late season nesting. This year's statewide index of 2.7 quail per 30 mile route is 7 percent below last year's index of 2.9. Total quail counts were highest in the Northwest Prairie, followed by the Western Ozark Border and the Western Prairie. Counts were lowest in the Northern and Eastern Ozark Border and the Mississippi Lowlands. Overall, quail hunting in Missouri should be similar to last year. Missouri continues to be a leader in CRP Bobwhite Buffer enrollment (30,000 acres) and the state has 19 public areas designated as "Quail Emphasis Areas" to demonstrate good quail habitat management and provide quality quail hunting. Last year managers conducted 19,000 acres of habitat work, including prescribed burns, light disking, wood-cover enhancement, and invasive plant control. For more information visit www.mdc.mo.gov/hunt/gamebird/qea.htm. Season Dates: Youth Season is Oct. 24-25; Regular Season is Nov. 1-Jan. 15 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 8/16 Contact: www.mdc.mo.gov/
North Carolina Last year, North Carolina's 28,000 hunters harvested an estimated 229,000 quail. With spring call counts indicating stable numbers, hunters should find a similar season ahead. North Carolina's coastal populations are excellent, and provide the best opportunities. Elsewhere, it depends on the habitat, which is patchy and scattered. Nearly 7,000 acres of CRP Bobwhite Buffers provide North Carolina quail with excellent habitat, and the state's Grassland SAFE has a goal of enrolling 5,600 acres to benefit grassland species, including quail. Season Dates: Nov. 21-Feb. 28 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 6/12 Contact: www.ncwildlife.org
**Ohio ** A cool spring with late frost was followed by a mild summer. Though quail surveys were down statewide, overall, hunters can expect to find bobs in similar abundance to last year, when 18,000 hunters harvested 14,000 birds. The premiere quail regions of the state include Preble, Butler and Highland counties. Ohio is home to over 14,000 CRP Bobwhite Buffer acres, and the new Ohio Grassland and Wetland CRP SAFE is designed to place over 11,000 acres targeted at bobs. Season Dates: Nov. 6-29 - Only open in Adams, Athens, Brown, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Highland, Jackson, Meigs, Montgomery, Pike, Preble, Ross, Scioto, Vinton, Warren Counties Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 4/NA Contact: www.ohiodnr.com
Oregon Oregon is an upland birder's paradise, and 2009 bird populations are expected to be above that seen over the last two years. Preliminary information suggests California quail will see increases of around 35 percent from last year and mountain quail will be found in similar numbers (last year an estimated 47,500 California quail and 17,500 mountain quail were harvested statewide). California quail are found statewide with the highest numbers in the east, while mountain quail hunting is best in the southwest, which accounts for 75 percent of the harvest. Upland habitat projects being initiated on private land in the Columbia basin are benefitting California quail, while Oregon remains active with a mountain quail translocation program to restore this bird to historic sites within the state and in neighboring states. Season Dates: Dates vary by species and location - consult regulations Daily Bag/Possession Limits: Varies by species and locations - consult regulations Contact: www.dfw.state.or.us/
South Carolina South Carolina quail hunters should expect slightly improved numbers over 2008, and significantly improved numbers from 2007, thanks to consecutive years of normal temps and rainfall. Last year, hunters flushed an average of .58 coveys/hour. The Midlands region and Northern Coastal Plain region are far superior to the Piedmont and Southern Coastal Plain, as they contain most row-crop agriculture and land managed for quail. The majority of the state's CRP Bobwhite Buffers acres (5,500 statewide) are also in these two regions. Public-land hunters should look for open-canopy pine woods having undergone prescribed burns in the past 2-3 years. Wildlife Management Areas offering reasonable opportunities for hunters include the Crackerneck WMA (Aiken Co.), Draper WMA (York Co.), Sandhills State Forest WMA (Chesterfield Co.), Manchester State Forest WMA (Sumter Co.), Canal WMA (Berkeley Co.) and Webb/Hamilton Ridge WMAs (Hampton Co.). The RENEW (Restoration and Enhancement of Native Ecosystems for Wildlife) Project on the Sumter National Forest, and the Indian Creek Wildlife Habitat Restoration Initiative on the Enoree District of the Sumter National Forest represent significant improvements to habitat on public lands. On private land, the South Carolina Restoring Native Grasses CRP SAFE looks to enroll 2,300 acres to increase early successional habitat in Allendale, Bamberg and Barnwell Counties and start increasing quail populations within five years. Season Dates: Nov. 23-Mar. 1 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 12 (varies on certain WMAs - check regulations)/NA Contact: www.dnr.sc.gov
Tennessee Bird hunting should be similar to last year, and the western region where field-edge habitats have improved should be especially good. Agricultural areas where there extensive "edge cover," particularly in areas managed for deer and waterfowl can be good for bobwhites, too. Season Dates: Nov. 14-Feb. 28 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 6/NA Contact: www.state.tn.us/twra
Texas Field reports have indicated good bobwhite carryover in parts of the Rolling Plains and to a lesser degree in northern south Texas. Despite low survey counts, enough young birds and coveys have been reported that it will produce good bobwhite hunter opportunity, especially in areas under good range management. Public hunting opportunities can be found at the Matador and Gene Howe WMAs. With winter, spring and summer rains lacking over most of the south Texas Plains, expect a poor to fair season there. The Trans-Pecos region of Texas received great weather conditions mid-summer that spurred scaled quail reproduction. Improved numbers have been confirmed by field reports and are reflected in survey results - 16.9 per route compared to 6.7 last year. Public hunter opportunities can be found at Elephant Mountain and Black Gap WMAs. Surveys indicate bobwhite numbers in the Gulf Prairies are down considerably from last year. Landowner demand for CRP SAFE could help this area, as Texas' Gulf Coast Prairies SAFE has the potential to enroll up to 14,400 acres of restored grasslands. Season Dates: Oct. 31-Feb. 28 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 15/NA Contact: www.tpwd.state.tx.us/
Virginia Virginia has enjoyed good summer rainfall in many areas, one of its best summer's for quail in a half decade. Call counts indicate an improvement in many regions, including the Tidewater (up 3 percent), East Piedmont (up 5 percent), West Piedmont (up 33 percent) and northern Virginia (up 32 percent). The southeastern portion of the state and the Eastern Shore harbor Virginia's best quail populations. All areas east of Interstate 95 tend to have more quail than points west, but there are still some pockets of quail habitat in southside Virginia, and in parts of northern Virginia. There are still decent quail hunting opportunities for the 14,000 quail hunters in the Commonwealth. By combining quail hunting with woodcock, grouse and dove hunting, uplanders can have a field day in the state. Virginia also recently unveiled a new Quail Action Plan designed to help landowners conduct their own research and develop their own management plans for quail (www.dgif.virginia.gov/quail/). Season Dates: Nov. 7-Jan. 30th Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 6/12 Contact: www.dgif.virginia.gov
Washington Washington has ample quail opportunities, as evidenced by the 90,000 birds harvested by hunters last year. Brood numbers are looking better in the south and north-central regions of Washington State, with field biologists reporting sizable broods. Eastern regional reports have been down this summer and autumn, although late broods are starting to be seen in areas with good habitat. Yakima County in the south-central region consistently produces more quail than any two counties combined in Washington State. The north-central region including Okanogan, Grant, Chelan, and Douglas Counties make up another third of the quail harvest. Franklin County may be a diamond this year with good reports of brood numbers and some public land available to hunt. Eastern Washington; Season Dates: Youth: Sept. 26-27; General: Oct. 3-Jan. 18 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 10/20 youth; 10/30 general - mixed bag (California and Northern Bobwhite); Mountain quail season closed Western Washington: Season Dates: Oct. 3-Nov. 30 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 10/30 mixed bag (California and Northern Bobwhite); Mountain Quail 2/4 Contact: www.wdfw.wa.gov/

Birds are holding their own across the country, and Kansas may be the best hunting bet this year.