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Quail Forever's 2007 quail hunting forecast          Send a link to a friend

Quail populations struggle due to habitat losses and lack of rain

[September 15, 2007]  ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Hunting forecast from Quail Forever:

Overview: A drought across large portions of the southeast United States didn't help quail production this year. Factor those poor weather conditions with continued habitat losses and quail populations across the U.S. continue to loose ground. Consider: From 1980 to 2000, bobwhites declined range-wide by an average of nearly 70%, and much more in specific states; Last fall, the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies - whose members manage wildlife in 16 states - suggested the bird could disappear from some areas of the South by 2010. The Northern bobwhite quail also topped this year's National Audubon Society's List of Top 20 Common Birds in Decline. The National Audubon Society recently announced that the population of the northern bobwhite quail has declined by a staggering 82 percent during the past four decades. Quail numbers have fallen from an estimated 31 million in 1967 to just 5.5 million today. That's a lot of bad news, but there is hope on the habitat front. In just over two years of existence, over 90 Quail Forever chapters have formed in 26 states. They are promoting the Conservation Reserve Program's CP-33 Practice (Bobwhite Buffers) to provide transitional habitat along row crops for quail nesting and brood-rearing cover. Nationwide, over 161,000 CP-33 acres have been enrolled and quail populations on those acres are already showing signs of improvement. On a larger scale, QF is engaging policymakers in the needs of quail during the current 2007 Farm Bill debate. The Farm Bill's conservation title influences land management decisions on over 50 million acres nationwide. The Farm Bill will be introduced in the U.S. Senate soon, meaning now is the time to contact your state's Senators and let them know you want a Farm Bill with a strong Conservation Title.

Find your state's Senators by logging onto

Always consult state hunting regulations for rules and season dates before taking to the field. Find your state agency by logging onto

Alabama -- rought conditions from spring through summer has quail production looking poor in Alabama. Over the past five years, Alabama hunters have harvested between 200,000 and 300,000 bobwhites per season. But an unknown total of these are released birds, and the overall harvest remains one-tenth of what it was during the hey-days of the 1960s and 1970s. The three F's - fescue, forestation and farming (of the intensified variety) - are the main culprits vacuuming up quail habitat. However, there are positive signs, including a significant amount of longleaf pine and native grass restoration. Season Opener: November 15

Arizona -- A lack of precipitation this year means hunters will see fewer Gambel's and scaled quail, and that's down from a mediocre year in 2006. The bright spot in Arizona will be Mearns quail. Hunters can expect to find birds along the Arizona/New Mexico border. Season Opener: Multiple

Arkansas -- Early nesting appeared successful, which should mean a slight increase in the number of quail greeting Arkansas hunters this year. Fort Chaffee WMA is a military installation, which means a few more hoops to jump through to gain access, but it offers the best public quail hunting in the state. Restoration efforts on the Ouachita National Forest - the oldest National Forest in the southern United States - are also creating quail habitat. Season Opener: November 1

California -- Though northern California received below average rainfall, there are stable to increasing populations of California quail there. Central and south coastal areas received approximately one-half of the average annual rainfall, resulting in poor California quail reproduction and in some cases, observations where no young were recorded. This was also the case in eastern Kern County due to inadequate and or inopportunely timed precipitation. While weather conditions provided sufficient moisture to maintain fair to good habitat conditions in most Mountain quail habitat in central and northern California, below-average rainfall in the western portion of the Mojave Desert greatly restricted nesting and had deleterious effects on brood survival. These observations indicated a stable population in the central Sierra Nevada Mountains. For the second year in a row, drought conditions in the southern desert of California resulted in poor Gambel's reproduction. Field observations revealed no reproduction in the eastern portions of Imperial, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. Carryover birds are present in reasonable abundance, but widely distributed. Better reproduction and huntable populations can also be found in riparian areas along the Colorado River. Season Opener: Multiple

Colorado -- In northeast Colorado, bobwhites were affected last winter by over 70 days of snow cover, but good spring production may have made up for the losses. Bobs can still be found in the South Platte River corridor. In the southeast, over 2' of snow really hurt the quail population, and according to state biologist Ed Gorman, it could take a few years for populations to recover there. Last year, Colorado hunters bagged 7,000 bobs and 10,500 scaled quail. Season Opener: November 10

Florida -- The forecast looks positive on a number of state game management areas which have been the recipients of various quail habitat projects in recent years. As for the remainder of the state, overall populations are stable and showing signs of very slight increases. Tommy Hines, small game coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, says there is more emphasis on quail management in Florida than ever before. Season Opener: November 10

Georgia -- Severe drought was quite detrimental to the early nesting season, but some decent rainfalls in July increased optimism for late nesting success. Hunters in Georgia will likely be greeted with spotty success, ranging to good success in areas with quality habitat. The best opportunities for quail in Georgia are in the state's Upper Coastal Plain. Reggie Thackston, coordinator for the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division Bobwhite Quail Initiative, also reported that controlled management areas with CP-33 have doubled quail occurrence, giving hope that the practice may be able to help boost populations statewide. Season Opener: November 17

Idaho -- Though last year's harvest of 157,000 California quail was down from the 179,000 in 2005, it was still the second highest total in the last 10 years. Though quail production appeared to be down slightly, late summer sighting reports were creating optimism for another strong season. BLM lands, particularly those holding water, should contain birds this year. Season Opener: September 15

Illinois -- Last year, Illinois hunters harvested 198,207 bobwhites, and they reported harvesting 2.42 quail per trip, an increase of 20% from the previous year. June's bobwhite call counts indicated a statewide average of 7.7 calls per stop, a decrease of 5% from 2006. Though usually good, the west-central portion of the state may be down this year. Illinois currently has the second highest enrollment of CP-33 nationally, and quail in the state will also benefit from management efforts focused on renovating old stands of CRP grasses. Season Opener: November 3

Indiana -- Though roadside counts of whistling bobwhites indicated a decrease of approximately 9%, the abundance of bobs appears to be similar to 2006, still well below population numbers observed in past decades. Most of the decline occurred in the north and central regions, and long-term trend data continues to show that the northern bobwhite population remains near historic lows across the state. Though a slight drought has traditionally correlated with increased bob production in the Hoosier state, state biologist Steve Backs said that this year the drought crossed the line. A typical Indiana harvest is 50,000 bobwhites. Season Opener: November 9

Iowa -- Statewide bobwhite quail numbers increased 9% in 2007, though the increase essentially indicated some regions were up while others were down. Though this year's index is 28% above the 10 year average of 0.7 quail per route, it's still well below the historic figure of 1.5 quail per route. In Iowa's primary quail range, populations showed increasing trends in the southeast and south-central regions. The southwest portion of the state took the brunt of a March blizzard that brought with it deep drifts and a sheet of ice. It likely killed some quail, and thus as expected, lower quail counts were found in the region. Better counts in 2007 came from Mills, Wayne, Davis, Van Buren, and Wapello counties. Season Opener: October 27

Kansas -- Last year's harvest was estimated at approximately 500,000 bobs, well below the 2005 harvest of 1 million birds. Unfortunately, the forecast for 2007 is again not that rosy. Hunting in the north central and south central regions should be decent, according to state biologist Randy Rodgers. But in the Flint Hills in southeast Kansas, too much rain at the wrong time appears to have put a damper on what is typically the "Jayhawk State's" quail stronghold. Up to 15" of rain during peak hatch was devastating, essentially halting production. Season Opener: November 10

Kentucky -- It's been a weather roller coaster in Kentucky - a late freeze in early April, followed by a drought period and then above average rainfall at the end of the summer - but despite that, quail populations appear to be in decent shape. That said, the state is still two years removed from its lowest quail harvest on record and improved habitat holds the key to its resurgence. The 40,000 acre Peabody WMA and 6,500 West Kentucky WMA are top quail destinations in the Bluegrass State, but hunters shouldn't overlook opportunities in the southeast part of the state on reclaimed strip mine land. Season Opener: Multiple

Louisiana -- Last year, 1,300 hunters harvested 6,200 quail in Louisiana. Spring bobwhite counts on WMAs were up this year, and the state avoided the severe drought that plagued much of the southeast. Relatively speaking, it should be a good year chasing quail in Louisiana. That said, state biologist Fred Kimmel said Louisiana quail will benefit from continued habitat efforts, including increased enrollment in CP-33 and other Farm Bill conservation programs. Hunters may want to look at clear cuts in the Kisatchie National Forest (the state's only National Forest) and the Jackson Bienville WMA for wing shooting opportunities. Season Opener: November 17

Maryland -- On average, 1,000 hunters harvest 1,000 wild bobs in the state. Though it's a small population, every factor appears to be working for Maryland quail this year. Increased production has led to reports of more and larger broods, and there are reports of quail where they haven't been seen in years. State biologist Bob Long reported that CRP buffers installed in the last decade are really starting to show results. The highest density of birds is found on Maryland's lower eastern shore, which includes the Idylwild WMA and its quail restoration area. Season Opener: November 3

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Michigan -- Landowners have reported seeing a few more quail than in recent years in Michigan -the northern edge of the bobwhite's range - meaning hunters should meet the typical harvest of 2,000 bobs. Michigan's quail season is open in 27 designated counties, and Quail Forever, Pheasants Forever and the NRCS are working to establish and maintain grasslands beneficial to quail in this area. Season Opener: October 20

Mississippi -- A hot, dry summer with rainfall about 15 inches below average has hurt quail reproduction in Mississippi this year, thus hunters can expect to fall short of the 50,500 quail harvested last year. The best region of the state continues to be the northern one third, which harbors better habitat. However, state biologist Dave Godwin reported quail are responding well to early successional habitat in the state's ag-intense Delta region, thanks to enrollment in Farm Bill conservation programs such as CRP. Season Opener: November 22

Missouri -- A long-lasting winter ice pack hurt foraging efforts, leading to winter mortality. This year's roadside survey showed a decrease of 15% and the brood survey a decrease of 31%. That said, it is unlikely Missouri hunters will equal last year, when over 30,000 hunters bagged 292,000 quail. However, Missouri ranks in the top three in CP-33 enrollment, and 17 Quail Forever chapters have formed in the state to lead quail habitat restoration efforts. And to provide more opportunities for hunters ages 6 through 15, the Conservation Commission has established youth-only quail and pheasant seasons. Both seasons take place Oct. 27-28. There seems to be no shortage of passion for turning the quail slide around in the "Show Me State." Season Opener: November 1

Nebraska -- Summer bobwhite surveys - the July Roadside Mail Carrier Survey and whistle counts - showed mixed results, meaning it's difficult to make predictions on hunting conditions this fall. Overall, the RMCS was down 8% from last year and the whistle counts down 23%. The east-central and southeast regions of the state still contain the highest densities. Although populations are still below the long-term averages, the July RMCS showed increases over 2006 in several regions, most notably in the Republican and East-central regions. Whistle counts failed to confirm those gains, however. Densities in the West Platte region declined sharply compared to 2006, with the southeast showing more modest losses. Despite the inconsistent counts, the east-central and southeast remained the regions with the highest densities. Season Opener: October 27

Nevada -- Last year, Nevada quail hunters harvested nearly 21,000 California quail, nearly 18,000 Gambel's quail and nearly 1,200 mountain quail. The state suffered a dry spell which hampered reproduction this year. State biologist Shawn Espinosa said California and mountain species fared well, but Gambel's populations will be poor, particularly in the southern part of the state. Lincoln, Clark and Nye Counties will still offer Gambel's opportunities. Scope out the Humboldt and Walker river bottoms for California quail, and the outer Carson City/Reno areas for isolated pockets of mountain quail. Season Opener: October 13

New Jersey -- Bobs once populated every county in New Jersey, but urban sprawl and the subsequent loss of suitable quail habitat has whittled down the quail population. The only wild populations now are found south of Route 33. New Jersey bobs suffer from a lack of habitat in terms of both quality and quantity, and it is unknown exactly how many wild bobwhites still remain in the state. One note of interest, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife is working on a cooperative study with the University of Delaware to learn more about New Jersey quail. Season Opener: November 10

New Mexico -- Quail hunting success in New Mexico should be up a bit this year, as production success was better for all four species that call the state home - scaled, Gambel's, Mearns, and particularly for bobwhites. Hunters in search of scaled quail will want to concentrate near Lordsburg in the southwest and Carlsbad in the southeast. For Gambel's, the Rio Grande River Valley is a good start. In search of bobs, head near Roswell. And for Mearns, check out the foothills of the San Mateo Mountains west of Socorro, which contain plenty of public land. Season Opener: November 15

North Carolina -- Although quail populations statewide are still low, quail intensive management on both state ground and private land has increased quail populations to huntable levels that will provide some good hunting opportunities. David Sawyer, upland game biologist for North Carolina Wildlife Resources, expects a harvest similar to the 2005-2006 season, when just over 228,000 birds were harvested. Season Opener: November 17

Ohio -- There was a severe cold snap in February this year that could have stressed local populations, fortunately it did not last long very long. As a result, quail hunters should expect a season similar to last year with localized areas of stabilized populations. The Scioto River CREP is providing excellent new habitat for bobs, as is the state's CP33 Quail field border acres. There are 12,900 CP33 acres currently enrolled of the state's 20,000 acre allotment. In fact, second year CP33 monitoring results are showing quail responses to buffers enrolled in the last 2 years. The state's top quail counties are Warren, Brown, and Highland. Ohio hunters traditionally harvest around 40,000 bobwhites annually. Season Opener: November 2

Oklahoma -- By most accounts, last year was a terrible quail season in Oklahoma, with a harvest of 579,000 birds. Though this year won't be a bumper crop, signs are pointing to a better year than last. Flooding in the central part of the state may have affected nesting, but for the most part production appeared decent. Though found statewide, the western portion of the state is stronger than the east. Oklahoma has a Quail Habitat Restoration Initiative, and $4 million over the next five years will be pumped into six focal areas of the state as part of that initiative. Season Opener: November 10

Oregon -- Driving route surveys indicated a 20% increase in mountain quail, primarily found in southwest Oregon. California quail will likely be down a bit from last year, but BLM lands in the southeast part of the state will hold birds. Last year, Oregonians harvested 27,000 Mountain quail and 117,000 California quail. Season Opener: Multiple

South Carolina -- A mixed bag of weather led to a good early hatch and a questionable late hatch. Hunters in South Carolina should be at or slightly below the recent average of 100,000 quail. While overall habitat conditions in the state are poor, state biologist Billy Dukes reports that 6,400 CP-33 acres - most in their second growing season - are developing into quality quail habitat. The state's 7-county Upper Coastal Plain provides the best quail habitat in South Carolina. Season Opener: November 19

Tennessee -- As if deteriorating habitat conditions in the state weren't enough, Tennessee quail were hit hard by drought immediately after chick hatch. By historical standards, this year's quail harvest will again be extremely low. Urban sprawl is eating up habitat in eastern Tennessee, while intensive farming practices in the western region are doing the same. Habitat hope lies with the CP-33 and riparian buffer Farm Bill programs. Season Opener: November 10

Texas -- Texas still has an appreciable quail population, producing more birds - even in a down year - than any other state. Last year was a down year, as Texas had one of its worst quail seasons in two decades last, but above average rainfall, especially in the west portion of the state, is providing optimism that this will be a big bounce back year. Even so, experts say populations have dropped almost 5 percent annually since 1981, so addressing key habitat issues will go a long way to curbing that trend. Season Opener: October 27

Utah -- California quail populations are in good shape in the northeastern region due to brushy areas associated with local agricultural lands. Stable populations of California quail also exist in central Utah along the Wasatch front. Because the birds are more associated with urban areas, hunters need to research city boundary limits to avoid being in violation. A dry spring and hot, dry summer has significantly reduced Gambel's quail populations in southern Utah. Birds can still be found on WMAs in Sevier County, as well as along riparian areas in Emery and Carbon counties. Last year, hunters harvested nearly 19,000 quail in Utah. Season Opener: Multiple

Virginia -- Regionally, the June call count indicated the average number of individual quail heard increased or remained stable in most areas of the state. Though the state is in a bit of a drought, state biologist Pat Cook said it doesn't appear to have substantially hindered reproduction in the eastern part of the state - the primary quail range. According the state's most recent data, nearly 10,000 hunters harvested over 66,000 quail in 05-06, and hunters can expect similar numbers again this year. On the habitat front, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is encouraging the use of native warm season grasses in livestock operations in an effort to curb the wildlife-choking fescue problem, and Virginia's first Quail Forever chapter formed in Franklin County earlier this year. Season Opener: November 10

Washington -- There appears to be nothing keeping Washington quail hunters from enjoying another fine season. According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, reports on quail brood size was good, which should keep this year's quail harvest in line with last season's total of 147,000 (majority California valley quail, but some mountain Quail). Washington quail hunters have harvested an average of 165,000 quail per year over the past four seasons, the highest numbers seen there in two decades. Yakima, Grant, Chelan and Okanogan Counties offer the best opportunities. Hunters should note that mountain Quail season is closed in eastern Washington. Season Opener: Multiple

West Virginia -- Marginal habitat conditions lead to a marginal average harvest of under 1,000 bobs a year in West Virginia and that should again be the case this year. The best quail habitat lies in the Greenbrier River Valley and the eastern panhandle. There are also isolated pockets holding birds along the Ohio River Valley. Season Opener: November 3

Wisconsin -- While quail have been on the decline in the state, upland wildlife ecologist Sharon Fandel reported that there is a small increase in bob numbers this year. In fact, good to excellent localized opportunities should exist in Green, Iowa, Lafayette and Rock counties in the southernmost part of the state. Season Opener: October 20

[Copied from Quail Forever; text file received from Anthony Hauck, Quail Forever public relations]

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