Mississippi - Highest Call Counts in Five Years

Forecast: Rick Hammrick, small game biologist for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, thinks the mild winter and early spring contributed to a greater overwinter survival and an earlier start to quail nesting. “Observations suggested the peak of breeding season calling activity started earlier than usual. Peak hatching conditions were generally good to excellent this year in many areas of the state,” says Hammrick. Incidental quail brood-sighting observations from public and private land managers over the summer suggested a good hatch across much of the state where habitat was at least moderately suitable for quail.

Quail call counts were mostly stable or increased this year, relative to recent years. Call counts from Wildlife Management Areas with quail habitat potential were 14 percent greater than 2011. On average, Wildlife Management Area call counts were the highest they have been in 5 years.

According to Hammrick, statewide quail populations remain low relative to significant hunting opportunity, although localized areas do exhibit abundant populations. As always, quail populations are related to the amount of suitable habitat within a given area. Significant habitat management opportunity exists throughout much of the state, but more large-scale habitat improvement is required to provide sustainable hunting opportunities.

Areas to note include Sky Lake and Muscadine Farms Wildlife Management Areas in the Delta region, which may qualify as overlooked spots. These areas have several tracts of old farmland recently planted to hardwoods, so right now they are good grassland cover. However, these areas will begin to grow out of quail habitat after several more years if trees, left unchecked, begin to shade out ground cover vegetation.

Season Dates: November 22, 2012 through March 2, 2013
Daily Bag Limit: 8
Possession Limit: N/A
Field Notes: National Forest lands in south Mississippi have fair habitat as a result of large tract size, regular prescribed burning, and longleaf pine system restoration efforts in some areas, but hunters should expect to cover some ground to find birds. Several Wildlife Management Areas are in these National Forests, and there are other Wildlife Management Areas around the state that have some quail hunting potential. Birds will move to thicker cover during the winter months and hunters may not find birds in more open cover.

Conservation Reserve Program, CP33 buffers and CP38 grassland practices are providing habitat benefits in agricultural landscapes. Longleaf pine initiatives in South Mississippi, along with a more persisting fire culture relative to other regions, are providing quail habitat benefits. The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the Fire on the Forty Initiative are also showing some locally positive results.

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