South Carolina – Weather Showing Positive Trend

Forecast: Looking forward to the 2012-13 season, it is important to note the winter of 2011-12 was extremely mild for South Carolina, helping winter carryover. An early spring resulted in some early nesting, and unlike much of the country, South Carolina experienced adequate and timely rainfall throughout the majority of the growing seasons, resulting in excellent cover development throughout much of the state. These cover conditions should equate to positive quail populations which equal or exceed those of last year on properties where adequate nesting and brood rearing cover are present, reports Billy Dukes, small game project supervisor for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Reports indicate an average of 0.4 coveys/hour found by hunters during the 2011-12 season, which was nearly identical to the 0.43 coveys/hr. found in the 2010-11 season. Whistle counts surveys throughout the state were down about 9% overall; however, the number of routes which demonstrated increases in 2012 was greater than the number of routes on which calling males decreased.

The premier quail hunting locations in South Carolina are privately-owned quail plantations in the Coastal Plains. These areas, while not available to the average hunter, boast quail numbers as good as any in the Southeast, with covey find rates of 3-4 coveys per hour as common occurrence. These high quail densities are maintained through purposeful management designed to provide for all the needs of bobwhites throughout their entire life cycle.

According to Jerald Sholar, Coordinator of the Tall Timbers’ South Carolina Quail Project, managed properties in the coastal plain should experience quail numbers and hunting success at least equal to last year. Some early nesting losses were offset by a protracted nesting season and a good late hatch. Managers on many properties reported seeing broods throughout the nesting season.

Likewise, across the rest of the state, areas with adequate nesting and brood rearing habitat should maintain or see a slight increase in quail populations. Private and public lands which lack necessary habitat components will continue to struggle.

Hunters should also be aware that excellent cover development and food production which results from good rainfall during the growing season is a double-edged sword for hunters. While numbers may be up slightly, dense escape cover and abundant natural foods can make birds more difficult to find!

Dukes notes that “portions of the Francis Marion National Forest in Charleston and Berkeley counties, and portions of the Sumter National Forest in Newberry and Union counties offer reasonable opportunities for the public land hunter to find a few coveys of birds. The Webb/Palachucola/Hamilton Ridge WMA complex in Hampton County, Crackerneck WMA in Aiken County, Draper WMA in York County, and Canal WMA in Berkeley County also have good habitat and better than average quail populations for public lands. Public land hunters should look for areas with relatively low density pines which have been prescribe burned in the last 2 to 3 years.”

Season Dates:November 19, 2012 through March 1, 2013
Daily Bag Limit: 12 birds/day Seasons and bag limits may vary on specific Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). See SC Rules and Regulations here for more information.
Field Notes: CP33 buffers and SAFE acres on working farms have improved quail numbers considerably on working landscapes in the upper coastal plain. The RENEW (Restoration and Enhancement of Native Ecosystems for Wildlife) Project in Edgefield County on the Longcane Ranger District of the Sumter National Forest, and the Indian Creek Wildlife Habitat Restoration Initiative in Newberry County on the Enoree District of the Sumter National Forest represent significant improvements to habitat on public lands.

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