2022 Quail Hunting Forecast

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Favorable weather across much of the southeast gives hope for covey rises, but persistent drought across the west and southwest will present challenges to hunters this fall

Quail Forever’s annual state-by-state forecast for quail country provides an insider’s view of conditions on the ground and your chances for dogs on point and coveys on the rise. Check back soon as additional forecasts are being added!


Click on a state to jump to its report


Quail are birds of both weather and habitat

Across the quail range bird hunters pay keen attention to these two factors that will most affect how their dreams of crisp autumn mornings and flushing birds will play out. Everyone wants to know how the season is shaping up, both close to home and in the many places where quail hunters travel to pursue their passion.

That’s where Quail Forever’s annual Quail Hunting Forecast comes in. This invaluable resource, gleaned from dozens of interviews with biologists, QF staffers, and other quail experts, gives you a leg up on where to go this fall. Click on a state on the map below, or open one of the tabs following it, to see what’s going on in that place with the habitat, the birds, and the hunting prospects.

So what does the quail picture look like overall? As in most years, what you’ll find, bird-wise, is going to depend on where you are, or where you’re going to be. Across parts of the Southeast, a mild winter and timely rains in the summer have observers cautiously optimistic about bird numbers in areas that have good habitat. But across the Great Plains states, drought and spotty spring rains mean you’ll have to work for your birds. And in the West and Southwest drought continues to take a toll.

But as always, there will be birds out there. Quail are always going to be a boom-or-bust proposition, and due diligence is the name of the game if you want to find them. Ultimately, the key to quail numbers will always be habitat. Provide that, and birds have the resiliency to weather (pardon the pun) all those other factors.

So let your planning begin. The best time of year is here. Hit the fields, pursue your passion, and continue the upland legacy and your own upland dreams And while you’re at it, please remember to think about what really matters – habitat – and commit to staying part of the Quail Forever Family and its upland habitat and public access missions.

Chad Love, Editor – 2022 Quail Hunting Forecast

If you’re reading this forecast, you either hunt quail, or you’ve always wanted to. And if you do hunt quail, or have always wanted to try, consider joining Quail Forever. It’s a great way to show your support and give back to the bird and the habitat that means so much to so many. Our six native species of quail that stretch coast to coast and the varied upland habitat they need to thrive needs you. Be all about the bird and the culture and traditions it supports: Become a Quail Forever member today!


State-by-State Reports - Click to Expand

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Alabama

A mild winter along with optimal spring and summer weather conditions favored quail this year

By Oliver Hartner

Alabama quail hunters can expect average to above-average covey counts this fall on properly managed public lands and private properties. A mild winter along with optimal spring and summer weather conditions favored the quail this year according to anecdotal evidence and data trends.

WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

Steven Mitchell, Upland Bird Coordinator for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, says, “Winter weather conditions across Alabama were relatively mild and should not have adversely affected quail populations. Spring and summer weather conditions in most of Alabama have been favorable for quail production. There has been adequate rainfall all summer resulting in good vegetation growth, insect, and seed production.”

He adds that flooding on low-lying properties in different parts of the state experienced substantial rain events, but those periods were not extended and should not have had negative effects on overall nesting or brooding.

HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

Mitchell admits, “Alabama’s landscape, like most of the southeast, is lacking quality upland habitat.” However, on properties scattered across the state that contain moderate to good upland quail habitat, the outlook is positive. “Given the rainfall and growing conditions over the summer, properties that focus their management activity on increasing or maintaining quality habitat should be in good shape this fall,” Mitchell believes.

Anecdotal evidence regarding the 2022 hatch ranges from good to low production, according to Mitchell. “Many private property managers that implement intensive year-round quail habitat management have reported an increase in observational brood sightings compared to last year. Other private and public lands have reported around the same or fewer observations than last year. With spring and summerlong weather conditions favorable overall for vegetation growth and quail reproduction, we are hopeful production has been good across the state and translates into a good quail hunting season,” he says.

The Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries in Alabama conducts fall covey call and spring male whistling surveys on several of their Wildlife Management Area (WMA) properties throughout the state. Results from these surveys have varied across the board. Mitchell says, “Some WMAs (mainly waterfowl areas) report no quail heard, and others report stable-but-low numbers on most WMAs. We do not have an online link to the surveys at this time.”

TOP SPOTS

Mitchell advises that the best quail hunting is found on private properties that are intensively managed for quail, but if these properties are inaccessible, he believes quail can be found on several Alabama WMAs. “The 2022 spring surveys indicated the WMAs with the higher counts of whistling males were Barbour WMA in the southeast region, Geneva State Forest and Perdido WMAs in the southern area, Choccolocco WMA in the east, and Freedom Hills in the northwest.

Public land hunters may want to check out Boggy Hollow, Blue Spring, Hollins, and Oakmulgee WMAs. The Talladega National Forest also contains areas where a few coveys can be found,” he says.

INSIDER TIP

Whether hunting private or public land for wild bobwhite quail, Mitchel says, “Plan to put in a lot of legwork. To find birds on private and public lands, look for open or thinned timber stands with native grasses and scattered thickets. Also, work your dogs along field edges, young clearcuts, and early-stage pine plantings. Identify and hunt around quail foods in those areas which may include beggarweed, partridge pea, ragweed, lespedezas, pine seeds, and even acorns.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Arizona

Lower overall numbers, but there will be pockets of birds

Arizona is a top late-season quail destination, so there’s always much attention paid to how quail numbers look each season. So how does the upcoming season stack up? This is what the Arizona Game & Fish Department summarized the season in a recent e-mail.

“If hunters are fortunate enough to find pockets of birds when the 2022-23 season opens Friday, Oct. 14, they just might want to keep those locations a closely guarded secret.”

And there you go: lace up the boots, hit the ground, and keep your lips zipped for birds this fall in the Grand Canyon State.

HABITAT, BROODS, AND COUNTS

“We expect desert quail numbers may still be lower across the state this fall than they were in 2018 and 2019 — the last years that we had really good winter rains — but there are areas in Arizona where birds are more plentiful,” said Larisa Harding, small game program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

“Most of the call count survey numbers for Gambel’s quail were up this spring from last year, but that comes with the acknowledgment that last year’s numbers were terribly low,” Harding said. “Down south at Oracle Junction, the average number of breeding calls were two to five times greater than last year’s average, so that’s promising that numbers are improved. Closer to Phoenix, call counts were double the average from last year, so we’re hopeful that there should be birds in the desert this fall. Calling activity in northwestern Arizona, closer to Wikieup and the Kingman region, suggested similar activity as last year.”

Harding said hunter check station data collected during the opening weekend of the desert quail season in October 2021 showed a very low proportion of the harvest was juvenile birds.

“Such a low number of juveniles in the harvest just harkens back to how bad environmental conditions have been the past few years with extreme heat and scant precipitation falling during the time that Gambel’s quail are breeding and raising chicks,” she said.

DESERT QUAIL OUTLOOK

Harding said this spring most numbers for Gambel’s quail were up from last year in calling activity, but that comes with the acknowledgment that last year’s numbers were terribly low.

“Down south at Oracle Junction, the average number of breeding calls were 2-5 times greater than last year’s average, so that’s promising that numbers are improved,” said Harding. “Closer to Phoenix, call counts were double the average from last year, so we’re hopeful there should be birds in the desert this fall. Calling activity up in northwestern Arizona closer to Wikieup and the Kingman region suggested similar activity as last year.”

Harding said chicks were seen on the ground as early as April, and as late as early August there were still chicks that looked to be only a week or so old running around. She said that suggests Gambel’s quail have been able to take advantage of some monsoonal moisture later for reproduction and their brooding period has extended into the late summer.

However, summer call count surveys for scaled quail suggest they will be difficult to locate and hunt because numbers appear to be very low this year. Harding said there will always be pockets of abundance, but it will be more challenging to discover those areas.

Overall, Harding said they expect desert quail numbers may still be lower across the state this fall than they were in 2018 and 2019, which were the last years Arizona had really good winter rains, but there are areas in Arizona where birds are more plentiful.

As for Montezuma quail in southern Arizona, Harding said they’ve had a rough time with extended drought conditions the last few years.

“Low monsoon moisture seemed to be on tap again this summer, but rain finally came in July and has been falling in southeastern Arizona, so this may be a better year for Mearns’ quail,” she said. “Mearns’ quail rely heavily on monsoon moisture for breeding and brood-rearing activities and also on adult carry-over from the previous winter. We’re finally getting some strong monsoon patterns and precipitation in the key time for Montezuma quail, so we are hopeful that their reproductive activity is higher and bird numbers will improve.”

“Our voluntary hunter submissions to wing barrels last suggested that hunters averaged two Mearns’ quail per day of hunting effort. We expect numbers may be higher this winter, but we still need a few consecutive summers with good precipitation to really boost Mearns’ numbers,” Harding said. “We expect there should be a good crop of young birds on the landscape this fall, but it will take more than one season for Montezuma quail numbers to rebound. Try hunting areas that see lower hunter visitation this year and you’ll likely see success.”

Season Dates: Oct 14, 2022 - Feb 12, 2023 (Gambel’s and Scaled) Dec 2, 2022 - Feb 12, 2023 (Montezuma)

Bag limits: The general bag limit is 15 quail per day in the aggregate, of which no more than eight may be Mearns’ quail (when the Mearns’ season opens Dec. 2). The general possession limit is 45 quail in the aggregate after opening day, of which no more than 15 Gambel’s, scaled or California quail in the aggregate may be taken in any one day. After the opening of the Mearns’ season, the 45-quail possession limit may include 24 Mearns’ quail, of which no more than eight may be taken in any one day.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Arkansas

Mild winter could rebound 2021 declines, though drought still a concern

By Casey Sill

As with the rest of the southeast, overall quail habitat conditions in Arkansas on unmanaged lands are trending down. However, managed lands are trending up. Prescribed fire accomplishments have been trending up for the last several years and are forecasted to continue increasing each year. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has had an emphasis in habitat work for quail on several WMA's in the state and has also assisted partner agencies with similar work. There are several places in the state with growing quail populations, which should lead to more hunting opportunities in the near future as more areas develop a healthy enough population to be opened up. 

WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

In early 2021 Arkansas was hit by a record snow event that resulted in dramatically lower quail numbers across the state that fall. This year, after a mild winter and solid spring conditions, all signs point to a rebound in numbers.

“Overwinter survival should be good for this year,” said Clint Jonson, the quail program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “And spring conditions were great for ground nesting birds this year, with none of the heavy rains that can threaten young chicks. Fall counts just began for 2022 and we’re hopeful that our numbers will be up.”

SUMMER HATCH AND BROODS

While spring conditions were ideal, summer 2022 brought dry spells for much of the state, which is a concerning factor for long term population health. Waves of drought hit in July and September, which can impact food supply, recruitment of broods and success for late nests.

“Almost the entire state was under burn bans in July and is again right now,” Johnson said. “Fortunately though, the drought periods have been short lived enough that forbs have had a good run of flowering and seeding, so the drought may look worse than it is for quail.”

HABITAT PROGRAMS AND TOP SPOTS

Arkansas has great public land hunting opportunities, if you know where to look. In general, the most stable quail populations on public land in Arkansas are Fort Chaffee WMA, Ouachita National Forest near Waldron, and Moro Big Pine Natural Area WMA. Other areas such as Sylamore, Degray Lake, Lake Greeson and Poison Springs WMA's have great quail numbers in areas where extensive glade and woodland work has been accomplished. For more details on public access in Arkansas, check out the agency's mapping tool here to find open grassland areas where this type of work has been performed. 

“For private lands quail sightings, Izard County is a hot spot due to a large percentage of pasture in that area,” Johnson said. “Other leading counties for sightings this summer include White, Conway, Van Buren, Faulkner and Hempstead, also large cattle production counties with large acreages of grassland.”

SEASON DATES: November 1 - February 5, 2023

DAILY BAG LIMIT: 6

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Colorado

Drought continues to keep birds down

By Greg Breining

The story of Colorado’s bird numbers continues to be the drought. As always, some spots will be better than surrounding areas, but considering how severe the drought has been, hunting will range from poor to below average, says Ed Gorman, small game manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“Overall, hunters will find relatively difficult conditions for quail this year,” he says. “Most populations have been impacted by severe drought, which bracketed the nesting and brooding season.”

Bob Hix, the Colorado-Wyoming regional representative for Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever, confirmed how severe the weather has been: “Eastern Colorado is in its third year of major drought. I’ve lived and hunted here my entire life and never seen it so dry. Our birds, all species, are in really tough shape.”

“Winter was likely too dry to promote good nesting and brood habitat development for populations that were already impacted by the drought in 2021,” says Gorman. “Populations were reduced going into winter, and likely heading into the spring nesting period as well.”

Things haven’t improved going into fall. “Most areas are still exceedingly dry,” says Gorman. Sightings of birds and broods have been sporadic, he says. Colorado doesn’t conduct roadside surveys, he says, “mostly because our arid conditions do not push birds to the roads.”

Colorado has hunting for bobwhite, scaled, and Gambel’s quail. Bobwhite are found in sage rangeland or cottonwood riparian areas on the eastern plains, scaled in southeastern Colorado, and a few Gambel’s are scattered through western Colorado. Most hunting is for bobwhite and scaled.

BEST BETS

Although bobwhites in the South Platte corridor have been impacted by the drought, it’s nonetheless one of the best areas of the state. There will be birds where patches of good habitat exist. Says Gorman, “For bobwhites, the best populations are normally found in the South Plattte river corridor from roughly Fort Morgan east to the stateline.”

If any area has escaped the very worst of the drought it may be the southeast, where weather moderated a bit in late summer. Gorman recommends trying the extreme southeast around the town of Walsh for bobwhites. Hunters will also run into scaled quail in the southeast, with good bird numbers (in nondrought years) south of U.S. 50.

“I don’t expect populations to be high, but there should be a few birds to be found with a lot of walking,” he says. “Best of all for hunters without local connections, there’s plenty of access, largely because of the walk-in access program.”

INSIDER TIP

“Scouting is always the most important thing to do,” says Gorman. “Do some background work on weather conditions as well. Some areas might pick up slightly more rain than others.”

IF YOU GO

Check the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website in late October for the complete state report on quail numbers.

For northern bobwhite, scaled, and Gambel’s:

Season 1: Nov. 12–Jan. 31, 2023, east of I-25 and south of I-70 from I-25 to Byers and Highway 36 from Byers to Kansas, and the parts of the following counties that are west of I-25: Pueblo, Fremont, Huerfano, El Paso and Las Animas.

Season 2: Nov. 12–Jan. 2, 2023, east of I-25 and north of I-70 from I-25 east to Byers and Highway 36 from Byers to Kansas.

Season 3: Nov. 12–Jan. 2, 2023, west of I-25 except those areas west of I-25 in Pueblo, Fremont, Huerfano, El Paso and Las Animas counties.

Limit is 8 of each species daily and 24 of each species in possession.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Florida

Sunshine State quail remain stable due to favorable weather conditions since last season

By Oliver Hartner

Florida quail hunters should continue to see healthy bobwhite quail populations in places where best land management practices are being implemented. Though a late fall tropical weather event could change conditions on the ground, the populations remain stable due to favorable weather conditions since last season.

WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

Greg Hagan, quail biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, says, “Due to favorable winter weather conditions, Florida experienced excellent over-winter survival across the state which, in turn, set the stage for a strong start to the nesting season.”

Barring any late fall tropical weather events, Hagan believes spring and summer weather conditions were optimal for quail, saying, “Florida has been spared (so far) from any tropical systems.  As such, spring and summer weather, along with quality habitat management has created ideal nesting and brood rearing conditions.”

HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

Hagan says, “On areas implementing favorable bobwhite management, the habitat is in excellent condition.  If those conditions hold, populations should be well positioned heading into fall.” He also suggests that reports from the field show above average nest and brood production, which in turn increases the potential for chick survival rates. 

TOP SPOTS

For those interested in hunting quail in Florida this fall, Hagan says, “Many Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) located in the panhandle, central, and southwest regions support quality bobwhite populations.  Identifying and concentrating efforts on recently burned areas (< 18 months) or other management activities (timber harvest or roller chopping) usually provides the highest success.”

INSIDER TIP

For those hunting on WMAs, Hagan advises, “If you’re planning to hunt on one of Florida’s many public WMAs, please consult the WMA brochure specific to the area you plan to hunt before heading afield as many areas have differing season dates, rules and regulations.  Information can be found here.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Georgia

A warm winter and ample food and cover means Georgia quail hunters should see average to above-average quail numbers on well-managed habitat

By Oliver Hartner

Georgia experienced a warmer winter without a lot of snow or sleet, and these conditions kept food and cover on the ground for a longer time. Though a brief drought affected some parts of the state in early summer, Georgia quail hunters should see average to above-average survival rates for the 2022 fall season on well-managed habitat.

WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

According to Dallas Ingram, State Quail Coordinator for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), “Last winter was mostly hot and dry which worked well for the birds since it was hard to hunt. The food and cover remained in place longer, so most areas had above average overwinter survival.”

Dry conditions in early summer seems to have affected some areas of the state more than most, but those conditions seem to have been mitigated. “Spring started with great nesting and brooding conditions, but in early summer, parts of the state fell into drought conditions that lasted for about a month.  The dry weather increased early brood survival in some areas, but on our sandier soils, the drought created tough conditions.  Fortunately, rains returned mid-summer and improved brood habitat.  Late summer reports were of large broods of multiple ages, which bodes well for fall populations,” Ingram says.

HABITAT, BROODS, AND COUNTS

In parts of Georgia where habitat management projects and initiatives are taking place, the outlook remains positive going into the 2022 fall season.

Ingram says, “Plenty of summer moisture has resulted in an abundance of cover for most areas.  Expect tall, thick cover this year so be prepared to wear good chaps.” Land management continues to have the biggest impact on year-to-year stability or improvement in the quail population. “Our anecdotal evidence and past reports suggest very good early season hatches and survival rates.  Late season reports from most well-managed areas report large broods of multiple ages.” Fall covey counts will begin in mid-October and the data will be available on the Georgia DNR website.

TOP SPOTS

According to Ingram, “Good reports have come in from all over the state. The greatest concentration of wild bobwhites is across the upper coastal plain in a belt that runs from Southwest to East Central Georgia.  There are several public lands in this region that hold good numbers of birds and plenty of private lands.  Many of Georgia’s public lands are quota only or have limited open dates. Applications open in October for this season’s quota hunts, and you can apply here.

INSIDER TIPS

Ingram says, “Watch the weather. Last season was plagued with hot, dry conditions that made for extremely tough hunting even for seasoned local hunters. Those hot days also mean that snakes are moving about, and several dogs had bad encounters last season.  Snake aversion training and/or snake vaccination are good insurance policies.” 

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Idaho

Cold and rain may have suppressed early nesting, but good weather gave Idaho quail a bounce-back

By Jack Hutson

Idaho is home to valley (California), bobwhite, Gambel’s and mountain quail species; mountain, the only true native quail species, and Gambel’s remain closed to hunting state-wide. Bobwhite quail can be found in southwest portions of the state but are very rare. By far the most populous and widespread, valley quail can be found from the state’s northern panhandle to its southwestern corner.

Idaho’s quail and partridge season opened before press-time and there was opportunity to do some field research along with my setter assistant, Tess. The little bumble-birds could still be found in their typical haunts but in slightly fewer numbers. To compare findings, I contacted Idaho’s regional experts.

Based in Lewiston, Iver Hull is a regional wildlife biologist for Idaho Fish & Game and is responsible for compiling upland bird data in the Clearwater Region. Iver took the time to chat about the quail count: “Our surveys show an estimated 20 percent decrease this year in quail as compared to the 10-year average.” Hull quickly added, “That number should be taken with a grain of salt since the crop fields along the routes had not been harvested.”

In Idaho’s southwest, Connor White is a project outreach coordinator for PF & QF and, when not on the clock, chases chukar with his Brittanys. His weather recollection sounds familiar, “Winter was generally mild to average, most of our snow came in late December but we didn't get a ton of it for the season.” White continued, “Early to mid-spring was very dry. Then, later spring and pushing into early summer we had amazing amounts of precipitation.”

Indeed, habitat responded well to late spring rains throughout state. What does that mean for quail?

White: “I think the early clutches didn't fare so well due to the cold and rainy conditions. But I believe with the increased cover, most birds renested with success.”

Hull agreed, “Quail seemed down a bit but appear to have rebounded somewhat from this year’s wet spring weather.”

White offered his observation from the field: “I had recently been working in good quail habitat and was seeing quite a few very young birds.” White continued, “The broods I was flushing seemed to be average to good sized.”

It seems that the findings all agree, quail can still be found in fair numbers throughout much of Idaho.

WHERE TO LOOK

Most take quail as a side-dish while hunting other gamebird species. Fanatics, like yours truly, enjoy the thrill of chasing these sprite little game birds late in the season with light guns behind good dogs.

In drier south-west Idaho, quail are found in thick tangles of trees and tall brush; especially near stream beds. In addition, seek valley bottoms along the edges of irrigated agricultural fields; where tall sage and brush meet cultivation.

Going north, look for stubble fields bordered by wide drainages edged with wild rose or blackberry briars; often filled with tall hawthorn and service berry. This cover is where quail will loaf and roost in relative safety from their many predators.

Often, the best tactic to roust-out the little buzz-bombs is to assign a hunter on each side and a brush-busting dog (or willing hunter) down in the bottom. For the hunter in the thick of things, the prospect can get rather “thorny”!

WORDS OF CAUTION

Quail season opens early and hot days can challenge dogs. Make sure to bring enough water for you and your canine hunting partner and watch for signs that the dog has had enough. In addition, warm days can mean snakes, keep on the lookout for rattlesnakes that inhabit much of the quail’s range.

Seasons and License:

Idaho Seasons: Idaho is divided into two areas for wild quail management.

AREA 1: September 17 through January 31

AREA 2: Closed to all quail hunting.

Daily Bag Limit: 10 (mixed bag)

Possession Limit: 30 (mixed bag)

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Illinois

The key to a successful 2022-23 quail season is finding high-quality habitat

By Jared Wiklund

It’s hard to comprehend just how incredible quail hunting once was in the state of Illinois. For instance, from 1950 through the early 1970’s, quail hunters in The Prairie State bagged an estimated two million bobwhite quail per year. You read that correctly – two (2) million. By 1990, 84,000 quail hunters harvested 937,000 birds. Ten years later, 40,500 quail hunters harvested an estimated 271,500 birds. In 2020 (latest statistics), about 5,000 quail hunters harvested ~32,000 birds.

As row cropping gradually replaced Illinois’ small, diverse farms which featured abundant small grains, livestock, and hay fields separated by weedy fencerows, early successional habitat disappeared across much of the bobwhite’s range.

While the long-term decline of quail in Illinois is well-documented, hunters will be happy to hear that quail populations rebounded somewhat from 2021, especially in the central and west-central regions of the state.

WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

“The winter of 2021-2022 in the primary quail range was relatively mild, but spring brought average to above average rainfall over a large portion of the state,” said Wade Louis, habitat team program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Starting in June, localized areas of the state received record rain fall events which could have impacted nesting attempts and brooding of small chicks.

BY THE NUMBERS

Illinois’ Quail Population Index is established via various routes across the state which are ran by department biologists two times annually during the spring/summer. The first run is completed during the peak breeding window for ring-necked pheasant (May 10 – June 10) and the second run is completed during the peak of quail breeding (June 10 – July 10). Each route has 20 stops, where biologists pause for 3 minutes, and record individual birds seen or heard.

During 2022, observers recorded an average of 0.45 quail per stop during the surveys (a 10% increase from 2021). Quail were recorded at 22% of stops (percent occurrence), up 2%. The number of quail counted and the number of stops where quail were seen or heard in 2022 were both up slightly from 2021 surveys.

SEASON OUTLOOK

The key to a successful 2022-23 quail season is finding high-quality habitat. The most productive quail regions in the state this year will be central and west-central Illinois. Quail numbers in southern Illinois are struggling after several years of above average rains and late winter storms that brought ice and snow cover – tough conditions for survivability if you’re a bobwhite.

Quail hunters should focus their time and efforts where quail live – the intersection between weedy field edges, shrubby habitat, and some form of grain (corn stubble, sorghum, ect.). Shrubby cover - blackberry, dogwood, giant ragweed, sumac, loose brush piles, etc. - otherwise known as escape cover or covey headquarters, is a necessity for finding quail. Quail studies have revealed that birds seldom stray more than 30-50 yards away from some form of shrubby cover.

Illinois ranks 46th in the nation for publicly owned land with more than 97 percent of the state in private ownership. Presently, the state’s best quail hunting opportunities are found on private lands in the central and west-central regions. To be successful, utilize plat maps and current technology, such as the onX Hunt App, to help identify landowners and seek permission for quality quail hunting experiences.

THE QUAIL FOREVER EXPERIENCE

Forever Fields Upland Habitat Complex is a Quail Forever-owned property comprised of three Knox County tracts totaling 1,000 acres of beautiful upland habitat. These three tracts are: Forever Fields Habitat Area, Buffalo Prairie PHA, and T-Lake Habitat Area. After the first two weekends of November (permit only at this time), these properties are available to walk-in hunting throughout the remainder of the upland season. Click here for more info.

SEASON DATES

  • November 5, 2022 – January 8, 2023 (North)
  • November 5, 2022 – January 15, 2023 (South)
  • Hunting hours are sunrise to sunset with a bag limit of 8 quail per day, and 20 in possession after the 3rd day.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Indiana

Bobwhites blessed by favorable weather

By Greg Breining

With a mild winter and favorable weather during the spring and summer, Indiana’s bobwhite are doing well and should provide at least an average season this year. As usual, quail hunting will be best in southern Indiana.

“I expect the hunting season harvest to be similar to last year,” says Tom Despot, northwest public lands supervisor for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

“The winter was not real severe so I don’t think we experienced significant quail mortality. The spring and summer weather have been good for nesting and brood rearing,” says Despot. “I have seen a good number of turkey broods and some quail broods as well, so I think the weather has been reasonably good for nesting and brood rearing.”

Mike Schoof, property manager at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area in northwest Indiana, agrees. “What I have seen in my region has been promising. This dry season has really done good for brood survival. We are seeing a fair number of broods that are a healthy size in number,” he says. “I feel pretty good that we will have a good quail season in this general area.”

Will Hinshaw, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever farm bill biologist in northwestern Indiana, says “quail numbers are about the same as in years past on the properties I have had access to. I will say I have seen or heard quail while on site visits in areas that I did not know had quail. I would say that our season will be about an average year, at least in my area.”

Farther south, Dan Eckstein, the Division of Fish and Wildlife southwest public lands supervisor in Linton, says that with a mild winter and a wet spring turning to a dry summer, quail should have done well. “The overall consensus I got from the managers on quail production is that we would be having an average-good year for quail production,” he says.

“Personally, I believe our quail populations are still rebounding from an icy February we had in 2021, which knocked the population numbers back a bit,” says Eckstein. “We saw this in a lower-than-average harvest across multiple southwest fish and wildlife areas last fall and winter. Hopefully, the populations have rebounded this year and we will enjoy a normal quail harvest this fall.”

BEST BETS

Probably the areas with the consistently best bobwhite numbers and habitat are southwestern counties, including Greene, Owen, Sullivan, Daviess, Gibson, Pike, and Dubois, says Despot.

One of the best public areas has been Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area in the southwest. Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area in the far northwest offers a mixed bag of quail and woodcock.

IF YOU GO

North of Interstate 74 the quail season runs Nov. 1–Dec. 15. Limit is 4 per day with 8 in possession. South of Interstate 74 the season runs Nov. 1–Jan. 10, 2023. Limit is 8 per day with 16 in possession.

Consult the Where to Hunt in Indiana Interactive Map to find huntable public land suitable for quail.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Iowa

Iowa quail are on the rise in 2022

By Jared Wiklund

Located on the northern fringe of the bobwhite range, Iowa’s quail population ebbs and flows with habitat availability and precipitation. For instance, in 2018, bobwhites witnessed a 30-year high in the Hawkeye State after four, back-to-back mild winters and a focused effort to establish quality quail habitat. In stark contrast, Iowa’s “bomb cyclone” of 2020 brought record cold temps, heavy snowfall, and ice storms which pummeled bobwhite populations.

Despite the setback, quail coveys are on the rise once again in 2022 and Iowa might just be a quail hunting destination to mark on your calendar. What’s more? There’s also plenty of mixed-bag potential if you know where to look.

WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

The 2021-22 winter statewide snowfall was 15 inches, or 9.7 inches below the long-term mean. Snowfall was below normal in all regions, especially in western half of the bobwhite range. Over half the total snowfall came in January, with trace amounts in other months. These conditions likely led to above average overwinter survival for various wildlife species, but especially bobwhite who are sensitive to snow depths.

Similarly, the spring of 2022 was slightly drier than normal, the third consecutive year of below normal rainfall during the nesting season. “Nesting and brood-rearing weather for bobwhite quail was optimal in June and July,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Combined with a mild winter, our statewide bobwhite quail index basically doubled from last year.”

The majority of Iowa’s quail range is still locked in a drought pattern – “abnormal” to “severe” drought conditions are labeled throughout the southern tiers of counties via the U.S. Drought Monitor. Despite that prognosis, Iowa’s drought severity is much less pronounced than the more arid regions of the western United States; a recipe for good habitat and brood-rearing conditions.

HABITAT, BROODS, AND COUNTS

Iowa’s statewide quail index is just below the 10-year average of 0.95 quail per route. As noted above, this increase was expected given the lack of snowfall across southern Iowa, which lead to high overwinter survival. All southern regions reported greater than 100 percent increases in quail numbers over 2021 counts.

“Hunters harvested 24,000 bobwhite last fall and I expect that number to be in the 30-to-40-thousand range for 2022,” said Bogenschutz. “Starting in the east and moving westward across the bottom three tiers of Iowa counties, hunters can expect the prospects to be better the farther west you travel.” Top roadside counts in 2022 came from Adair, Adams, Fremont, Page and Ringgold counties.

HAWKEYE QUAIL HAUNTS

Southwest Iowa: Considered a stronghold for Iowa quail numbers, southwest Iowa claimed the number one spot on the DNR’s 2022 August Roadside Survey jumping from 1.69 quail per route in 2021 to 4.38 quail per route this year. Considering the long-term average (since 1962) is 1.32, the southwestern corridor is proving to be a bright spot this year.

“A mild winter with non-existent ice storms is what really made the difference over the past 12 months around here,” said Matt Dollison, Iowa DNR management biologist for the Nishnabotna region. “We’ve slowly been recovering from the catastrophic floods of 2019 on the Missouri River and its tributaries. Although bobwhites suffered, one positive of flood waters is the reset provided for quail habitat – a good kill on grassy vegetation allowed for the expansion of annual weed growth around brushy areas. That’s an instant recipe for quality quail habitat. We’re starting to witness significant growth potential for quail populations; one more year of good weather could turn things from good to fantastic.”

Between state and Corp-owned public lands, quail hunters have nearly 22,000 acres to choose from in Fremont and Mills counties alone. Though not all habitat is created equal from a quail’s point of view, there are opportunities to be had. Combo hunts for quail, pheasant, and waterfowl should not be overlooked, especially in areas closer to the Missouri River. Where quail habitat exists, hunters may want to explore the I-29 corridor for mixed-bag opportunities – Iowa’s Habitat and Access Program (IHAP) enrollments become numerous north of I-80 in some western locations.

If you consider yourself an old-school quail hunter who can read landscapes and identify quail habitat off the cuff, seeking landowner permission on private lands should not be overlooked since the majority of quality quail cover in the Midwest is found on private lands.

Southcentral Iowa: Typically viewed as a hotbed for quail populations, southcentral Iowa still has a bit of recovering to do from winter ice storms the last two years. Still, the 2022 August Roadside Survey tallied 2.76 quail per route which is well above the long-term average for the state.

“The southcentral region has been affected by ice storms the past two years, especially in the winter of 2020-2021. When that happens and food supplies are covered in a thick sheet of ice, quail tend to have issues. It’s been a slower recovery, but the western edge of the southcentral unit does have some promise for quail,” said Heath VanWaus, Iowa DNR management biologist for the Rathbun Unit.

Quail can and will be found in this region with enough dog power and focus on quality quail grounds - hunters should seek the transitions of shrubs, ag fields, and weedy habitat. And there is no lack of places to explore – Rathbun Wildlife Area (16K acres), Sedan Bottoms (7K acres), Dekalb Wildlife Area (2K acres), Sand Creek Wildlife Area (3K acres), Ringgold Wildlife Area (2K acres), and Mount Ayr Wildlife Area (1.5K acres) are just a few of the options. Combined with county conservation board hunting acreage and scattered IHAP enrollments, the opportunity exists to put a few quail in the bag, along with ring-necked pheasants.

Southeast Iowa:Although a 241 percent increase in southeast Iowa quail numbers for 2022 might seem like a rosy picture, the birds are building back from the “bottom of the barrel” so to speak after a couple hard winters. The regional quail index jumped from 0.17 in 2021 to 0.58 in 2002; hence the “increase” in the roadside survey index.

“Four years ago, the quail hunting was about as good as it gets for this region,” said Jeff Glaw, Iowa DNR management biologist for the Sugema Unit. “Our numbers were steady until the weather took a turn for the worst. We could use a couple easy winters to restore what we’ve lost in terms of quail numbers.”

Glaw explained that his management unit is putting more emphasis on winter quail habitat after back-to-back beatings from Mother Nature – thick shrubby cover, edge feathering techniques on public land, and a new mix of food options consisting of forage sorghum, cowpeas, and a smattering of corn plants is helping wildlife, particularly bobwhites, weather winter’s wrath.

There’s no way around it – quail are going to be a lot harder to come by in the southeast quadrant this year. Lots of walking and scouting for quality quail habitat will define who can be successful in finding the limted coveys that exist for 2022. Lake Sugema Wildlife Area (4K acres) is one of the best bets for the southeast. In our conversation, Glaw did point to opportunities a little further north in Washington, Mahaska, and Keokuk counties for those willing to travel and explore. Mixed-bag opportunities for quail and pheasants will help to keep hunters engaged.

HUNTING TIPS

Utilize Maps: Iowa’s Public Hunting Atlas is a great planning tool with defined public land borders and high-res imaging to find where cropland, shrub thickets, and weedy borders intersect. You can also view every Iowa Habitat & Access Program enrollment from the DNR website.

Travel Old-School: The majority of quality quail habitat in the United States exists of private lands – Iowa is no exception. If you’re hunting alone or traveling in a small group and can identify quality quail habitat, utilize the onX Hunt App to locate parcels and ask permission where applicable.

Focus on Mixed-Bag Opportunities: If quail hunting is slow, don’t be afraid to expand your horizons with ringnecks and waterfowl in select areas of the state. When quail habitat transitions to grassy cover, be prepared for a rooster flush when you least expect it.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Kansas

Quail numbers strong in central and east

By Greg Breining

Kansas should have another good hunting season for bobwhite quail, says Jeff Prendergast, small game specialist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

But that encouraging news comes with a caveat: Strong quail populations occur in central and eastern Kansas, where rain—and quail—are usually more plentiful anyway. Farther west the drought that has afflicted Kansas and several other Midwest and Great Plains states has decimated habitat and rendered a spotty quail population even spottier.

The short, to-the-point version of the forecast: Best quail hunting will be in the Smoky Hills and Flint Hills. Because of drought, bird-holding habitat may be harder to find than normal, especially as you head west. Expect many walk-in hunting access areas (WIHAs) to be in pretty poor shape, shriveled by drought or grazed for emergency feed, or both.

SMOKY HILLS

The Smoky Hills of north-central Kansas have been riding a wave of good quail numbers for several years. This year, spring whistle counts were above average. Bird numbers seemed to improve even further through the summer to produce higher-than-average brood survey estimates. According to the KDWP outlook for 2022, “Densities appear best in the west half of the region but several other areas across the region maintained good estimates as well.” Besides good bird numbers, another advantage of hunting the Smoky Hills: better than average public access, especially through WIHA areas.

FLINT HILLS

Bobwhite numbers in the Flint Hills have been climbing for two decades and rose again slightly this year. According to the outlook, “Increases in the region should produce above-average quail densities and the highest regional density heading into fall.”

The Flint Hills have a real prescribed-burning culture. The burning helps rejuvenate grass- and brush-land habitat. But some landowners go overboard with annual burning that destroys nesting cover. According to the outlook, “Hunters will find the best success in areas that maintained nearby nesting cover and have retained shrub cover that has otherwise been removed from large areas of the region during invasive species control efforts.” Look for the best numbers in the southern Flint Hills.

Unfortunately, the Flint Hills, especially in the south, have fewer public access areas than regions like the Smoky Hills.

GLACIATED PLAINS

Roadside surveys this late summer showed quail numbers in the northeast Glaciated Plains rivaling numbers in central Kansas. Even so, nesting and roosting cover can be in short supply. Says the outlook, “Targeting areas with or near native grass is key for success. Roadside counts were highest in the northeastern portion of the region.”

SOUTH-CENTRAL PRAIRIES

Quail numbers from the spring whistle count and summer brood survey for the South-Central Prairies were both down a bit from last year, when harvest rates for quail were the highest in the state. According to the outlook, “The intermixing of quality cover types in the region provides more consistent opportunities across the South-Central Prairies compared to other regions. The roadside counts were highest in central portion of the region.”

NORTHERN HIGH PLAINS

Northwest Kansas is not a top quail destination; bobwhites are usually shot incidentally by pheasant hunters. And bird numbers are down this year because of the drought. As far as quail go, the farther east you go—toward the Smoky Hills—the better.

SOUTHERN HIGH PLAINS

The Southern High Plains, with northwest Kansas, are the driest parts of the state with rather spotty quail populations. The drought hasn’t changed that. Look for quail in riparian corridors. There are some scaled quail in this region, but they number far fewer than bobwhite do.

OSAGE CUESTAS

Quail numbers in southeast Kansas are up a bit from last year, but the Osage Cuestas remain the poorest region in the state for bobwhites. Best bets are areas managed specifically for quail. Generally, head west toward the Flint Hills for more birds.

BEST BETS

Without access to high-quality private land, your best bets are the state’s WIHA areas. Find these and other public lands on the KDWP 2022-2023 Online Hunting Atlas.

IF YOU GO

Quail and pheasants seasons run concurrently, Nov. 12–Jan. 31, 2023. Daily bag for quail is 8; possession limit is 32.

A quail and pheasant youth season runs Nov. 5–6. Daily bag during the youth hunt is 8 quail; possession limit is 16.

Read the entire upland bird outlook on the KDWP website.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Kentucky

Despite weather, well-managed areas should see quail numbers similar to last year

By Oliver Hartner

Despite less-than-ideal winter weather conditions, including a powerful tornado, well managed properties in the Bluegrass State should have quail populations similar to last year. Temperatures were higher during the winter season with lower-than-average precipitation levels in both spring and summer. Habitat still presents a challenge for bobwhite quail in Kentucky, but on areas with successive habitat management, populations seem stable when compared to last year.

WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

According to Cody Rhoden, Acting Small Game Coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, “The winter of 2021-2022 saw slightly more precipitation than average, but temperatures were generally mild with some record highs in December. An extremely powerful tornado passed through Western Kentucky on December 10th, causing potential habitat destruction, but the quail should have come out of winter similar to last year.”

Rhoden reports that the 2022 spring and summer weather patterns remained tolerable for quail saying, “Spring 2022 was drier and slightly warmer than 2021. Summer 2022 has also been drier than that of 2021, but average temperatures were very similar. These conditions should have produced fair to good nesting and brood-rearing in Kentucky this year.”

HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

Consecutive tracts of land with optimal habitat still remain in short supply across the state, but well-managed areas should see stable populations. Rhoden says, “The upland habitat has likely not changed a lot in the last few years. The Commonwealth has large tracts of connected open lands, but unfortunately the vast majority is not fit for bobwhite. We are hopeful the rise in fuel prices may have reduced some recreational mowing around field edges, providing some cover going into winter. Our quail-centric public areas have been able to work more this year on the habitat, and we still have areas with decent quail numbers for the mid-south.”

Anecdotal evidence and reports indicate a stable population when compared to prior years. Rhoden says, “High whistling rates were detected in May this year, decreasing in mid-late June. Hatch and broods appear to be on par with 2021.” Kentucky indexes its quail population with Hunter Cooperator Logs and the Rural Mail Carrier Surveys. Rhoden explains that Kentucky’s quail (and rabbit) population cycles naturally in 7-year cycles, with a peak at year one then a low at year seven. “2018 was the worst year on record for the Rural Mail Carrier Survey. Quail observations have shown an upward trend from 2019-2022. Last season quail hunters in Kentucky averaged one covey per three hours of hunting, and we should expect a similar ratio in the upcoming 2022-2023 season based on observed trends,” he says.

TOP SPOTS

“Hunters should first focus on the western portion of the state, but we do have a few diamonds in the eastern portion of the state,” Rhoden advises. He favors Peabody Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in west-central Kentucky, Clay WMA in northeast Kentucky, and Rockcastle River WMA in southeast Kentucky.

INSIDER TIP

Rhoden says, “Quail hunters in Kentucky should be prepared to do some walking for a thunderous covey rise! My best tip would be to hit these areas as early as you can in the season, and combine this early season hunting with moving slow. Many times coveys will run before getting up, and sometimes only a single from the group will flush while the rest stick to the ground and run off. Taking your time in these scenarios can lead to flushing more birds, especially early in the season.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Louisiana

Weather and habitat loss took a toll, but on areas of good habitat quail should be present

By Oliver Hartner

Above-average rainfall and persistent habitat loss seems to have had a negative impact on viable coveys in Louisiana. Winter temperatures did not present a problem for bobwhite quail in the Pelican State, but declining habitat and persistent rain compounded the challenges already faced by coveys on private and public lands. Areas where successional habitat has been cultivated should still see quail on their properties, but without habitat cultivation, bobwhite quail populations will continue to struggle and decline.

WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

“Winter weather conditions in Louisiana are typically mild and present less of a problem for populations than in other states,” says Cody Cedotal of the Small Game Research and Management Office for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The state seems to have had a lot more trouble with spring and summer rains across all areas. Cedotal says, “Spring and summer weather conditions appear to have been marginal to poor. Thus far, we have had above average rainfall throughout the spring and summer which could have negative impacts on reproduction.”

HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

According to Cedotal, habitat continues to present problems for bobwhite populations in Louisiana, and it shows no signs of abating. “The primary issue impacting quail populations in Louisiana is a lack of quality habitat, and we seem to be losing more. The amount of available habitat for quail is very low compared to what was once available across the state,” he says. His office has not received any anecdotal insights or evidence into the hatch or brood numbers that might have survived going into the fall season, and the roadside surveys they conduct show a sharp decline in the population’s upward trend from five years ago.

TOP SPOTS

Public and private properties with well-managed habitat should expect declines, but the quail are still there for those willing to put in the work. Cedotal suggests, “Western Louisiana still has viable populations of bobwhite around the Fort Polk and Peason Ridge Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), and parts of the Kisatchie National Forest also hold coveys. You will need to scout these areas heavily for good habitat and check the regulations for each area.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Mississippi

A mild winter and timely rains give a favorable outlook where habitat is good

By Oliver Hartner

Milder winter temperatures seem to have helped the quail population for Magnolia State quail hunters, but once spring and summer came around, hotter and drier conditions became a cause of concern until temperatures and precipitation levels regulated during late summer. These conditions helped avoid a statewide drought and provided a favorable outlook for the quail where best land management practices have been implemented.

WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

“We had a mild winter during 2021-22, so generally I believe birds came out of winter about as well as they could going into spring,” says Rick Hamrick, wildlife biologist for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. He adds much of the state experienced a drier spring and generally drier summer compared to the past few years. “Whereas last year it seemed like everything was a little later getting going from a lingering winter, it got very warm by late spring. I was a little concerned if the hot, dry conditions early on were going to have negative effects on reproduction,” Hamrick adds.

Hamrick believes overall weather conditions were good for nesting and brood-rearing despite some early spring and mid-summer heat waves. “I was a little concerned that having these conditions so early on were going to have negative effects on reproduction. But we started getting some rains mid-to-late-summer that helped ease what might’ve become drought conditions in some areas. While still warm, the oppressive heat we had early in summer moderated in August. Altogether, conditions were not as good as the last couple summers, but it was probably not as bad as I might have feared earlier on.”

HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

Hamrick says, “Where suitable quail habitat is available, cover conditions are currently good. Although it was hot and dry earlier in summer, recent rainfall has perked vegetation back up, which in turn should be producing good seed and insect food resources headed into fall.”

Observational reports from the field have suggested good reproduction again this season. “Where suitable quail habitat is available, managers from multiple areas of the state have reported seeing some large groups of birds capable of flight during the later summer. Hopefully this is pointing to good survival for those that were hatched.,” Hamrick says.

Mississippi conducts breeding season quail call counts from selected Wildlife Management Areas, and the results look promising. “Looking at some of our typically “better” quail habitat Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), the numbers from call count surveys are up this year. From these WMAs, we saw an average increase of 25% in the 2022 call count index compared to 2021. The 2022 range in these counts is about 0.5 – 1.5 male bobwhites heard calling per listening station,” Hamrick says.

Recent count trends are available here.

TOP SPOTS

Hamrick directs quail hunters to the Mississippi WMAs and national forests in the southwest and southeast regions for potential public land hunting opportunities. “Prescribed burning and other forest management activities in these piney woods areas produce some favorable quail habitat spots.” He also adds that some areas of northeast Mississippi also have slightly more favorable land use conditions for quail. The website for Mississippi WMAs can be found here, and for National Forests here.

INSIDER TIP

For those ready to explore the piney woods of Mississippi, Hamrick advises, “Be ready to cover a lot of ground and get into some thicker cover as the season advances. Birds will often use hardwood edges and thickets to seek cover and feed on smaller acorns and fragments left by other animals. Working these areas within the vicinity of fields and more open woods with grassy ground cover may produce a covey contact or two, and probably a few woodcock as well.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Missouri

Go forth to the north for birds

By Greg Breining

North-central and northwest Missouri—the so-called Northern Riverbreaks and Northwest Prairie—have seen bobwhite numbers rebound after last year’s abysmal roadside counts.

In the Northern Riverbreaks, an average 2.55 quail were counted per route, compared with 1.4 last year, an 82 percent increase.

In the Northwestern Prairie, an average of 2.18 quail were counted per route, compared with 0.64 last year, a whopping 243 percent increase.

Unfortunately, bird numbers in both regions remained below the 10-year average (see chart).

The reason for the increase? To some extent, numbers had nowhere to go but up. Last year, quail numbers were very low because of punishing snow, ice, and cold the previous winter. In contrast, “we had a mild winter last year throughout most of the state,” says Beth Emmerich, upland game scientist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “There were few significant periods of heavy snow or ice cover, and periods of very cold temperatures were short.”

Favorable conditions continued. “The northern half of the state had good spring and summer weather conducive to good nesting and brood rearing conditions,” she says.

Other sections of the state didn’t show such improvement.

The Northeast Riverbreaks, last year’s top quail area, dropped 63 percent. All remaining regions, except the Mississippi Lowlands, showed declines. Emmerich posits that drought conditions over the summer may not have been severe enough to affect quail production, but it could have affected the roadside surveys: Without dew, quail and other birds had less reason to come out to roads.

BEST BETS

Emmerich says hunters’ best bets are to be found in north-central and northwestern Missouri. Other biologists agree hunters stand a good chance of finding birds there.

Lee Metcalf, a private lands biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation who works out of Carrollton in the northwest, predicts hunting “is going to be a little above average.”

Metcalf is seeing a lot of quail as he’s driving. He spends a lot of time where they are managing specifically for quail with a lot of success. “Our hatch looks like it’s good to very good from the numbers of broods I’ve been seeing.” And he’s hearing from nearby farmers who are in the midst of harvest. “I’m receiving my normal phone calls from people just really pleased with the number of quail broods that they’ve already seen.”

One indicator, Metcalf says, is an outstanding turkey hatch. “I don’t know when I’ve seen this many broods of turkey poults running around. It’s very, very positive I think to the whole ground nesting host of critters out there”—including bobwhite, pheasants, and even rabbits.

Trevor Day, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever regional representative in southern Iowa and northern Missouri, is also looking forward to a good season in northern Missouri after getting “multiple reports of small broods of pheasant and quail across the northern range and holding steady in the central portion. Should be a fun year to get out and explore Missouri's public lands with the bird dogs!”

Even though numbers are down in the Norheast Riverbreaks, Heather Jones, farm bill biologist for Pheasants/Quail Forever in northeast Missouri, is expecting reasonably good hunting. “My feelings are it will be an average season,” she says. “I will say I have not seen a lot of broods this year—more adult birds. But I would say numbers are looking about the same. I hear from landowners that are enrolled in the CRP Bobwhite and Monarch conservation programs say they are hearing several coveys on their property.”

IF YOU GO

Missouri’s youth quail and pheasant season occurs Oct. 29–30. The regular quail and pheasant season follows, Nov. 1–Jan. 15, 2023. Limit is 8 daily, with 16 in possession.

Scout ahead to find public access. Check online where Missouri Quail Restoration Landscapes intersect with public access opportunities.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Nebraska

Drought still impacting habitat, but mild winter could lead to good conditions this fall

By Casey Sill

Nebraska experienced a very mild winter in 2021-22. Southern Nebraska had almost no notable snow cover until mid-January, and what did fall didn’t last long. Previous years have shown deep snow coupled with below freezing temps in February and March can impact adult quail survival — but the mild conditions this year should’ve led to very favorable survivability.

“This appears to have benefitted bobwhite populations throughout much of Nebraska – even outside their core range in southeastern and south-central Nebraska,” said John Laux, the upland habitat and access program manager at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “Biologists have been seeing and hearing more quail this spring in many areas of the state and our surveys confirmed this as well. Our whistle count surveys were up 30 percent statewide and increased in all management regions except the West Platte, portions of which have experienced prolonged drought. Regionally, the most notable increases were in the east central, southeast, northeast, and north central regions – which were all above the five-year average.”

HATCH AND BROODS

While the mild winter with little snowfall was a positive for adult survival, the lack of moisture did lead to drought conditions as winter turned to spring. By the start of nesting season, over 60 percent of the state was in severe to extreme drought, but the core quail range was still in decent shape compared to other areas of the state.

“Luckily the core quail range, especially southeast Nebraska, received timely rains this summer and habitat conditions have looked relatively good since then,” Laux said. “It gets a little drier as you move west across southern Nebraska and habitat is in pretty poor shape west of U.S. Highway 83 (western fringe of quail range), where rainfall was extremely limited throughout the summer months. By and large though, habitat conditions are relatively good throughout the core range as we enter the fall.”

HABITAT PROGRAMS

Nebraska is overwhelmingly made up of private lands, but several programs are working to expand public access across the state. Jenny Prenosil, a Quail Forever conservation agriculture coordinator in Nebraska said much of it focuses on opening private lands to public access.

“The Open Fields and Waters Program (OFW) is our private lands/public access program. It’s largely popular and going into the 2022-2023 season there are 342,000 acres enrolled statewide,” she said. “I have always had luck finding coveys of quail on these properties in the past, but I will add that many of these fields are also CRP fields. I highly encourage pre-hunt scouting to see which fields may have taken advantage of the emergency haying or grazing and zone in on the properties that still have cover. Larger CRP block fields are more likely to have been hayed or grazed, with linear fields such as grassed waterways, field borders, or filter strips being more likely to have been left with cover.”

TOP SPOTS

Hunters should find better numbers of quail in many areas of the state this fall compared to 2021, but population levels are still below those observed during their last peak from 2015-18.

“According to our summer surveys, the highest densities will be found in their core range in southeastern and south-central Nebraska,” Laux said. “Suitable quail habitat is more abundant across southern Nebraska and hunters should find good public hunting opportunities on many of the region’s WMAs, federal lands and private lands enrolled in the OFW Program. Elsewhere in the state, quail are typically harvested as part of a mixed bag, but should be more numerous where suitable cover exists.”

SEASON DATES: OCTOBER 29-JAN. 31, 2023

DAILY BAG LIMIT: 6

For more information on quail season in Nebraska, visit the Outdoor Nebraska website and check out the Public Access Atlast to discover public lands open to hunting.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: New Mexico

Continued drought hurt early, but monsoon rains helped late

With four species of huntable quail (Mearns’, Gambel’s, scaled, and bobwhite) New Mexico is a perennially underrated quail state. But several years of prolonged drought have taken a toll on quail numbers. Hunters looking to find quail in the Land of Enchantment will need to pay close attention to where rains were present, and adjust accordingly.

“It was a relatively mild winter in New Mexico, so overwinter survival was likely good,” said Casey Cardinal, resident game bird biologist with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “There are fewer birds on the landscape because of poor reproductive success in previous years, but birds that made it into winter likely survived fairly well.

Cardinal said spring and summer weather conditions for nesting and brood-rearing were a mixed-bag, with drought affecting nesting early. “Habitat during the breeding season was in poor condition due to ongoing drought in the state,” said Cardinal. “There was very little rain from January through May.”

However, Cardinal said that timely monsoon rains helped alleviate some of that. “Monsoon rains started in June, and were very beneficial. Habitat conditions were much improved for the late summer into fall.”

HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

According to Cardinal, much of the state’s upland habitat going into fall is much better than expected, considering how dry it was early.

“Much of the state is still in drought, though conditions are significantly better than earlier in the year,” said Cardinal. “Monsoon rains were very beneficial across quail range, so cover and food sources look good going into the fall.”

However, as far as brood success goes, Cardinal said calling activity was increased compared to the previous spring, but breeding activity did not increased similarly and reproductive efforts were below average.

“Gambel's quail had fair reproduction in the southwest,” said Cardinal, “Though winter rains were lacking, Gambel's seemed to take advantage of spring and early monsoon rains.”

The news on scaled quail, however, isn’t as hopeful. “Scaled quail reproduction was low across the southern portion of the state,” Cardinal said. “Very few coveys were observed this fall.”

On a brighter note, Cardinal said that with the good monsoon rains, it is likely that Montezuma quail were able to pull off a decent hatch.

“The number of breeding adults is down, due to several years of lackluster monsoons, but birds that bred this summer had good habitat and food conditions to raise young,” she said.

New Mexico’s Fall Roadside Survey is still in its preliminary stages of implementation, but Cardinal said anecdotal reports are that bird numbers will be similar to last year.

TOP SPOTS

The southwest portion of the state may still have some of the better hunting: Hidalgo, Grant, and Luna counties,” said Cardinal. “With decent monsoons, Montezuma quail numbers may be a little better this year compared to previous. National Forests in the southwest portion of the state could provide some Montezuma quail opportunities.”

INSIDER TIP

“Temperatures tend to be more favorable during later (late Dec-Feb) season hunts, which is easier on dogs and reduces the number of snakes,” said Cardinal. “Birds who use habitats near the road will get more spooked and will flush earlier, but hunters may be successful if they’re willing to explore into habitat blocks.”

Season Dates: Nov. 15-Feb. 15th

Bag Limit: 15 per day (no more than 5 Montezuma quail)
30 in possession (no more than 10 Montezuma quail)

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: North Carolina

Continued habitat loss is taking a toll, but a few bright spots exist.

By Oliver Hartner

Bobwhite quail populations in North Carolina continued to dwindle this year, mostly due to an inadequate amount of viable habitat under intense management. Populations remain low this year especially in western parts of the state. However, there are some hopeful spots located in corners of the state where land management practices and continued work by Quail Forever volunteers has stabilized populations in those pockets.

WEATHER AND HABITAT

As in the past, weather patterns have had less effect on North Carolina’s quail population than the lack of suitable habitat. Hannah Plumpton, upland game bird biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission says, “Summer conditions here have largely been dry through late spring and summer. That usually translates to modest levels of nesting and brood-rearing.  More rainfall would have boosted vegetation and insects, but lack of tropical deluges (so far) has been good.”

Areas implementing best management practices for habitat should not have seen a drastic change in the number of coveys they hold. “While we do not conduct any formal brood surveys or whistle counts for quail, anecdotal reports have pointed to modest-to-average reproduction rate, but again, we really don’t receive a lot of reports for quail,” Plumpton says.

TOP SPOTS

In places where habitat is being managed in southeastern parts of the state, there are still opportunities for quail hunters in North Carolina. Plumpton says, “Permit hunting opportunities for quail on Voice of America Game Land and Murphy Brown Corporate Cure area are pretty good and can be found here under the Small Game link. Deadline to apply for permits is October 1st.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Oklahoma

Expect quail numbers like last year

By Greg Breining

Oklahoma’s August roadside survey suggests this year’s quail season will be a lot like last year’s and still far below the long-term averages for the state, says Tell Judkins, upland game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“Our roadside survey numbers aren’t looking all too glamorous. But again, that’s just one snapshot into the world of quail,” says Judkins.

“August typically isn’t the most representative of what we see in the season, but so far we’re seeing that that August numbers are really only slightly down from last year,” he says. This year averaged 1.53 quail spotted per route; last year, 1.56. This year’s tallies are 70 percent below the 33-year average and 50 percent below the 10-year average.

Bobwhite have been in decline for years almost everywhere because of loss of suitable brushy, forb-heavy habitat. That’s true in Oklahoma as well, say Judkins. But weather has played a role as well.

In his 2022 roadside survey report, Judkins says, “Our winter once again saw several cold fronts and storms that brought potential for negative impacts, which were most likely more severe in areas of marginal habitat quality. The spring and summer have seen flash drought across much of the state. Rainfall throughout the spring and summer has been sporadic, coming at times in monsoon type storms rather than our more normal systemic rains. Conditions currently have the entire state in drought as of Sept. 1, with nearly 50 percent of the state in extreme or exceptional drought. Over the last 180 days the majority of the state has seen less than normal rainfall.”

BY REGIONS

The northeast and north-central regions of the state improved from the 2021 survey. All regions of the state, other than the northcentral region, are currently well below their historic 33- year average (Figures 3-8).

Likewise, southwest Oklahoma “is not what it was 20 years ago by any stretch of the imagination,” says Judkins. This year’s survey turned up 1.58, compared with 2.66 last year, both far below the long-term averages. “We’ve seen a lot of cotton go in down there in southwestern Oklahoma,” says Judkins. Cotton requires insecticides against boll weevils and herbicides to kill competing weeds.

“If you kill off all the bugs and forbs, that leaves you then asking where all the quail went,” Judkins says. “We’re trying to work with landowners down there to try to make improvements where we can.”

SCALED QUAIL

Hunters often kick up scaled quail in the Panhandle. “There’s not a ton of them, but they are out there,” says Judkins. Only three survey routes crisscross scaled quail territory, so the birds often don’t show up in surveys. But this year, says Judkins, “Based on those brood reports I’ve got from people just driving around, it seems like it might be a decent year for scaled quail.”

BEST BETS

Judkins recommends that traveling hunters head to northwest Oklahoma and operate out of Woodward, which is large enough for stores, vet service, motels, and restaurants. And bird numbers will be as favorable as anywhere in Oklahoma.

“In any direction within about an hour-hour-and-a-half drive, you’ve got ample opportunity to hunt,” he says. With many wildlife management areas and WMAs and Oklahoma Land Access Programs areas (OLAPs), “you’ve probably got more public land right around there than any other area in the state.”

On the other hand, if you’re looking for something different, try a classic pine savanna hunt in southeastern Oklahoma. “You will see birds.” Because of the trees, “your bird dog will see more than you,” he says. “I go down there once a year, and I think I’ve shot my gun twice.”

OKLAHOMA QUAIL BY THE NUMBERS

Region 33-Year Average 10-Year Average 2020 Average 2021 Average 2022 Average
Statewide 5.22 3.08 1.68 1.56 1.53
Northwest 7.33 5.33 1.81 2.88 2.31
Northeast 2.82 1.06 0.64 0.43 0.79
Northcentral 3.19 2.55 3.29 2.06 3.6
Southwest 12.51 7.14 1.0 2.66 1.58
Southeast 3.84 1.45 4.0 0.875* 0.27
Southcentral 1.93 0.42 0.0 0.08 0.0

*Some surveys were unable to be run due to COVID-19 impacts.

IF YOU GO

The quail season this year runs Nov. 12–Feb. 15, 2023. Limit is 10 daily with 20 in possession after the first day.

IMPORTANT REGULATION CHANGE:

Quail season on department-managed land is closed to non-resident hunting February 1–15 on western wildlife management areas (west of Highway 81, roughly the western third of the state). See current Oklahoma Fishing and Hunting Regulations for details on individual public hunting lands.

The change was instituted because research suggested late-season hunting was likely to  affect survival to breeding season. “Those late-season hunts can be fun because, yeah, the birds hold, the dogs work great. But if there’s a chance that that hunt is a negative for the next year, I don’t know that that’s a great thing that we need to be shooting for,” says Judkins.

The restriction does not apply to OLAPs. Consult state hunting regulations for specific OLAP regulations.

Nonresidents can still hunt private land and all land in the eastern part of state.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Oregon

Chilly spring may have impacted brood survival

By Casey Sill

WEATHER AND BROOD CONDITIONS

Like much of the US, Oregon experienced a mild winter in 2021-22. Snowfall was down and temperatures were up. The state’s heaviest precipitation came in April, though the late blooming winter most likely did not have much of an impact on early brood rearing conditions for both California and mountain quail. However, temperatures remained low throughout the month of June, which may have reduced brood survival.

“I do think that had some affect on our hatch and brood survival,” said Mikal Cline, the upland game bird coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Especially in the earliest clutches. Unfortunately on our brood routes it did seem like our chicks per adult were below average.”

Those predictions were specifically in regard to the states California quail, according to Cline. Mountain quail, predictably, live in high elevations that are much less accessible, which means they’re rarely spotted during brood counts and other survey work. Cline did say however that she believes mountain quail are a little more cut out for the cold, wet conditions that Oregon experienced this spring.

“Most of our mountain quail live on the west side of the state, or the “wet” side as we call it,” she said. “And they’re pretty well adapted to the cold conditions we saw this year.”

TOP SPOTS

As Cline pointed out, mountain quail are most often seen in the western half of Oregon, while California quail typically inhabit the eastern portion of the state.

“California quail are also called valley quail for a reason,” she said. “So they don’t really overlap that much with the mountain quail with the habitats and elevations that they occupy.”

California quail are almost always found in lower, more arid environments and nearly always in connection with an immediate water source.

“For cover, you’re looking for brushy, riparian type areas. Roadsides, fencerows, places like that,” Cline said. “They like having some open spaces where they can dust bathe and that sort of thing. You’re going to find them in the brush, not the forest.”

When it comes to mountain quail on the other hand, the steeper the better.

“They like very steep, brushy habitats, but you won’t find them in the trees,” Cline said. “You’re going to want to looking for habitats that have experienced a recent disturbance. Either a timber treatment, a clear cut or a fire that’s got three or four years on it. It’ll start to brush back up and that’s when the mountain quail move in.”

SEASON DATES

East: Oct. 8 – Jan. 31, 2023
West: Sept. 1 – Jan. 31, 2023

DAILY BAG LIMIT

East: 10 total quail, no more than two mountain quail
West: 10

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: South Carolina

A focus on habitat continues to benefit Palmetto State quail

By Oliver Hartner

Data gathered by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) suggests another good year for the quail in the Palmetto State. Efforts from the private, public, and non-profit partnerships fostered through the South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative continue to benefit bobwhite quail on well managed properties.

WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

While the state did experience a widespread winter weather event last season, temperatures remained mostly mild and temperate. Michael Hook, quail coordinator and small game program leader for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), says,  “The birds should have entered the spring in very good condition. Last winter was fairly mild, and sleet and snow conditions were short lived.”

Precipitation levels remained nominal for the season, and barring any tropical weather events during early fall, conditions remain favorable for the quail. Hook says, “Early spring there was a good bit of rain across the state and brood conditions were excellent. We received timely rain and the good conditions persisted throughout the summer. So far, we have had little to no activity in the tropics, and should that trend continue, we’ll still be looking good going into November.”

HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

Given almost optimal weather conditions, places where best land management practices have been implemented should hold healthy coveys. Hook says, “Timely rain throughout the spring and summer have led to excellent brood habitat and good habitat overall. Whistle counts were good on the quail focal areas this year. The statewide count data hasn't been analyzed yet, but anecdotal reports coming in are showing some good broods both in number of broods and number of chicks per brood. There seems to have been a good late hatch as several young broods have been seen recently.” SCDNR is still gathering data from the brood survey for quail and wild turkey, and they will make that information available on the SCDNR website as soon as possible.

TOP SPOTS

Hook has seen the Pee Dee area in the eastern part of South Carolina as well as the Piedmont region near the center part of the state remain top producers the last couple of years and expects that trend to continue. Hook says, “The Pee Dee region has been the strong region of South Carolina for the last several years. Private land hunting in that region is the best the state has to offer. For public lands, the Piedmont region has been producing good numbers in the last year or two. Several new quail focal areas have come online, and they can be found on theSouth Carolina Bobwhite Initiative page.”

INSIDER TIP

While Piedmont public lands have been producing well, Quail Forever biologist Jake McClain expressed concern about the pressure these coveys have experienced.  Instead increasing the pressure and causing the population there to stagnate or deteriorate, Hook suggests, “Scout and hunt the unnamed WMA's or even some of the named WMA's that aren't managed specifically for quail. If you can find a little bit of good habitat on these pieces of land, you're very likely to find a covey or two and there will be little to no pressure from other hunters.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Tennessee

A hard summer took its toll, but in areas of habitat birds can be found

By Oliver Hartner

Much of the habitat in Tennessee has not been favorable for bobwhite quail for quite some time, and a harsh summer might have had a negative impact on the population. However, for those places where habitat is being managed intensely, the quail population looks stable, and wild coveys can be found.

WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

Average-to-mild winter conditions across the state this year did not seem to have affected the bobwhite population. Michael McCord, certified wildlife biologist for the Tennessee Wildlife Resource agency, reports, “Tennessee experienced an average-to-mild winter except for a couple significant snows that could have impacted overwinter escape cover.”

Exceptionally hot and dry conditions during both spring and summer might not have affected the broods, but agricultural practices might have had a negative impact. McCord says, “We had an exceptionally dry and warm spring and summer. Conditions were favorable for broods, but also resulted in lots of early hay cutting and bush hogging. Because of the drought, emergency haying and grazing was authorized on much of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands in west Tennessee.”

HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

As in many areas of the southeast, habitat loss has created problems for Tennessee’s bobwhite quail population. McCord explains, “Habitat exists almost exclusively where land managers are intentional about providing early successional plant communities.”

With adverse habitat conditions throughout the state and region, drawing any substantive conclusions from the data becomes difficult. “Currently we only conduct routes on or adjacent to areas we are managing for quail, but the dataset does not contain enough seasons to provide meaningful conclusions,” McCord says.

TOP SPOTS

For quail hunters interested in public land hunts in Tennessee, McCord says, “Hunters should focus on cover in the western two-thirds of the state, particularly on the edges of brushy patches that provide good overhead cover within fields of native grasses and forbs.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Texas

Drought continues to hit quail hard in the Lone Star State

By Greg Breining

Maybe the results reported by the August roadside surveys aren’t an accurate reflection of reality. Last year, after all, Texas quail hunters reported hunting that was quite a bit better than the surveys had indicated.

But unless the numbers are way off—probably not a reasonable hope—Texas quail hunters, especially public land hunters, are likely to be disappointed.

“If you are a public land hunter, there are not going to be many great options for bobwhite this year,” says John McLaughlin, upland gamebird program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Bobwhite numbers are way below the long-term average in all state ecoregions.

The reason? Drought.

Says McLaughlin, “We’re pretty much in the position that a lot of western states are in this year. We’ve been in drought conditions since late last fall. About September–October the spigot kind of shut off.”

The fall-off was especially bad in the Rolling Plains. Says McLaughlin, I think we set dozens of records in terms of how hot and dry it was. So unfortunately, this will be our lowest bobwhite count ever recorded since we began the surveys back in the 1970s.”

The region that fared the best in a bad year? The South Texas Plains, which saw a rise in bobwhites observed per route from 3.10 to 5.26, but still far short of the 15-year mean of 9.01.

BEST BET: SOUTH TEXAS PLAINS

Despite predictions of below-average bobwhite numbers last year, hunters in South Texas Plains jumped a lot more birds than expected. The survivors provided good carryover to this year’s breeding season, providing a strong head start to production, says McLaughlin.

Then drought took hold and habitat withered. But that good start counted for something. The South Texas Plains scored higher in the roadside count than any other region by far.

Says McLaughlin, “I would tell you that if you were looking to hunt bobwhite that South Texas is the place to be.” Several counties, including Bee, Duval, Live Oak, and McMullen posted particularly good numbers, though the region as a whole produced far fewer birds than the 15-year average. According to the department quail forecast, “We expect average hunting conditions across the region, with certain ranches and counties outperforming our forecast as usual.”

A drawback to the South Texas Plains, says McLaughlin, is that it is largely in private hands. “There’s very little public land in that part of the state.” Find public hunting at the Chaparral and James E. Daughtrey wildlife management areas.

BIG DROP: ROLLING PLAINS

The Rolling Plains, normally the region with the greatest number of bobwhite spotted per route, set a record this year—and not a good kind. The Rolling Hills recorded its lowest number of birds per route ever recorded—handily beating the previous record, set the year before. This year’s 0.86 bobwhites per route fell way below the 15-year average of 12.10.

Again, drought is the culprit. According to the report, areas along the Canadian River, including Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area, got some early rain and as a result have higher bird numbers and healthier habitat. Otherwise, the prognosis is grim. “As such, we expect below average hunting conditions across the region, and while there are certain to be scattered pockets of good hunting, the overall outlook is less promising,” says the report.

Brad Kubecka, executive director of  Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch northwest of Abilene, was a bit more encouraging.

Kubecka says be expects bird numbers at the ranch “to be similar to last year (which weren’t great; they were slightly below average). Rainfall during nesting season was below average. Nesting attempts were moderate and so has been adult survival.”

During dog-training on the ranch recently, Kubecka was flushing coveys at the rate of about three per hour. (Remember, of course, he’s looking at land managed for bobwhite.) “September is the time of year when we see the highest densities (right after nesting season). By the time January rolls around, most folks in similar country (with good management and those that had experienced decent rainfall) can expect about two coveys per hour; most likely less on areas not managed specifically for quail.”

According to McLaughlin, public hunting opportunities can be found at the Gene Howe and Matador wildlife management areas, though hunting will likely be below average.

For the second year in a row, he says, Texas Parks and Wildlife is offering a Private Lands Quail Hunt in Lipscomb County. Applications are due Oct. 15.

EDWARDS PLATEAU

Quail numbers dropped dramatically, 0.11 per route compared to 1.00 last year. This is below the 15-year mean of 2.75. Limited public hunting opportunities are available through the annual public hunting permit.

GULF PRAIRIES

Dry conditions hurt even the Gulf Prairies, where rain is normally more than adequate. An average 2.50 bobwhite were seen per route, compared with 4.40 last year—far below the 15-year mean of 7.82.

CROSS TIMBERS AND PRAIRIES

McLaughlin says below-average abundance and hunting opportunities are expected in the Cross Timbers and Prairies. The average number of bobwhites seen per route was 0.23 compared with 0.51 last year, well below the 15-year mean of 1.59.

HIGH PLAINS

the High Plains was particularly hard-hit by drought. An average 0.78 bobwhite were seen, compared with 2.33 last year and an average 6.17 during the last 15 years.

HERE'S AN IDEA - TRY SCALED QUAIL

Texas bobwhite hunters may want to pack the dog in the truck, drive west to the Trans-Pecos, and concentrate on scaled quail instead.

The Trans-Pecos was blessed with some well-timed rainfall. According to the forecast, the average number of quail observed per route was 13.06, compared with 4.33 in 2021 and not far off the 15-year mean of 16.26.

Says McLaughlin, “I would say out in West Texas in the Trans-Pecos region, scaled quail hunting we expect is going to be good in that part of the state—an area like Black Gap Wildlife Management Area. We saw a large increase in the number of birds in our roadside count of scaled quail. So we feel there will be good numbers and good public land opportunities for folks willing to go out to one of our more remote and picturesque regions.”

IF YOU GO

The Texas season for bobwhite and scaled and Gambel’s quail runs Oct. 29–Feb. 26, 2023. There’s no open season for Mearn's (Montezuma) quail. The daily bag for all species is 15 birds. Possession limit is 45.

A good investment is the $48 annual public hunting (APH) permit, which allows holders access to more than 180 hunting areas, including wildlife management areas, state parks, and about 120 dove and small game areas leased from private landowners.

McLaughlin recommends that traveling hunters contact local biologists for updates. “They can provide local insights into habitat conditions, bird conditions, and lease options in those areas,” he says. “Those folks are on the ground every single day, living, breathing those areas.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Utah

Drought eases, giving quail some respite

By Greg Breining

Utah’s drought has eased some, giving a bit of breathing room to ground-nesting birds such as quail. Expect better hunting is some areas. Even so, it’s still dry, so look to riparian areas and irrigated acres if you have access to private land.

SOUTHWEST

Gambel’s quail have made a slight increase from last year when drought was responsible for one of the worst years for chick production and overall quail numbers, according to Heather Talley, upland game coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Some chicks have been observed, though broods are small because of the continuing drought. Look for quail in the brushy washes of western Washington county.

CENTRAL: NEBO, TINTIC AND WEST MANTI

The highest concentrations of California quail are in urban settings, making hunting opportunities fairly limited.

NORTHEAST

Look for coveys of California quail in areas with water and thick brushy cover. Much of the quail habitat in the northeast is on private land. Drought impacts are limited because quail populations are so dependent on irrigated farmland. Respect private property and obtain written permission or check walk-in access properties.

SOUTHEAST

Brood production of California quail was good this year. Quail are not widespread in southeastern Utah, but there are localized populations near farmlands along the Colorado and Green Rivers as well as lower Huntington Canyon and along the Price River.

The Gambel’s quail waterhole counts show a slight increase from last year.

BEST BETS

Quail are often found in riparian corridors. Good options for public land hunters are state wildlife management areas. Check Utah’s Wildlife Recreation Access interactive map for areas that are open for quail. 

INSIDER TIP

“For Gambel's quail, focus on areas with Joshua trees, dry washes and draws with black brush or desert almond. Also, look for Gambel’s quail in the brushy washes of western Washington county,” says Talley.

“California quail will be found in washes with water and brushy cover, with flowering and seed-bearing plants nearby.” 

IF YOU GO

The California and Gambel’s quail season runs Nov. 5–Dec. 31. It is preceded by a youth quail hunt Oct. 29–31. Limit is 5 birds daily and 15 in possession (of either species or in aggregate).

There is no season on scaled quail.

The Walk-in Access (WIA) program provides hunters, anglers and trappers access to privately owned land, streams, rivers, ponds or reservoirs. The Division of Wildlife Resources issues authorization numbers to track the use of WIA properties. Get an authorization number here. Or call 1-800-221-0659. WIA properties are private land and may have special restrictions on season dates, allowable activities, species and weapon types.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Virginia

Favorable habitat and weather bolstered and possibly even increased Virginia numbers this year

By Oliver Hartner

Milder winter conditions and optimal rain levels should bolster the well-established coveys of quail in Virginia, especially in southeastern areas of the state. Public and private lands implementing best practices for habitat management might even experience a slight increase in their quail populations.

WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

“Virginia’s winter was not severe. In terms of snow cover and cold, winter really began on the last day of January, with February being the coldest month. Snow cover did not persist more than a week at a time, and conditions moderated quickly in March. Overall, the 2021-2022 winter did not adversely affect our quail populations,” says Marc Puckett, wildlife biologist and small game project leader for the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

Average to above average rainfall seems to have helped areas intensely managed for quail. Puckett adds, “Conditions vary, but overall, it has been a good season for agricultural crops, meaning rainfall has been good. Weather conditions have been good for hatching and brood rearing. Vegetation seems abundant, meaning insects have been as well.”

HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

Virginia appears to be poised for another fine season after having a banner year in 2021. Puckett and other wildlife biologists continue to see encouraging results from their efforts over the last decade to increase conservation program recruitment and habitat restoration. “Our fall habitat seems above average due to good mid and late summer rainfall. There have been some severe downpours, but rainfall overall has been well distributed, and agricultural crops have done well,” he observes.

Ancillary reports from landowners and hunters suggest a good hatch and summer survival rate for quail chicks. Puckett says, “Many anecdotal reports are suggesting there is a very modest quail recovery occurring in parts of Virginia, but it varies widely. The overall feel is that in southern and eastern Virginia, conditions are improving. Hunters last season (2021-2022) did slightly better than the 10-year average.”

Survey data analyzed from recent years suggests a stable trend for Virginia’s quail population overall, and perhaps a slight increase for the 2022-23 season. “Last summer’s June survey showed a 9 percent increase in quail, and our Rural Mail Carrier Survey showed a 1 percent increase in quail. This seemed to have reflected the slight increase in hunter success last season. Given what we know so far, this year’s season should be as good as or better than last year’s,” Puckett says.

TOP SPOTS

Puckett believes the eastern third of the state in the coastal plain along with the Piedmont areas offer the best opportunity for successful quail hunting. “Most of our Department of Wildlife Resources Wildlife Management Areas, and our Department of Forestry State Forests in the Piedmont and coastal plain of Virginia have some decent quail coveys – though none of them would be considered above ‘fair.’” To find upland hunting WMA properties in Virginia, click here.

INSIDER TIP

Puckett suggests, “As always – upland bird hunters in Virginia will do well to hunt when seasons overlap between woodcock and quail, and even add the late dove season into that calculation. Success in upland bird hunting here is more about working hard, enjoying the exercise and dog work and cherishing the opportunity to be out in the field with a bird dog. It only takes a few woodcock and a quail covey to make a great day.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2022: Washington

A weather roller-coaster tamped down nesting, but good cover later in the season will help Washington quail numbers

By Jack Hutson

“Washington saw a fairly mild winter so adult overwinter survival should have been good.” That was the opening statement offered by Sarah Garrison, small game specialist for Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. “This spring was unusually cool and wet, which may have been hard on newly hatched broods, but the weather has been good for forage and cover.”

That roller coaster ride of weather and habitat was repeated by several regional experts. Serving the eastern edge of Washington in Region 1, WDF&W Biologist Michael Atamian took time from his busy schedule to chat about quail. Atamian’s description mirrored Garrison’s, “A long-wet-cold spring likely reduced the spring hatch but the habitat is much improved.”

Atamian was optimistic, “Much improved habitat and numerous very young quail sightings bear good news for over-all reproduction.” Peering into his crystal ball, Atamian predicts, “Hunting should be better than last year (in Region 1) yet, slightly lower than average.”

In neighboring Region 2, Regional Wildlife Biologist Sean Dougherty observed, “The broods I’ve seen were mostly young birds and fair to good-sized.” Dougherty shares quail coverts with his seven-year-old Pudelpointer, Cooper, and offered this advice, “There are plenty of accessible areas in the region. Hunters should find quail fairly regularly early-on but will have to search deeper into these areas and into thicker cover as the season wanes.”

Doubling the next-closest area in quail production, Yakima County is home to Region 3, WDF&W Biologist Jeff Bernatowicz had this to say about quail: “I hadn’t seen any sign of quail until mid-July and then broods began popping all over. The habitat is in good shape and I was seeing new chicks through the end of August.”

Overall, Washington will likely see a mild uptick in quail populations this season but still remains below its five-year average.

WHERE TO GO

Though over 50 percent privately owned, Washington has several public hunting options to offer. Click here for more information.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Washington boasts three species of huntable quail; valley (California) quail being the most prevalent by far. Eastern Washington hunters should look for cropland bordered by brushy to lightly forested areas or riparian zones. Often better sites for waterfowl, potholes in the region didn’t receive enough precipitation to fill and should provide good cover for upland birds. In the drier central portion of the state, quail are found in thick tangles of trees and tall brush, especially near stream beds and valley bottoms with patches of Russian olive, oak, high sage, or windbreaks. Look for edge habitat where irrigated agricultural land field meets shrub-steppe.

For those drawn toward hunting the relatively rare mountain quail in their southwestern haunts, seek brushy areas of the Key Peninsula, Pierce County, and southeast portions of Thurston County. Much of western Washington quail habitat lies on private property and access is very limited. Look for mountainous terrain that is state or county owned forestland with two-to six-year-old logged areas.

LICENSES AND RULES:

Regulations can be found online here.

WDFW recently launched a brood and distribution survey for wild turkeys and upland birds. This survey is open to the public and reports can be made any time of the year. July and August sightings would be the most valuable in developing fall predictions.

Those wishing to report game bird sightings can go to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.