Alabama Quail Hunting Forecast 2019

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Alabama quail hunters with tenacious hunting habits should find opportunity on public land

By Curtis Niedermier

The bobwhite quail is a top species of focus for many hunters in Alabama, though these days much of the better quail hunting is limited to private properties that are intensively managed for quail and their habitat needs.

“Good covey numbers still exist there, but if you don’t have access to those types of properties, quail can still be found on most WMAs. Just don’t expect easy hunting or large numbers of birds and points,” says wildlife biologist Steven Mitchell, who works for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “On those properties managing for quail that received adequate rainfall, habitat going into fall should be good. However, areas that didn’t receive enough rain at the right time may have scattered or sparse cover."

“To find birds on private and public lands, look for open, thinned pine stands containing early successional plants with scattered thickets, field edges, young clear-cuts and pine plantings in early succession stages. Identify and hunt around quail foods, which may include beggarweed, partridge pea, ragweed, lespedeza, pine seeds and even acorns."
 

Weather and conditions

According to Mitchell, Mother Nature didn’t really thrown anything at the birds that they couldn’t handle this past winter, spring and summer.

“The winter was relatively mild for most all of Alabama, so I don’t believe there was any negative impact on quail populations from winter weather,” says Mitchell. “In areas with adequate vegetative cover and food sources, the birds should have had normal over-winter survival. Poor-quality habitat and high predation would of course lower over-winter survival."

“Overall, spring and summer weather conditions in Alabama have been favorable for quail production,” he adds. “There have been periods with little rainfall and high temps, but those periods were not so extended that they had negative effects on nesting or brooding.”
 

Hatch and broods

Thanks to the favorable conditions, Mitchell believes production has been good this year.

“Private quail land managers have been reporting sightings of broods all summer since June,” he says. “Brood-sighting reports from WMA biologists started coming in late summer, as the earlier hatched broods were older and could be seen feeding along roadsides and field edges. We are hopeful quail production has been good across the state and translates into a good quail hunting season."

“Alabama conducts fall covey calling and spring male whistling surveys on many of our Wildlife Management Areas throughout the state,” Mitchell adds. “The surveys monitor year-to-year population trends and responses to habitat management practices. Results of the surveys have varied across the board, with no quail heard on some WMAs – mainly waterfowl areas – stable-but-low density on many, and good-to-increasing quail populations on a few WMAs."

“Surveys indicated the WMAs with the higher densities of quail were Freedom Hills in northwest Alabama, Choccolocco in east Alabama, Barbour in southeast Alabama, Perdido River in southern Alabama and Geneva State Forest near the Florida line in south Alabama.”
 

Top spots

Besides the WMAs listed above, Mitchell says that hard-hunting public-land hunters can find quail on these other WMAs: Boggy Hollow, Blue Spring, Hollins, Coosa, Sam R. Murphy, and Oakmulgee.
 
“The Talladega National Forest also contains some birdy-looking areas,” he adds.
 

Insider tips

In Alabama, it pays off to learn about specific management practices and projects being implemented to improve and increase quail habitat on WMAs. Where there’s habitat, there should be birds.

Boggy Hollow WMA near Andalusia is a great example.

“It was created in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service in 2017 specifically for the quail and small game hunter,” says Mitchell. “The area is the state’s only officially certified National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) Quail Focal Area. Management efforts on Boggy Hollow primarily focus on techniques to improve quail habitat, including timber thinning, proper management and creation of wildlife openings, and seasonal prescribed burning with reasonable burn size units. These management treatments are progressively being implemented, and trends from our surveys are showing a positive response from the quail population, which hopefully continues and is reflected through hunter satisfaction in coming years."

“We are also in the process of developing or re-developing a quail area on Choccolocco WMA. A tornado ripped through the area in spring of 2018 with devastating damage to the local city of Jacksonville and surrounding communities. The only bright spot was providing an opportunity for a salvage timber operation through the WMA, opening up an old quail area of the past. Through the salvage timber harvest, the soil has been disturbed, sunlight let in and the once-shaded seedbed has responded with great early successional habitat. Calling surveys indicate the quail are responding quickly.”
 

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