Alabama Quail Hunting Forecast 2020

decc4360-2072-4b60-b598-82f6da2995ed By Oliver Hartner

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Alabama quail hunters could experience average to above-average covey counts this fall on properly managed public lands and private properties.  Though Hurricane Sally likely affected the lower region of the state, a mild winter and temperate rainfall during spring and summer contribute to this year’s overall positive outlook for quail on well-managed areas.


Steven Mitchell, Upland Bird Coordinator for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, says, “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. In areas with adequate vegetative cover and food sources, the birds should have had normal over-winter survival.” Though poor habitat and high predation would lower over-winter survival, many property owners from well-managed areas reported hearing more males whistling in spring and early summer compared to the previous year, suggesting better over-winter survival than last year.

“Overall, spring and summer weather conditions in Alabama have been favorable for quail production.  There was good rainfall for vegetation growth and seed production all summer over much of the state,” Mitchell reports before adding, “Heavy rains from Hurricane Sally may have had a detrimental effect on small-sized late broods in lower parts of the state where 10 to 12 inches of rain were received. Those late broods add to the overall hatch and recruitment, sometimes making up 10 to 20% of the fall population on well-managed properties.”


Mitchell admits, “Unfortunately, much of Alabama’s landscape is lacking in quality upland habitat. Moderate to good upland quail habitat in the state is usually only found in areas or on properties where active quail habitat management techniques are being implemented.” That being said, he believes managed areas receiving average rainfall should be in good shape heading into fall, which includes many of Alabama’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).

According to Mitchell, anecdotal evidence suggests the 2020 hatch was average to somewhat above average depending on location. “Private land managers have been reporting brood sightings all summer since June, though brood sighting reports from WMA Biologists were average to low. With decent weather for nearly the entire breeding period, we’re hopeful quail production has been good across the state and translates into a good quail hunting season,” Mitchell says. 

Alabama’s Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries conducts fall covey calling and spring male whistling surveys on many of their WMAs. 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) and stable but low density numbers on most WMAs,” Mitchell says.


Mitchell acknowledges the best quail hunting in Alabama is found on private properties intensively managed for quail. However, if you don’t have access to those types of properties, he believes quail can still be found on most WMAs. “Just don’t expect easy hunting or large numbers of birds and dog points,” he warns. Surveys indicated the WMAs with higher densities of quail were Freedom Hills in northwest Alabama, Choccolocco in east Alabama, Barbour in southeast Alabama, and Boggy Hollow and Geneva State Forest near the Florida-Alabama line. “Hard-hunting public land sportsmen can find quail on other WMAs including: Perdido, Blue Spring, Hollins, Coosa, Sam R. Murphy, and Oakmulgee. The Talladega National Forest also contains some birdy looking areas,” Mitchell adds.


Whether hunting on private or public land, Mitchell recommends, “Look for open thinned pine stands containing early successional plants with scattered thickets, field edges, young clearcuts, and pine plantings in early succession stages. Also, hunt around quail foods in those areas which may include beggarweed, partridge pea, ragweed, lespedezas, pine seeds, and acorns.” 


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