Quail Forever chapters, volunteers, staff, and partners have been putting in some serious effort to restore bobwhite quail populations in the Natural State. Thousands of acres of both private and public land have been impacted through the application of timber thinning, prescribed fire, and pollinator plantings. Although winter conditions may have reduced breeding season numbers, ongoing habitat work will continue to pay off in the long run.
According to Marcus Asher with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, bitter cold winter temps and several bouts of snow had an adverse effect on spring call counts. "Breeding season numbers were reduced overall according to our spring call count route data, and I believe this decline was due to bitter cold temperatures and snow that lasted for several days," says Asher.
"Spring and summer conditions for nesting and brood-rearing were punctuated by higher than normal precipitation for much of Arkansas during April, May, and June," says Asher. "This no doubt hindered some early nests, but the rainfall ceased in the later part of June through September, which will allow for mid-to-late season nesting.
Brood surveys are showing similar numbers of broods, but less chicks compared to last year, so the lower numbers of breeding individuals are probably showing their effects on this year's hatch. Also, insect populations could be reduced this year because of lack of moisture during the breeding season, and that may have some impact."
Going into fall, Asher the amount and quality of habitat is generally good. "Habitat is good on most public land areas," says Asher. "Several thousands of acres of habitat have been enrolled on private lands over the last few years that will be restored this year and in the coming years. However, much of private land in the state is in a less than desirable state due to overgrazing and introduced species compositions."
Arkansas conducts roadside count surveys, but Asher said the data from those surveys is still be analyzed.
According to Asher, the Arkansas River valley, the Quachitas and the Ozarks are the main quail areas. “Poteau/Cold Springs Ranger District, Moro Big Pine WMA and Fort Chaffee WMA are all good bets,” says Asher. "Also the Sylamore Ranger District, Cache River NWR, and Pine-Bluestem Restoration Area near Waldron."
"Find areas where pine or hardwoods have been recently (1-4 years) clear-cut or thinned heavily. Always focus on areas that have been burned in the last two years and have visible bare ground and less dense grass composition. In areas with open hardwood timber, seek out locations with sparse post oak and blackjack oak trees as these acorns are small and relished by quail."