California Quail Hunting Forecast 2018

  • 10/1/2018 3:45:44 PM

Weather and Conditions

Above-average rainfall in northern California in March and in the Sierra Nevada in April may have been important in triggering nest initiation while also providing habitat critical for nesting and chick survival" reports Katherine Miller, upland game program quail biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. "In general, California quail populations in northern California experienced good nesting conditions. Moving into the summer months, precipitation was lower than average across most of the state, while the Mojave Desert and east side of the Sierra Nevada received more rain than average. This may have prompted some late nesting for mountain quail on the Sierra Nevada’s eastern slope, and Gambel’s quail in the Mojave Desert."

Hatch and Broods

"Currently, state biologists in California do not conduct a statewide survey of quail populations, however we download and analyze the data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey each year," says Miller. "Data from 2018 will be incorporated into our models once it becomes available. Breeding Bird Survey data from 2017 showed average or above-average estimates for all three quail species. This carryover to 2018, together with the rain this spring and its beneficial impact on quail habitat, should have resulted in a good nesting season. Looking toward the fall hunting season we expect above-average quail populations."

Habitat and Programs

"In general, the habitat is good for quail in California, however, several large wildfires burned portions of quail habitat, primarily in northern California and the Sierra Nevada," says Miller. "In late June and early July, fires in northern California and Yosemite National Park burned 145,390 acres, reducing the nest success for late-nesting quail and the survival of young broods. In late July through early September, fires burned 785,501 acres, impacting quail habitat and dispersing local quail populations."

Top Spots

"Hunters should expect to find good numbers of quail in their favorite hunting areas throughout the state, as the general hunt seasons are open for all quail species across the state in October," says Miller. "Hunters should focus their efforts depending on the quail species they wish to hunt.  For mountain quail, hunters will want to try the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and the forests in northwestern California. California quail populations are locally abundant throughout the state, but hunters should note that several large wildfires have impacted some quail populations, and plan accordingly. For Gambel’s quail, hunters should expect to find birds throughout their range in southeastern California, but may wish to focus more on the area around the Mojave Desert." 

Insider Tips

"Hunters are advised that California Department of Fish and Wildlife is phasing in non-lead requirements," reports Miller. "Currently, hunters are required to use non-lead ammunition while on state wildlife areas and ecological reserves. Specific to upland game bird species, non-lead ammunitions is required when taking upland game birds with a shotgun, except quail, dove, and snipe, and any game birds taken on licensed game bird clubs.  On July 1, 2019, non-lead ammunition will be required when taking any wildlife with a firearm in California."