By Greg Breining
Illinois’ booming quail numbers are apparently returning to something more closely resembling normal, according to results of roadside surveys during the breeding season early this summer.
Habitat, Broods, and Counts
Last year was one of the best quail seasons in Illinois in a long time. “But in 2021 we had a 45 percent decrease in the number of quail heard for the whole survey,” says Wade Louis, habitat team program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. And the number of stops where quail were seen or heard was down 38 percent from last year. “If you want to have a successful quail season this year you’re going to have to look for high-quality habitat,” he says. “The most productive quail region of the state is probably going to be central, west-central Illinois.”
Quail in southern Illinois, often the best region, have suffered from ice, snow, and a two-week cold snap. “That didn’t do the quail any favors in southern Illinois, so that’s why we’re saying that central and west-central might be better areas to chase the birds this year,” Louis says. Furthermore, localized areas of heavy rain affected many areas of the state, hampering nesting and brood-raising. “it’s not going to be like a total loss. It’s going to be more like it was four, five years ago,” says Louis. “There will be birds, but again, you need to concentrate on the good habitat.”
Louis says hunters will probably do best to focus on western Illinois from abut Quincy south to near St. Louis. The challenge will be finding places to hunt, since there is relatively little public land in Illinois. “So it’s tough for people to just come into the state and find a place to go,” he says. Some state sites can be productive. Among them are Ten Mile Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area in Hamilton County, and Pyramid State Park. “Unless you can forge some relationships and get to know some people, you just want to chase birds, those would probably be the two best ones to hit,” he says. Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP) lands are private lands leased for hunting, available to hunters who sign up. IRAP sites in Knox, Christian, and Henry are likely to have quail.
If You Go
The Illinois quail season will run Nov. 6–Jan. 8, 2022, in the north and Nov. 6–Jan. 15, 2022, in the south. (See DNR website for zone boundaries.) Limit is 8 a day with 20 in possession after the third day.