Kansas always ranks high as one of the top wingshooting destination in the country, and with a mild winter and largely drought-free spring and summer nesting conditions, the fall season looks to be a decent one for hunters willing to put in the miles.
WEATHER AND CONDITIONS
According to Jeff Prendergast, small game specialist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, overwinter survival was high with overall a fairly mild winter.
“There was one significant cold front of concern with subzero temps, but without ice or snow, birds were able to access food and losses were minimal,” says Prendergast. “We had the benefit of having some quail collared that we were following for research and saw very limited losses through the event.”
Prendergast says Kansas remained drought free throughout the spring and summer, which provided good nesting conditions.
“There were a few localized significant rainfall/flood events that could have impacted nest success but nothing widespread,” says Prendergast. “Late summer was hot and dry which can reduce chick survival, however arthropod abundance remained good and there was ample cover from spring rains. “
HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS
Prendergast says habitat conditions going into fall are generally good.
“Good spring moisture produced good growth of native grasses and annual weeds,” he says. “Rangeland habitat is good going into fall, although hot dry conditions late in the summer stressed the grasses some. There was a net loss in CRP acres again this year and 30 counties were eligible for emergency haying and grazing of CRP. Wheat stubble is good across most of the state although fall crops were stressed by late summer weather affecting cover in these fields, most notably milo height.”
When it comes to reports of hatches and broods, Prendergast says it seems to be a mizxed-bag of news.
“Anecdotal reports from farmers and biologist generally indicated that quail numbers remained high,” he explains. “However, surveys generally showed declines. Roadside surveys indicated significant statewide decrease in quail driven by large decrease in smoky Hills. However, survey conditions were not ideal and could have influenced these results.”
As for top spots for quail hunters, Prendergast says the traditional qual areas will once again be good bets.
“The Flint Hills spring population saw significant increase from spring surveys and was the highest regional density this fall,” says Prendergast. “Despite significant declines on the survey, the Smoky Hills Region of north-central Kansas should provide good opportunities given quail have been at high densities in the area the last several years.
“There are several online tools to view public hunting areas that can be used to do some pre-scouting from afar.,” says Prendergast. “While you won't have detailed information on crop rotations etc. this can help you limit driving time to search for the appropriate cover.”