Mississippi Quail Hunting Forecast 2018

  • 10/3/2018 11:05:18 AM

Weather and Conditions

"Following a relatively cold mid-winter for our region, weather became milder and wetter in late winter and early spring," says Rick Hamrick, wildlife biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. "Temperatures became hot rather quickly by mid-spring and it stayed hot all summer. Some areas of the state, particularly the northern third, received good amounts of rainfall throughout the summer while others had a deficit. All in all, it was a hot summer but not too terribly droughty at the statewide level. Overall, I estimate conditions were good for hatching and chick survival."

Hatch and Broods

"We conduct counts of whistling males on selected wildlife management areas mostly during June," reports Hamrick. "As always, some areas were up and some were down. Overall, there was an eight percent decrease in counts from 2017 to 2018 for areas that were surveyed both years. This has to be interpreted a little cautiously. I believe we had some amount of weather-related effects on our counts, things likehigh temperatures and untimely thunderstorms. However, we are also dealing with such low-abundance populations now in many areas that calling activity is heavily influenced by population density (more males competing results in more calling activity), and can be highly variable."

Habitat and Programs

"Large-scale habitat deficiencies are the primary limitations on quail populations in Mississippi," says Hamrick. "Improving timber markets have likely helped at some local levels, as many closed-canopy forests begin to receive timber management treatments again. Recent large-scale pine beetle outbreaks on several of our national forest lands may result in some very short-term increases in habitat quality as these were mostly closed-canopy forests prior to outbreaks. Mississippi’s Fire on the Forty Initiative is in its eighth year. This program has enhanced some locally significant acreage on private lands through prescribed burning technical assistance and cost-share."

Top Spots

"Lands in the southeast portion of Mississippi are often some of the better habitat areas as a result of prescribed burning activities," Hamrick says. "The northeast region of the state can also offer some good quail hunting areas. In the Delta region, larger tracts of land recently planted to trees can hold good numbers of quail within the first five years after planting. Hunters should have reasonable expectations for finding birds in Mississippi. A good day hunting is often one to two coveys moved."

Insider Tips

"Our quail season opens Thanksgiving day and closes the first Saturday in March," says Hamrick. "Many quail hunters prefer to hunt mostly after our deer season is done, which is the end of January for most of the state and February 15 for the extreme southeast region. Colder temperatures may provide better hunting conditions in the later part of the season, but birds have also been subjected to declining cover conditions and increasing losses to predators. Hunters are encouraged to enjoy the find more than the harvest in the late-season. Once grass and weedy cover begins to break down in colder temperatures and more migrating hawks arrive, quail will generally get in the thickest cover available. Catching birds feeding early and late in the day near heavy cover may be a good approach during mid to late winter."