Missouri Quail Hunting Forecast 2019

2ee8f106-1c3e-4286-a7ae-c25a39d162d8 Despite harsh conditions this past winter and flooding this spring, quail production in the Show-Me State appears poised to show Missouri hunters a better-than-expected quail season.


The winter of 2018-19 brought extended periods of heavy snow cover, ice and frigid temperatures to much of north Missouri," says Missouri Department of Conservation Small Game Coordinator Dave Hoover. These weather conditions almost assuredly had a significant negative impact on adult overwinter survival, especially compared to the four previous winters. Spring whistle counts showed a 25-to-40-percent decline compared to 2018 numbers."
 However, despite the heavy rains and flooding through early summer, Hoover says nesting and brood-rearing conditions appear to have been better than anticipated. "Late June through August weather conditions were largely conducive for nesting and brood-rearing," Hoover says. "Normally, excessively wet spring and summers are particularly problematic for ground nesting birds. However, much like in the summer 2015, many crop fields were left unplanted this year and developed a diverse annual plant cover that persisted through much of the summer. This provided an abundance of brood cover which likely led to better than expected quail production in many areas of the state."   


According to Hoover, statewide production for quail appeared to be up slightly. Five regions showed counts above last year’s values. 
“The amount of quality habitat is the most important factor for maintaining quail and pheasant populations, but weather also plays a very important, and often unpredictable, role,” says Hoover. “This year’s better than expected production highlighted this complicated relationship. The wetter-than-normal conditions this spring and early summer likely benefited birds in areas with good habitat due to the unusually high number of crop field acres that did not get planted and were left fallow for much of the summer. While not good for our farmers, it was good for quail and pheasants as it creates near ideal brood-rearing conditions.”
This year’s statewide average roadside index of 1.8 quail per route is slightly above last year’s index of 1.7, and Hoover says hunters can expect to find a similar number of quail as last year, except for the Northeast Riverbreaks and Western Prairie regions, where numbers were down notably.


"In general, the best and largest amounts of habitat for quail remain north of Highway 36 and west of Highway 65 in the northwest, northcentral, northeast, and west-central portions of the state," says Hoover. "However, do not overlook large patches of good habitat anywhere throughout the state."


"Sustaining and improving quail numbers is all about the amount of usable space available, the habitat that quail can and will use," explains Hoover. "Key in on large areas of diverse native grassland cover, cropland near diverse CRP plantings or cropland with diverse native grass field borders. In all scenarios, shrubby cover or small trees should be scattered throughout or adjacent to the herbaceous habitat. The key is the amount of diverse herbaceous cover because that is where the nesting and brood rearing occurs."

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