Statewide surveys were initiated in 1978 to monitor quail populations — Historical survey data, 1978 to 2023. This index uses randomly selected, 20-mile roadside survey lines to determine annual quail population trends by ecological region. Comparisons can be made between the mean (average) number of quail seen per route this year and the 15-year mean for each ecological region. The following sections provide an overview of populations and habitat throughout the state, as well as trend and survey data by ecological region from 2009 to 2023.
Search for quail hunting opportunities on public and leased land with an Annual Public Hunting Permit.
Scaled Quail Season Overview
Overview — The Trans-Pecos continues to be the standard bearer for scaled quail populations in Texas. Building off a good nesting season in 2022, birds picked up where they left off and quickly got to work this year. A combination of cooler temperatures and spring rainfall out west led to reports of early hatches and large broods were observed throughout the spring and into the summer. Regional growth began in 2022 as habitat conditions improved and birds were able to take advantage. This production translated into better hunting conditions last season, reflected in both the number of hunters heading afield (4x year over year from 2021) and total harvest (3x year over year from 2021) in the Trans-Pecos. Other ecoregions, including the Edwards Plateau and High Plains saw modest gains this summer and should provide additional hunting opportunities. The only speed bump for birds this year was the heat, which settled in and enveloped much of the state through July and August. Notwithstanding, significant gains were made. Much like bobwhites, scaled quail populations in our core regions are likely in their strongest position since 2019 and primed to take off if they survive winter and spring conditions are favorable again in 2024.
We would like to thank all the TPWD biologists who cover over 3,300 road miles each August to help us develop our annual forecast and who provided valuable insights about hunting conditions. As always, connecting with these local biologists is a great way to learn more about scaled quail populations in a particular area, as our surveys only provide a representation of scaled quail numbers at the regional level. We would also like to thank the many partners, landowners, and local hunters who shared their thoughts and perspectives on the state of quail in 2023. Best of luck to all this hunting season!
- Survey Results — average number of scaled quail seen per route was 20.65 compared to 13.06 last year; this count was above the 15-year mean of 17.21, and a continuation of a 2-year trend.
- Regional Outlook — habitat conditions were favorable (i.e., good to excellent) to begin the spring but diminished in quality as we entered the summer. However, cooler temperatures and rainfall throughout the spring came at the right time. The region had good nesting and brood rearing cover despite many counties slipping into drought as the summer progressed. Hatches were reported early and often (May-June), both on private lands and on our Wildlife Management Areas. Smaller (10-12 birds) and larger amalgamated broods (25-50 birds) were observed frequently, with chick sightings only slowing as the hot and dry weather settled in. If the heat stifled populations, it wasn’t overtly obvious. Conditions were near ideal early on and scaled quail took advantage. We observed birds on ~70% of our survey routes and observed an ~60% year-over-year increase in our counts. Our final tally was the best since 2019 and we expect widespread, good hunting opportunities for hunters this season.
- 2022-23 Harvest Report: Hunters = 2,651; Days = 8,873; Harvest = 48,973.
- 5-Year Harvest Average (2018-2022): Hunters = 1,942; Days = 7,173; Harvest = 23,283.
- 2023-24 Hunting Outlook: fair to above average; expect counties with very good hunting.
Edwards Plateau Forecast
- Survey Results — average number of scaled quail seen per route was 4.50 compared to 1.50 last year; this count was slightly below the 15-year mean of 5.32, but an increase from 2022.
- Regional Outlook — habitat conditions were favorable to begin the spring but diminished in quality as we entered the summer. Spring rainfall boosted ground cover, but the summer turned hot and dry and severe to extreme drought designations settled in. Reduced population numbers in past years have resulted in fewer hens being available for nesting, but the remaining birds took advantage and broods were intermittently spotted across the region (e.g., Reagan, Val Verde Counties). While the heat compounded challenges and limited renesting opportunities, incremental gains were observed. The Edwards Plateau is not advertised as a major quail hunting destination, but the region continues to be a steady performer year-in-year-out, with the potential to boom given the right conditions. We expect fair hunting opportunity, increasing in quality as you travel east to west.
- 2022-23 Harvest Report: Hunters = 1,136; Days = 6,338; Harvest = 1,139.
- 5-Year Harvest Average (2018-2022): Hunters = 1,881; Days = 7,750; Harvest = 14,105.
- 2023-24 Hunting Outlook: fair to above average
The High Plains saw a bump in annual survey numbers (1.82 birds per route). While still below the 15-year mean (2.95 birds per route; see table and graph), nesting and brood rearing conditions were good, and we observed a flush of birds this spring-summer. Noteworthy counties included those along our western border (e.g., Cochran, Deaf Smith, Parmer). We expect scattered pockets of fair hunting. Scaled quail in both the Rolling Plains and South Texas Plains remain mired down, with low density populations struggling to regain their footing. We expect poor hunting opportunities in both ecoregions this season.
Scaled Quail 15-Year Trend Data
|Year||Edwards Plateau||High Plains||Rolling Plains||South Texas Plains||Trans-Pecos|
Scaled Quail Survey Data by Ecoregion
The average number of scaled quail seen per route was 4.50 compared to 1.50 last year. This was slightly below the 15-year mean of 5.32. Limited public hunting opportunities are available through our Annual Public Hunting Permit. As always, scouting ahead and contacting your local biologist are good strategies to ensure a quality experience.
Line graph illustration of the TPWD quail roadside survey results for the Edwards Plateau Ecoregion from 2009 to 2023. The mean (average) number of scaled quail seen per route for each year is represented by the black line. The 15-year mean (average) is represented by the blue line.