Statewide surveys were initiated in 1978 to monitor quail populations — Historical survey data, 1978 to 2022. 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 2008 to 2022.
Search for quail hunting opportunities on public and leased land with an Annual Public Hunting Permit.
Scaled Quail Season Overview
Overview — while it may be true that you can’t stockpile quail, it is still a numbers game. It’s about slowing building over consecutive years to give populations enough energy to exceed a threshold at which there will be a rapid increase in birds numbers. The foundation on which these populations are built are habitat and annual rainfall, and there are two storylines for scaled quail in 2022: the Trans-Pecos, and everywhere else. The Trans-Pecos continues to be our top producing ecoregion for blue quail and will be one of the few places in the state with room for optimism this hunting season. The benefactor of widely dispersed habitat and timely rainfall this year, the outlook for far West Texas is promising. As for everywhere else, a combination of low population numbers, variably poor habitat conditions, and below average rainfall has sunk populations into a hole which is proving hard to escape.
Last year we observed a decline in scaled quail populations in the Trans-Pecos but the birds that did survive were enough to propel us into the 2022 nesting season and provide a reproductive spark. The average number of quail observed per route was 13.06 this year, an increase from 4.33 in 2021. While still below our 15-year mean of 16.26, these results represent a shift in the right direction. Most other ecoregions experienced small gains or losses and were extensions of long-term trends. Outside a drive to our most remote region, blues were far and few in-between.
Trans-Pecos Outlook — much like the rest of the state, the region entered the year with little to no measurable rainfall through May but turned a corner as we entered summer. Areas around Fort Davis received over 4 inches of rain in June and there were widespread reports of fair to good rangeland conditions. There was predictable variability in rain gauges, even within counties, but most of the northern region benefited and pairs of quail were reported shortly thereafter. As one of our senior biologists put it, “Our numbers overall are still low, so I wouldn’t expect us to completely rebound in on year. I do think we will have an average quail year if [the] rains continue.” And while monsoon rainfall was not in the cards, there was enough to keep good going. Digging deeper, the eastern edge of the region was less promising, as was the outlook pushing northeast into the Southern Plains. On public lands, the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area (WMA) received early rains and appears to have had decent carry-over from 2021. Managers are predicting average to good hunting conditions this season. For Elephant Mountain WMA the story was less encouraging with a poor nesting season last year and little to no carry-over. Rainfall may have improved habitat conditions slightly, but overall, the outlook is poor. As always, there will be pockets of counties across the region which are the exceptions.
Other Ecoregions — with the exception of the Edwards Plateau last year (likely attributable to a single route in Crockett County), both it and the High Plains entered a fifth year of below average abundance. This is a similar pattern to the one we observed in both regions from 2007-14 before the phenomenal boom years that followed. We still believe populations in these regions have the potential to grow rapidly, but conditions have not been favorable for some time. On the other end of the spectrum, both the Rolling Plains (Arizona sub-species) and South Texas Plains (chestnut-belled sub-species) continue to exhibit signs that habitat conditions have degraded to a point where meaningful recovery in the short-term is unlikely. This forecast is especially true for South Texas. There will be isolated pockets of birds, but the forecast for all these regions is poor.
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 for this forecast. 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 2022. Best of luck to all this hunting 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 1.50 compared to 7.13 last year. This is below the 15-year mean of 5.41. 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 2008 to 2022. 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.