Statewide surveys were initiated in 1978 to monitor quail populations — Historical survey data, 1978 to 2021. 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 2007 to 2021.
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Scaled Quail Season Overview
Overview — Better evolved to withstand drought than bobwhites, scaled quail nonetheless also rely on timely rainfall in the spring and late summer to grow populations. In west Texas, mild winter temperatures were accompanied by drier than normal conditions which persisted well into the spring; for much of the Trans-Pecos meaningful rain didn’t arrive until June. Although scaled quail in the region fared better than their counterparts in the Rolling Plains and South Texas, and have for some time, populations were below average in 2020. Heading into this nesting season there was a need to get off to an early start to maximize gains for population recovery. Unfortunately, these late rains delayed spring nesting activity and put most counties behind the eight ball. Additional drought relief came in July and August, but not enough to offset the slow start.
Although we observed scaled quail on most of our Trans-Pecos routes, the total number of birds was often low. The average number of scaled quail observed per route was 4.33, which represented a drop from 14.13 in 2020, and was well below our 15-year mean of 17.26 blues per route. Unlike other parts of the state where visibility because of dense vegetation may have been partly to blame for a lack of quail observations, reductions in far west Texas are more likely a direct result of limited reproduction in the region. Most other ecoregions experienced small gains or losses. Outside the Edwards Plateau (see notes below), the Rolling Plains was the only other region to see a bump in numbers, with 1.45 birds per route, up from 0.06 in 2020, and above the 15-year mean of 1.09. These increases were modest, but suggest birds benefitted from the May through June rainfall.
Trans-Pecos Outlook — it has been an up and down couple years for scaled quail out west but the decline in survey numbers represents the second straight year of below average abundance and our lowest count since 1995. There have been reports of late broods in August and September, and sizable increases at that, but their ability to offset missed nesting opportunities from the early spring remains to be seen. Broadly, we expect hunting conditions will be below average to fair for most counties, especially those along or close to the New Mexico border. Farther east in Terrell County and across the Pecos River in Crockett County (Edwards Plateau), scaled quail seemed to have benefitted from additional May rainfall, areas where our biologists observed the majority of their scaled quail coveys. These reports were supplemented by landowner observations in the region. In those counties we expect slightly better, average to good hunting conditions. As we find each year, there are exceptions for local ranches and counties, and there may be scattered pockets of better hunting.
Other Ecoregions — the most encouraging reports for scaled quail outside the Trans-Pecos have come from the Panhandle and southern Rolling Plains regions, where birds appeared to have caught enough spring rainfall to make a modest push this year. However, we expect that hunting conditions will be below average to fair, which should hold true for scaled quail across most other parts of the state as well. Our survey numbers did show a bump in the Edwards Plateau from 0.88 birds per route in 2020 to 7.13 birds per route this year, however, that number was heavily weighted towards a single route in Crockett County where our biologist counted 41 birds. As previously mentioned, we think this may be indicative of better population numbers in the county but may not be representative of the ecoregion as a whole.
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 2021. 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 7.13 compared to 0.88 last year. This is above the 15-year mean of 5.73. 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 2007 to 2021. 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.