Wildlife Management Areas Offer Prime Quail Hunting

Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov

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AUSTIN, Texas — If access to a good place to hunt is the only thing keeping you from experiencing what wildlife biologists suggest will be the best quail hunting season in years, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has some excellent opportunities for hunters.

"Some of the best quail hunting in Texas this season will be on public land," said Dennis Gissell, TPWD wildlife management area facilities coordinator.

With the purchase of a $48 Annual Public Hunting (APH) Permit from TPWD comes access to tens of thousands of acres of quality quail country. Finding a place to hunt is simple using the detailed map booklet that comes with the APH hunting permit. The booklet explains all the rules pertaining to hunting on public land in Texas, along with locator maps of all the hunting areas and the dates each site is open to hunting.

Quail season opens Oct. 30 statewide and runs through Feb. 27. The daily bag limit is 15, with a possession limit of 45 quail.

Field reports from TPWD biologists indicate good prospects for the WMAs offering quail hunting, but there are a handful of areas that stand above the rest. The Chaparral WMA along the Dimmit and LaSalle County line in South Texas leads the pack.

"We’ve probably got the best quail crop since 1987 when our hunters bagged more than 5,000 birds on opening weekend," said David Synatzske, area manager at the Chaparral WMA. "Because conditions are so good we’ve added 20 additional days that we’ll be open for quail hunting. We’ll only be closed basically during our special drawing hunts for deer and javelina."

The Chaparral WMA will be open to public hunting Oct. 30–Nov. 14 and Jan. 15–28. And, while Synatzske anticipates seeing a lot of hunting activity on those days, it is the early youth/adult quail hunting weekend of Oct. 23–24 that draws most of the attention.

"That’s really our opener," he said. "In recent years we’ve gotten as many hunters during the youth weekend as we do on opening weekend, but the neat thing is they have to have a youth in the group in order to qualify."

The youth/adult concept began in 1995 as a way to introduce young hunters to quail hunting. Thirty-eight young hunters participated in the first event at the Chaparral WMA and the interest has grown, with 158 youth last season. "Most of the hunters bring a bunch of kids and follow the spirit of what we intended for the hunt," Synatzske noted. "We don’t require that the youth hunt, our main objective is to get them out in the field to enjoy the experience. We welcome families to come out and if some in the group don’t want to hunt, we issue them a pass to go along."

There are primitive campsites available on the Chaparral and the gates will open on Friday, Oct. 22 at 8 a.m. to allow groups to get settled prior to the opening weekend of the youth/adult hunt. There are no water or electrical hook-ups, but bathrooms and showers are available onsite. All hunters must check in and out of the area, but otherwise are allowed to hunt anywhere on the 15,200-acre WMA.

As with all public hunting for quail, everyone is required to wear hunter orange headgear and vests, and a valid Texas hunting license and public hunting permit are required. "About half of our hunters pay the daily use fee ($15 available at the WMA), which tells me we are reaching hunters who aren’t in the public hunting program," Synatzske said.

While some hunters do bring dogs on the hunts, Synatzske said they aren’t necessary for success. "Our quail are distributed around the area fairly uniformly and we have a lot of access roads, about 30 miles of paved roads, so you can get around. We have a couple of pastures where some folks like to work their dogs because it’s wide open, but most of the hunting is in brushy cover."

The James Daughtrey WMA, located east of Tilden around Choke Canyon Reservoir, will also be offering excellent quail hunting opportunity through the APH permit on Oct. 30–Nov. 7, Nov. 20–28, and Dec. 4–8.

Most of the hunting in South Texas will be for bobwhite quail, but hunters can also take advantage of another subspecies on public land, the scaled quail. Two wildlife management areas in the Trans Pecos hold excellent prospects for scaled quail this year, according to Mike Pittman, area manager at Black Gap and Elephant Mountain WMAs.

Black Gap WMA covers 119,000 acres and will be offering hunting access for bobwhite and scaled quail Oct. 30–Nov. 26, Dec. 13–25, Dec. 30–Jan. 8, and Jan. 13–Feb. 27. There are 50 primitive camps scattered throughout the management area and along the Rio Grande.

On the 23,000-acre Elephant Mountain WMA, quail hunting will be available Oct. 30–Nov. 25 and Dec. 13–Feb. 27.

Both areas will have an early youth/adult weekend for quail on Oct. 16–17. For more information call (432) 837-3251.

"If ever someone wanted to give scaled quail hunting a go, this is the year to get out there and do it," Pittman noted. "We have an excellent crop of birds this year."

In the Panhandle, the Gene Howe WMA and Matador WMA are also prime quail territory. Last season, upwards of 5,000 quail were harvested off the 28,000-acre Matador WMA near Paducah; more than on any other public hunting area in the state. According to area manager Chip Ruthven, this year’s outlook is equally promising.

"It ought to be better than last year, we’re seeing decent numbers of birds," said Ruthven. "I’m not sure the Gene Howe can repeat last year’s success rate per hunter, but they have birds."

For more information on public hunting and the $48 Annual Public Hunting Permit, visit the Web pages or call (800) 792-1112.