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TPWD Predicting Typical Quail Season
AUSTIN, Texas — Like most coveys, quail are going to be bunched up and could be tough to find during the upcoming hunting season, unless you’re hunting on land being managed with quail in mind, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
“This year, a little ground work on the front end will make a big difference in the quality of the hunt,” said Robert Perez, TPWD quail biologist. “I would recommend hunters go early and scout out areas to try and locate birds ahead of time.”
The statewide quail season runs from Oct. 28–Feb. 25. The daily bag limit is 15, 45 in possession. Legal shooting hours for all non-migratory game birds are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. The bag limit is the maximum number that may be killed during the legal shooting hours in one day.
With quail hunting, opportunity is tied directly to production and this year’s crop of birds looks to be average at best, according to TPWD quail census data.
Ideal quail production occurs in years that remain wet and cool during the spring and early summer months because it extends the window of opportunity for reproduction, according to Perez. He noted hens typically would make as many nesting attempts as conditions allow until they pull off a successful clutch. This year, conditions became hot and dry from late spring through September, which could have an impact on extended nesting success.
This year, most of the state experienced and unusually dry winter followed by less than average spring and summer rainfall. For these reasons quail production was delayed in some areas until rains fell, in other areas quail never really had much of an opportunity to nest due to lack of moisture.
“Had it rained earlier in August we might have seen some late production, but as it turned very little production over the course of the summer,” Perez noted. “In parts of South Texas that did have timely rains — a few showers across the summer — they’re covered up in birds, but it is extremely localized. During our October buffer area quail surveys in the Rolling Plains, we heard a lot of birds, so it appears there are more places in that region that pulled off successful production and wider production than in other areas.”
Here’s a summary of quail production around the state, based on annual census surveys conducted by TPWD and what hunters can expect to find this season.
Those parts of the Rolling Plains region that received more spring/summer rainfall are where quail were most successful. Overall production was less than average with small brood sizes being reported by field staff. There were was also a good amount of carryover birds from the previous season.
The average number of bobwhites observed per route was 14 compared to 37 last year. This is below the long term average of 23 and is indicative of a below average season. However, good bobwhite hunter opportunities will be found in areas under proper range management and in areas that received the most favorable weather conditions. Public hunting opportunities can be found at the Matador Wildlife Management Area and the Gene Howe WMA.
South Texas Plains
Drought conditions affected south Texas to a greater degree than the Rolling Plains. High daily temperatures combined with low rainfall hindered bobwhite reproductive efforts. However, scattered rains fell at a scale too small for this survey to detect. In these areas, quail were more successful, especially where range was being properly managed. Field staff reported very little production but confirmed that certain areas, especially in the eastern half (more coastal) were holding fair numbers of birds.
The average number of bobwhites observed per route was 3 compared to 9 last year. This is well below the long term average of 20 and is predictive of a below average hunting season. The Chaparral and the Daughtrey WMAs provide public quail hunting opportunities.
The Trans-Pecos ecological region of Texas has experienced well above average populations of scaled quail for the past three years. Although still above average, scaled quail counts are down from an average of 34 birds observed per route last year to 19 birds per route this year. Reports from the western edge of the Edwards Plateau (the Stockton Plateau) also indicate above average populations of scaled quail.
Public hunter opportunities can be found at Elephant Mountain and Black Gap WMAs.
Our surveys indicate that bobwhite numbers in Gulf Prairies, Cross Timbers, and Edwards Plateau are all below their respective long term averages. Although there are certainly areas within each region where some quail hunting opportunity remains, there were not many parts of the state that were not affected by summer drought.
Access to hunting on TPWD managed public land is available with the purchase of a $48 Annual Public Hunting Permit, which can be bought wherever hunting licenses are sold, online at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/licenses/online_sales/ or by calling toll free (800) 895-4248. There is a $5 convenience fee for online and phone purchases.
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