AUSTIN, TX (STL.News) With quail hunting season opening Saturday, Oct. 26 statewide, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife biologists predict average to above-average prospects across most of the state.
“Habitat and weather can cause dramatic shifts in bobwhite and scaled quail populations from one year to the next,” said Robert Perez, quail program leader for TPWD. “Although last year’s quail season was not very productive, quail have an uncanny ability to quickly bounce back when conditions are good. Thanks to favorable weather conditions earlier this year, hunters can look forward to productive quail hunting across most of the state this season.”
For the core quail range in Texas, this year’s El Nino weather pattern translated to above average rainfall and below average temperatures, resulting in an above average bobwhite quail season in most of South Texas, average to slightly above average scaled quail season for the Trans Pecos region, and good prospects for scaled quail and bobwhite in the Panhandle above Interstate 40.
“Favorable weather conditions spurred calling and pair formation in the majority of South Texas counties, and land manager and staff reports suggest an average to above average season,” Perez said. “Scaled quail in the Trans Pecos also look better than average, so it’s a good year to put on some tennis shoes and chase this elusive game bird.”
In the Rolling Plains, field reports indicate a very active roosting calling period in the spring and pairs spotted throughout the summer. Quality habitat across the region provides plenty of nesting and brooding cover and plants like dove weed and ragweed provide chicks with the protein-packed insects they need.
“The Rolling Plains appears to be up from last year but still below average, although our surveys may have underestimated the population due to dense roadside vegetation and extreme heat, which may have influenced habitat use,” Perez said. “Overall, the Rolling Plains has the potential to have an average year. And an average year in Texas is better than just about anywhere else in the country.”
TPWD projections are based on annual statewide quail surveys that were initiated in 1978 to monitor quail populations. This index uses randomly selected, 20-mile roadside survey lines to determine annual quail population trends by ecological region. This trend information helps determine relative quail populations among the regions of Texas.
Comparisons can be made between the mean (average) number of quail observed per route this year and the 15-year mean for quail seen within an ecological region. The quail survey was not designed to predict relative abundance for any area smaller than the ecological region.
A regional breakdown of this year’s TPWD quail index survey, including highlights and prospects, is available online.