Quail numbers are way up from last year, but overall the population is still way down

by Ed Godfrey Published: November 3, 2013

There hasn't been much to look forward to on the second Saturday in November for quail hunters in recent years.

With the quail population at an all-time low in the state, there has been little incentive to release the bird dogs from their pens.

But there is some good news and bad news about this year's quail season, which opens statewide on Saturday.

The good news? The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's roadside quail surveys show a 31 percent increase from last year.

The bad news? A 31 percent increase from nothing still isn't much, but at least the arrow is pointing upward this year, which is encouraging for quail hunters.

“This was the best summer we've had in seven years in terms of favorable quail conditions,” said Alan Peoples, chief of the wildlife division for ODWC.

“While our birds have been hit hard in recent years with record heat and drought, we got a break this year that brought us greener habitat and mild temperatures.”

Western Oklahoma finally received some rain, and timely rain for quail, but the brood stock was low. It will take two or three years of favorable weather for the population to bounce back.

While quail numbers are up over last year, they are still 78 percent below the 23-year average of roadside surveys.

Still, this quail season looks to be more promising than the last two. The roadside surveys show an 8 percent increase over two years ago.

Also, birds were still nesting as of last week, Peoples said.

“That's encouraging,” said Peoples, who also is an avid quail hunter.

ODWC is spending millions of dollars to try to learn why bobwhite quail have been disappearing from the state.

Two buildings nearing completion on the Packsaddle and Beaver River Wildlife Management Areas will be primarily used for quail research.

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