“It's not just one thing,” Schoeling said. “There are a number of things causing (the reduction in the quail population).”
Researchers so far have discovered a high level of parasitic worms in quail that may be impairing their ability to thrive. But Schoeling said parasites were found in a significant percentage of the quail population in the '60s as well.
It will be several years before the research produces any definitive results, he said.
In the meantime, there are anecdotal reports of more quail in Oklahoma this year than last. The Wildlife Department just completed its August roadside surveys, but Schoeling has yet to analyze the data.
Hunters shouldn't give up on quail, Schoeling said. Oklahoma has experienced a severe drought in recent years, and some timely rain could bring the birds back, he said.
“It wasn't that long ago that we were killing more than a million quail a year,” he said.
In 2004, Oklahoma hunters harvested more than one million quail, according to Wildlife Department surveys of resident hunters. Since that time, however, that number has dipped every year except one. Last year, Oklahoma hunters only killed 109,000 bobwhites.
And the number of people hunting quail in Oklahoma has dropped from a peak of 120,000 in 1987 to only 17,000 last year.
That leaves hunters like Dakil frustrated and demanding an act of conservation before the birds are gone forever.
“You just can't go out there and keep slaughtering them,” he said. “I think everyone would go along with a one-year moratorium.”
Closing the quail season for one year may not help, he said, but it certainly couldn't hurt.
What do you think?
What are your opinions about the quail situation in Oklahoma? What do you think is causing the decline of quail and what should be done?
Send your comments to Ed Godfrey and firstname.lastname@example.org.