2016 Quail Season Outlook

2016 Quail Season Outlook

By

Derek Wiley, Upland Game Biologist

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

            Beginning in 1990, the ODWC began surveying quail in the State of Oklahoma by driving 20 mile survey routes twice per year, in August and October. Survey results are then summarized by region of the state, such as northwest, and by ecoregion, such as Red Rolling Plain.  There are 83 routes, for a total of 3,340 miles surveyed during these two months.  The August survey is used to draw conclusions on reproductive success (brood success).  The October survey is conducted to have a rough idea of the number of quail that have been recruited into the population and have the potential for harvest this fall.  The last four breeding seasons have been favorable for production, with relatively cool summers and timely rainfall occurring at some point in the breeding season. Combined with mild winters, these conditions have allowed for quail populations to rise, particularly in the western half of Oklahoma, to levels not seen in the past decade and nearing recorded high counts in some parts of the state.  Statewide the bobwhite population is up 38.48% over 2015 and 44.6% over the historical average. The eastern half of Oklahoma tends to not have densities as high as western Oklahoma due to changing land use and habitat management practices.  The difference in quail populations from the eastern half to the western half of the state, and can be easily seen in the graphs in this report.  Historically, quail populations in southeast Oklahoma were considerably higher than they are today.  With a considerable effort aimed at habitat restoration in this area, bobwhite numbers could rebound to some degree. 

During the August surveys, 47.6% of the birds counted were ¾ grown birds indicating a very good early hatch that tailed off during the latter part of the summer as only 18.29% of the birds recorded were ½ grown and no birds recorded at that time were ¼ grown.  The October surveys indicated the same thing with the overwhelming number of birds seen (89.56%) were full grown (Table 1). Last year the October survey reported 8.4% ½ grown, 17.1% ¾ grown and 74.4% full grown.  This year was a little warmer and we did not receive the same amount of moisture as 2015, which likely played a part in slowing late summer productivity. However, with the high amount of carryover from last winter, optimal breeding conditions were not needed. With another mild winter and an average Oklahoma summer, the table is set for another good year in 2017.  However, a prolonged drought or harsh winter could change things. 

Overall the statewide number of birds seen per survey route is up from last year, from 5.9 birds/20 mile route to 8.17 birds/20 mile route, this is also higher than the 27 year historical average of 5.65, 44.60% (See Figure 2).  The northwest region is up 0.77 birds/20 mile route over 2015, 5.17% (Figure 3).  The north-central region declined by 0.76 birds recorded/route from 2015, 21.54% (Figure 4) and was the only region to decline.  This is the second year in a row of decline in the north-central region.  The northeast region is up 1.07 birds/20 mile route over 2015, 76.43% (Figure 5). The southeast region increased by 0.63 birds/20 mile route over 2015, 55.26% (Figure 6).  The south-central region increased by 0.09 birds/20 mile route over 2015, 90% (Figure 7).  The southwest region had the greatest increase of birds recorded over 2015 by having 8.93 more birds/route, 67.65% (Figure 8).  Even with that large increase the southwest region had the largest drop off of birds recorded from August to October.  The August survey reported an average of 29.08 birds/20 mile route, the October survey reported 15.17 birds/20 mile route.  The northeast, southeast, and south-central regions are less than their historical averages.  The north-central region is equal to its historical average.  The northwest and southwest regions are both above their historical average by 6.94 birds/20 mile route, 79.5%, and 9.38 birds/20 mile route, 73.5%, respectively.  See Figure 1 for a regional map of Oklahoma.

The ecoregion with the highest density of birds was the Southern High Plain ecoregion with an average of 34.17 birds/20 mile route, followed by the Red Rolling Plain ecoregion with an average of 18.45/20 mile route.  Both of these ecoregions are in the western half of Oklahoma.  The lowest ecoregion was the Arkansas Valley and Ridges ecoregion with an average of 0.15 birds/20 mile route.  See Table 2 for the remaining ecoregion data. 

Overall the season outlook is very positive for Oklahoma, particularly in the two western regions of the state.  The remaining four regions do not hold the densities of quail that the two western regions do.  However, where quail habitat has been managed for, there will be pockets of huntable populations.  While not the best predicator of scaled quail populations (blues), these surveys show the highest recorded numbers since 1993 as indicated by the August survey (Figure 9).  They are scattered across the western part of the state where bobwhite and scaled quail populations overlap.  There will be plenty of opportunity to harvest quail all across Oklahoma this hunting season.  There are wingboxes at several WMAs across the state: Kaw, Packsaddle, Beaver, Pushmataha, and Cross Timbers.  Please take the time to fill out the data sheet and contribute wings if you hunt one of these WMAs. 

Figure 1. Region map of Oklahoma.Regional Map.jpg

Figure 2. Statewide historical average.

Figure 3.  Northwest region historical average.

 

Figure 4. North-central region historical average.

Figure 5. Northeast region historical average.

 

Figure 6. Southeast region historical average.

Figure 7. South-central historical average.

Figure 8. Southwest historical average.

 

Figure 9. Scaled quail historical averages, August and October.

 

 

Table 1.  Age classes by survey month.
   

August Surveys

 

October Surveys

Age Class

 

n

%

 

n

%

1/4 grown

 

0

0

 

0

0

1/2 grown

 

141

18.29

 

15

2.57

3/4 grown

 

367

47.6

 

46

7.88

Full grown

 

263

34.11

 

523

89.56

Total

 

771

   

584

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 2. Quail abundance per 20 mile route by Ecoregion.

   

August

     

Ocotober

 

Ecoregion

n

x

se

 

n

x

se

Arkansas Valley & Ridges

7

0.29

0.29

 

7

0.00

0.00

Cherokee Prairie

10

3.40

3.24

 

10

1.40

1.00

Cross Timbers

13

0.31

0.17

 

13

0.77

0.77

Ozark Highlands

4

5.00

5

 

4

3.75

3.75

Gulf Coastal Plain

2

10.00

10

 

2

9.50

9.5

Ouachita Mountains

6

0.83

0.83

 

6

0.00

0.00

Rolling Red Plain

21

21.35

5.28

 

21

15.55

4.59

Rolling Red Prairie

17

4.65

1.75

 

17

2.71

1.19

Southern High Plain

3

32.00

24.03

 

3

36.33

19.55

Statewide

83

9.29

2.07

 

83

7.04

1.73