South Texas quail numbers lowest in 43 years

Hunting for northern bobwhite quail, seen in this Oct. 20 photo, opens Oct. 30. By Rick Kelley, Valley Morning Star

Hunting for northern bobwhite quail opens anytime soon?

Question is, just how many quail are hunters going to see?

Wildlife biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department say the annual survey of quail conducted by TPWD biologists shows South Texas quail numbers at their lowest level since the annual quail surveys began.

“Apart from the winter storm in February, mild winter conditions statewide were a welcome reprieve for the bobwhite populations coming off a third year of below-average abundance,” said John McLaughlin, Upland Game Bird program leader for TPWD. “However, a relatively dry start to the year likely put a damper on early nesting activity. In the Rolling Plains and South Texas, survey numbers were surprisingly the lowest they have been since the survey’s inception in 1978.”

Just how low were those numbers?

“South Texas dipped to 3.10 birds per route from 3.77 birds per route in 2020, with the region also below their 15-year mean of 9.13,” TPWD said in its annual quail survey. “Despite reports of birds calling along most routes, these numbers left much to be desired given how great habitat looked across much of the state.”

TPWD biologists put in 3,300 road miles each August, stopping and listening in the early morning for northern bobwhite and other quail species to call. They also count individual birds and coveys.

The severe winter storm may have hurt quail populations, added McLaughlin. He said the impact is difficult to assess and is most likely based on speculation, not data, but he said it is likely the bitter cold presented quail with one more problem to overcome.

Last year the South Texas region was responsible for about 80 percent of the state’s quail harvest.

MORE INFORMATION:

South Texas quail season

WHEN: Oct. 30 to Feb. 27, 2022

BAG LIMIT: 15 daily, 45 in possession

REQUIRES: Hunting license with Upland Game Bird Endorsement ($7)

rkelley@valleystar.com