Quail in Texas: Forecast 2013-2014
Statewide surveys 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 long term mean (LTM) 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.
Bobwhite quail hunting can be hit or miss in Texas considering these birds exist here on the very western edge of their distribution in the U.S. There are still vast expanses of suitable bobwhite habitat in the rangelands of South Texas and in the Rolling Plains, where in some years over a hundred thousand hunters flock to pursue these wary game birds. Bobs are limited in these regions by rainfall, more specifically the lack thereof.
Carryover From Last Season
Continued drought conditions over much of the core quail hunting areas in the spring and summer of 2012 resulted in only limited production. Many ranches opted not to hunt last season in hopes to aid recovery. The 2012 season was well below average in most regions with some new record lows in the survey. For these reasons the quail population was sparse heading into the breeding season. But most of the core Texas quail hunting regions did in fact receive rainfall in the spring of 2013 which resulted in a flush of new vegetation and insects. Additional late summer/early fall rains have been received in the Trans Pecos, South Texas Plains and the Gulf Coast which may trigger some late nesting activity. Additional winter rains are needed to provide greens and aid population recovery.
Quail Survey Data in Major Ecological Regions
For quail survey data on a region, click its name in the list below.
Gould Ecological Regions
- Gulf Prairies and Marshes (Bobwhite Quail)
- Post Oak Savanna
- Blackland Prairies
- Cross Timbers and Prairies (Bobwhite Quail)
- South Texas Plains (Scaled Quail, Bobwhite Quail)
- Edwards Plateau (Scaled Quail, Bobwhite Quail)
- Rolling Plains (Scaled Quail, Bobwhite Quail)
- High Plains (Scaled Quail, Bobwhite Quail)
- Trans Pecos, Mountains and Basins (Scaled Quail)
Spring rains fell over much of the Rolling Plains, triggering calling activity and spring “green up”. The amount of spring and summer rainfall totals was highly variable. Areas that were fortunate enough to receive adequate rains have had a good reproductive response with differing age classes of young being reported. Overall, the Panhandle region received little in the way of precipitation but late summer rains may produce some broods. As rangelands continue to recover, prime nesting habitat is limited but hens have plenty of secondary nest sites to choose from. Field reports suggest that this year’s roadside survey may be an underestimate, especially in the southern Rolling Plains.
The average number of bobwhites observed per route was 2.9 compared to 3.5 last year. This is well below the LTM of 20.1. Despite low counts, pockets of quail remain in areas with residual cover that received timely rainfall. Public hunting opportunities can be found at the Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and at the Matador WMA
South Texas Plains
Much of South Texas was in extreme drought conditions heading into spring 2013 but beginning in about mid-April significant rainfall covered the majority of the region. Rangelands began to recover and fewer mid-summer daily temperatures exceeded 100 degrees compared to last year. Recent late summer and early fall rains have produced spring like conditions and will likely result in additional late hatches. Similar to the Rolling Plains, many field reports indicate multiple age classes in broods, suggesting a wider window of nesting opportunity. Our surveys indicate little change in population compared to last year and still below average across the region. The best opportunities will be on well managed sites with good nesting cover.
The average number of bobwhites observed per route was 6.0 compared to 7.9 last year. This is well below the LTM of 17.6 and is predictive of a below average hunting season. The Chaparral and the Daughtrey Wildlife Management Areas provide public quail hunting opportunities.
Much of the Trans-Pecos ecological region remains in drought but summer rains did offer some relief. Overall, field reports indicate fair to good scaled quail production with the most likely reproductive efforts occurring mid to late in the summer after scattered rainfall events.
The average number of scaled quail observed per route was 8.4 compared to 6.3 last year. This is below the LTM of 15.9. Public hunter opportunities can be found at Elephant Mountain and Black Gap Wildlife Management Areas.
Our surveys indicate that bobwhite numbers are close to average in the Gulf Prairies where 11.3 bobwhites were observed per route compared to 8.0 last year. This is just above the LTM of 10.3. Hunters should focus on the central and lower coast in native prairie habitats.
The Cross Timbers and Edwards Plateau continue to report numbers well below their respective LTMs. Although there are certainly areas within each region where some quail hunting opportunity remains, this survey is not designed to detect changes in localized populations, especially in fragmented landscapes.