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Oct. 31, 2005
Panhandle Boasts Boom Quail Production
AUSTIN, Texas — Quail are famous for their “boom and bust” cycles. In other words, in good years there are a lot of quail, in poor years there aren’t any. In the Panhandle region of Texas, this is more than just a good year for quail — it’s an awesome year for quail!
Quail have high reproductive potential that lets them recover from the worst years quickly. Good quail years are dependent on several factors; good carryover of breeding pairs from the winter, timely rainfall, mild temperatures, lots of food and good range/habitat conditions. The Rolling Plains, for the most part, has been experiencing these conditions for the last two years, which means a lot of quail.
Based on Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Quail Surveys and landowner observations, this will be a quail season to remember, according to wildlife biologist Dana Wright in Paducah.
“This is the year to get the bird dogs out of the kennel, buy plenty of shotgun shells and spend as much time out in the field as possible, since this could be a year to remember as far as quail hunting is concerned,” Wright said. “If you don’t have a place to hunt, don’t forget the Matador Wildlife Management Area offers public hunting opportunities for quail.”
Wright points to this year’s quail count surveys as the barometer for hunting opportunity.
TPWD conducts annual roadside quail surveys to monitor population trends. These surveys are completed during the first two weeks of August using 20-mile routes. The same routes are driven every year, and some routes in the Panhandle have been surveyed for 30 years. The survey route is driven during the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset and quail counted along the route are recorded as singles, pairs, and coveys. The number of birds in a covey and size of the birds in the covey (adult vs. juvenile) are also recorded. Jackrabbits and cottontails are also counted while driving the survey route.
When conditions are good for quail production other species also do well.
Quail numbers look good for the Texas Panhandle, which includes 56 counties, basically an area from the top of the Panhandle south to Andrews County and east to Jones and Hardeman County.
“Based on our surveys over the last 30 years we have averaged 18.2 birds per survey route,” explained Wright. “This year we observed 30.8 birds per route compared to 15.7 birds per route last year. That’s a 100 percent increase over last year. As a matter of fact, we have not observed this many birds on our survey routes since 1987!”
Quail hunters are reminded that in addition to a valid Texas hunting license, an Upland Game Bird Hunting Stamp is required in order to hunt quail in Texas.
For hunters wanting to take advantage of quail on public lands, including the Matador WMA, an Annual Public Hunting Permit ($48) is required and can be purchased wherever hunting licenses are sold. Please check with the Matador WMA to see when they are open for quail hunting (806)492-3405. Quail season runs Oct. 29–Feb. 26.
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