The prolonged winter and cool spring of 2012/13 dealt quail a difficult hand as they tried to hang on for more temperate weather. While late, when summer did arrive, nesting quail in many states found renewed, lush forb cover due to the increased precipitation in the spring. While excess precipitation may have hampered early breeders, it was a boon for quail with later hatches as vegetative cover is ideal for brood rearing and a welcomed change from last year’s scorched landscape.
Weather can conspire against quail, but it’s habitat loss that has the long-term and most unmistakable effect on quail populations. More widespread than any weather events in recent years are the results of accelerated upland habitat destruction. Moreover, it’s destruction that’s continuing on a daily basis, as Congress hasn’t yet heeded quail hunters’ – and other sportsmen and women’s – calls to pass a Farm Bill with strong conservation provisions; including a national “Sodsaver” initiative to protect native prairie, and re-link crop insurance payments to conservation compliance.
While it is a long row to hoe in order to get back to where quail once were, quail populations in many states are seeing population increases for the first time in years, albeit if only in localized areas. Additionally, the positive momentum and support continues to grow for quail recovery. At the time of publishing, Quail Forever reached an all-time covey size of more than 12,000 members and 127 chapters located across the country.
It is always important to note that quail are resourceful and will make use of what they can, so there are coveys to be had. In addition, if readers note the number of states included in this report, they will find that there is still huntable populations across multiple species of quail in over half the continental United States, giving impetus for hunters to seek out one of North America’s original upland gamebirds for yet another season.
Remember to always consult official state hunting regulations for rules and season dates, and please carry Quail Forever’s code with you into the field this fall.
Image courtesy Quail Forever