Thanks to successful reproduction this spring and early summer, bobwhite quail populations appear to be in good shape heading into the 2000-2001 hunting season.
Running Nov. 1 - Jan. 31, quail season is one of the most popular events in the state, drawing hunters from all over the nation to enjoy some of America's finest bird hunting. Oklahoma typically ranks among the top three quail hunting states in terms of both quail populations and hunter success, and Oklahoma promises to be a major destination for bird hunters again this year.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's October Roadside Survey shows a 14 percent increase in the statewide quail numbers over the previous 10 year average and a 98 percent increase over last year. However, it's important to note that the increase is largely due to the western regions of the state, said Mike Sams, upland game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The northwest and southwest regions increased 47 and 68 percent over the last 10 year average, respectively.
Conversely, most of the central and eastern regions were down from previous averages. Overall, the statewide survey of quail observed is similar to those of 1997, which was a good hunting season.
Due to inherent biases with the roadside survey, results are not meant to be predictive. A 98 percent increase over last year's statewide index does not necessarily equate to twice as many birds. However, the survey has been reliable for estimating quail harvest for the upcoming season.
"We've been encouraged by reports from our field personnel," Sams said. "Although hot temperature and drought conditions often spell disaster for quail, this summer's weather seems to have had only modest effects on late season production."
The ratio of chicks to adults encountered during the department's August surveys was up 40 percent over the average, suggesting a substantial first hatch. Dove hunters reported seeing some young broods of bobwhites and habitat conditions appeared good despite the drought.
"Statewide, we're in good shape and if weather conditions cooperate, the 2000-2001 quail season appears promising," said Sams.
And remember, nobody ever has a good season sitting at home. The only way to enjoy it is to get out there and hunt.