Survey shows quail population up in most of Texas ahead of hunting season opening

Bobwhite quail are seen in this file photo at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch.
Bobwhite quail are seen in this file photo at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch.

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) surveys shows quail populations are on the rise, just in time for the beginning of hunting season.

The quail hunting season began Oct. 28.

The data indicates an increase in the bobwhite and scaled quail populations throughout Texas. TPWD contributes the increase to the combination of cooler temperatures and spring rainfall during the start of nesting season.

According to John Mclaughlin, TPWD Upland Game Bird Program Leader, although population numbers were affected by heat and drought conditions in the summer, “quail populations are likely in their strongest position since 2018 and 2019.”

TPWD biologists have recorded promising population results in South Texas, Gulf Coast Prairies and Texas Panhandle regions. The Trans-Pecos region continues to be the standard bearer for scaled quail populations in the state.

“Birds were abundant and widely distributed in South Texas and the Gulf Coast Prairies, indicating that the wet-dry cycle we experienced this year was beneficial along the coast and further inland,” said Mclaughlin.

Abilene wildlife biologist Annaliese Scoggin said that quail numbers in the Abilene area have increased but are still below average.

“The quail numbers have increased since last year but remain well below the 15-year average and near the all-time low. While this year will not be one for the record books, the long-range forecast for a wet winter may bode well for a better nesting season next year,” Scoggin said.

Rainfall is the driving factor behind year-to-year changes within quail populations in this part of the state. Good rainfall amounts throughout the spring and summer result in increased numbers due to high nesting success.

The upcoming winter favors an ongoing El Nino cycle which will bring average temperatures and above-average rainfall. Mclaughlin said quail populations are set to grow if winter and spring conditions are promising like in early 2023.

As for landowners interested in managing for quail, Scoggin suggests looking at the amount and diversity of brush on their property. In recent years, woody plants like mesquite and cedars have taken over the rangeland. This infestation works against the success of bobwhite quail populations that favor grassland habitats.

Those looking to participate in quail season should be aware of the hunting regulations and permits needed within their county. Reference the quail season and regulations website for more information.

This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Outlook good for most of Texas quail hunting season