Bobwhite numbers are booming in Oklahoma this year, according to results from annual roadside surveys. The population is 38 percent larger than last year.
The number of quail seen per survey route statewide was 8.17 birds per 20-mile route, up from 5.9 bird per route last year and well above the long-term average of 5.65 birds per route (shown by the light gray bar). Overall, quail numbers have increased the past four years in Oklahoma.
The table is set for quail hunters to enjoy some success this season, thanks to another mild winter in 2015-16 and an average Oklahoma summer. Roadside surveys conducted in August and October each year by the Wildlife Department show the state’s quail population has increased for the fourth consecutive breeding season.
The favorable conditions have allowed quail populations, particularly in the western half of Oklahoma, to reach levels not seen in the past decade, said Derek Wiley, upland game biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The statewide quail population is up 38.48 percent over 2015, and it’s up 44.6 percent over the historical average.
“Overall the season outlook is very positive for Oklahoma, particularly in the northwest and southwest regions of the state,” Wiley said. “The other four regions in our survey do not hold the densities of quail that the two western regions do. However, where quail habitat has been managed for, there will be pockets of huntable populations.”
Oklahoma’s quail hunting season will open Nov. 12 and run through Feb. 15, 2017.
Alan Peoples, chief of the Wildlife Division, said this year’s hunting prospects are enough to whet his appetite for the tasty gamebird. “My all-time favorite meal is fried quail with biscuits and gravy!”
He reminded hunters that some good hunting will occur on public lands in the western half of Oklahoma. “There are many thousands of acres on public wildlife management areas that are specifically managed for bobwhite quail,” Peoples said. WMAs that should produce good numbers of quail include Packsaddle, Black Kettle, Sandy Sanders, Beaver River, Cooper, Ellis County and Fort Supply.
Peoples also suggested that hunters remember the kids and the dogs. “This would be a good year to introduce young people to quail hunting,” he said. “And remember that good bird years make good bird dogs.”
Wiley said five of the six regions in the Department’s quail survey had higher numbers than last year. The only decline was in the north-central region, where the quail population declined 21 percent from last year, but it was still at the 27-year average number of birds logged for that region.
Also notable from this year’s August survey was the number of scaled, or blue, quail observed in western Oklahoma. At about three birds per route, it was the highest population for blues since 1993.
To read the 2016 Quail Season Outlook full summary, go to: wildlifedepartment.com/hunting/species/quail/quail-roadside-survey.
“There will be plenty of opportunity to harvest quail all across Oklahoma this hunting season,” Wiley said. Hunters will find wing boxes at Kaw, Packsaddle, Beaver River, Pushmataha and Cross Timbers WMAs. He urged all bird hunters at those areas to participate in the Department’s research efforts by filling out data sheets and donating wings.
The Wildlife Department has conducted annual roadside surveys since 1990 to index the quail population across Oklahoma. A total of 84 survey routes, each 20 miles long, are driven in every county except Oklahoma and Tulsa. Observers record the number of quail seen along the route to provide an index of quail abundance.