ENID, Okla. — This year’s Quail Roadside Surveys across Oklahoma show a statewide population index of observed birds up 23.6% over 2018.
The surveys show some encouraging results with the northeast, southeast and southwest regions showing higher numbers than those in 2018. Slight decreases were observed in the northwestern and central parts of the state, according to Oklahoma Department of Wildlife.
Hunters should find conditions in most areas slightly improved over what they encountered last year, according to ODW.
The actual number of quail on the ground could easily be higher than these surveys indicate, due to poor conditions for observing in most regions. Wet conditions in most regions since May created unseasonably thick vegetation, which makes seeing quail much harder for surveyors.
Tell Judkins, upland game biologist for Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said hunters should find similar conditions as last year in the northwest and west.
“We had a delayed hatch this year, but signs are pointing to multiple later hatches," he said. "The later hatches should provide improved numbers statewide as we head into season.”
During the August and October surveys, observers note the growth status of birds they see. In August, 10.8% of observed quail were half grown, 25.6% were three-fourths grown; and 63.6% were full grown. None of the birds seen during August were one-fourth grown.
In the October survey, 43% were three-fourths grown, and 57% were full grown.
Quail populations are historically cyclical; bird numbers often boom for several years then decline. A more accurate assessment of the health of quail populations is not based on year-to-year comparisons, but rather on longer-term averages that better account for the natural boom-and-bust cycles. There is hope 2019 is the start of another increase in our quail populations, biologists said.
“Ultimately, if we want to see these numbers improve, it's going to take two things: great weather and suitable habitat," Judkins said. "While we can't control the weather, properties around the state can be improved for quail. Then, when we have great weather, the quail will also have a great year."
Biologists will get a better idea of the real population numbers after hearing reports from quail hunters during this hunting season. And despite what the annual surveys indicate, hunters are urged to get out in the fields and learn for themselves how the quail hunting stacks up this year.
Quail hunting season in Oklahoma runs from Nov. 9 to Feb. 15, 2020.
This year, OWD is collecting quail wings from selected public hunting areas to better evaluate the state’s quail population. If you harvest a quail at a wildlife management area where wing collection boxes are located, take the time to place one wing (left wing preferred, but whichever is less damaged) from each quail in a collection box. Wildlife management areas with wing collection boxes are: Beaver River, Cooper, Cross Timbers, Drummond Flats, Fort Supply, Kaw, Packsaddle, Pushmataha and Sandy Sanders.
Hunters also are asked to complete a short survey about their donated wings. Biologists will study the donated wings to further understand the status of quail in each area.