Big quail season here is anticipated

STILLWATER  – The nearly 21,000 quail hunters in Oklahoma are geared up for what could be the best season in more than a decade.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation conducted its annual roadside surveys in August and October, which indicate the statewide quail population index is up 59.5 percent from last year.

Even more encouraging is the quail population index is up 353.9 percent from the 2013 survey results.

“The numbers we have this fall are as high as Oklahoma has seen for at least 10 years,” said Dwayne Elmore, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist. “Quail density is greater than a bird per two acres in many areas this year. This will provide excellent hunting across much of the state where adequate habitat exists.”

Birds will primarily be found in or near shrub cover. Most of the birds will be juvenile that were produced this season.

“Hunters should expect hunting to be much better than what has been experienced from 2006-2013,” Elmore said.  “Reports of 10-20 coveys encountered per day were common last year, and encounters this year should be comparable or better.”

Quail in the southern Great Plains are boom and bust and populations track weather patterns.

The cooler and wetter summers of 2014 and 2015 were favorable for quail production.

The three-month season opened Nov. 14 in Oklahoma. .

“Hunters should carefully monitor their hunting dogs for signs of heat exhaustion,” said Elmore. “This, combined with abundant quail and out of shape dogs, is a bad combination, as the dogs will be stressed. Carry plenty of water and rest your dogs frequently.”