Each August I “run my quail trapline” of various quail-watchers across the western half of Texas. In short, the birds are back; better in some areas than others, but generally up over all. Various forecasts ranged from “2” to “10”—such variability stems from two sources (at least). First, according to the more bountiiful rains, e.g., the eastern half of the Panhandle. Second, depending on the forecaster’s tenure, i.e., is his frame of reference the last 10 years, or the past 50?
I remind you that for the most part these are informal accountings from ranchers and quail hunters—their assignment was to rate their prospect on a scale from “1” (pitiful”) to “10” (“outstanding”). This is an abbreviated version here; see my column in the Livestock Weekly over the next three weeks for more comprehensive reports.
Jay Stine is the state leader for Quail Coalition (and QuailMaster 2011); he hails from northern Clay County and sends this report. “I would rate this year a “7” on our ranch. This would be the highest ranking we would give over the past several years, for sure.” Dan Bolin, QM ’09, reports from southern Clay County. “Expect “4-4 ½.” Several broods seen with good numbers Anticipate actually hunting this year.”
Tim Cummings is a QM alumnus (’07 class) and reports from Throckmorton County. “Indicators to date are looking really strong—I would say a solid “7.” We are seeing lots of young broods with sizeable coveys.”
Justin Trail (QM ’05) reports form central Shackelford County. “I anticipate this year a “5” up from a “2.” We raised lots of birds if we can keep them alive for a couple more months!”
Alan Heirman reports from Shackelford County. “I would say a “4”. Saw bumble bee birds two weeks ago as well as fully grown birds. Seems hatching has gone well. More cover than we have had in the past four years.”
Rob Hailey reports from the southwestern part of Shackelford County. “Forecast is about a “4.” Yes, the most quail we have seen in several years. The biggest concern is will the numbers hold up thru the fall? Not hunting numbers, but extremely exciting.”
Marc Bartoskewitz (QM ’05) reports for a large ranch northeast of Abilene. “It is still early in the game, but based on our spring whistle counts, I would say our property will be a “5-6” rating Very optimistic about quail numbers up there. We might even be able to conduct a couple of hunts”.
Russell Ueckert is a DVM from Anson. He reports from the family ranch in Jones County. “We rate the ranch a “4.” There are a few more coveys than in the past 8-10 years but not enough that we would even consider hunting. Covey sizes are very small.”
Butch Nuding reports from northern Stonewall County. “We have been seeing lots of pairs and hearing numerous calls at every stop. Coveys are large (20+). The problem we have is too much cover!! LOL! It is hard to flush the birds. Give us a “7.” We are cautiously optimistic!”
Rick Snipes, RPQRR’s president reports from his ranch in Stonewall County. “Probably a “4 or maybe 5.” We had a good June and July; however, late July and August have brought us back to earth with a resounding thud. At least the dogs will get some decent work, though I don't forecast much shooting.”
Stan Kimbell, QM ’07, reports on their ranch in western Stonewall County. “We are very optimistic! We would expect at least a “6” for this coming bird season. Dogs are dusting off their Lewis Dog Boots in anticipation of lots of outings (and lots of sandburs!).
Dana Wright is a TPW biologist serving several counties around Paducah. “We are in the midst of running our roadside quail counts, I have run 6 of my 20 mile routes in Childress, Collingsworth, Cottle, Foard and Hall Counties. Last year on those same routes (6), I counted a total of 7 birds, this year 100 birds! So, I would definitely say we are on the road to recovery and I am feeling very optimistic. I will rate this year a “5” for most of my area!”
Russell Graves is a wildlife photographer from Childress. He writes “I would give the outlook a six. I live in the country and around my house and property I've seen several big coveys of half- grown birds on a few occasions. There is so much standing cover I cannot help but think I am only seeing the proverbial tip of the iceberg.”
Chip Ruthven reported on the Gene Howe WMA in Hemphill County. Roadside survey run the other day at the Gene Howe resulted recorded 3.7 birds/mile. Not great but much better than recent years and better than we saw last week at the Matador WMA. I would give the forecast up there a solid “5”.
Roy Wilson reports from a ranch on the Fisher-Stonewall County line. “I'm not sure what a "10" is anymore (ha ha)! I would rate the forecast at least at a "5". I thought it might be a "7", but that was before the heat hit in late July and August. Haskell and western Shackelford counties are about the same rating where there has been light or no grazing taking place. I also have a ranch located in Hutchison and Roberts counties. This ranch could easily be a "7" if the rain continues like it has.”
J.C. Brooks reports from northern Collingsworth County. “From what I'm seeing things look better than they have in the last three years. Brood size is above average. We’ve had good rainfall and both the cover and insect situation is good. I would like to say a “6” but it's not October so I'm stick with a “5” and will be disappointed in a “4.”
Jack Terry reports from southwestern Fisher County. “I've never seen so many quail coming to the feeder every morning and evening! There are 5 coveys coming to feed as of this morning - two of those were new today. One had babies just barely old enough to fly, and the other ones were a bit older. So good seeing them make a comeback.”
Paul Melton ranches in Fisher County and serves as the Chair of RPQRR’s Advisory Committee. “I put it at “6.5” on your scale. Good numbers of brood sightings occur across the ranch. I regret that a cessation of rainfall after July 15 continuing thru the present has precluded any further late nesting attempts.”
Randy Bullard oversees hunting activities on a large ranch in Mitchell County. He reports “a “6 or 6 1/2.”
Les Woolsey is the hunting manager for a large ranch in Motley County. We feel that we are around ”4-5” at this time.
James Lewis works for NRCS in Dickens County. He proffers “I’m predicting a “4” “and possibly a “5” for Dickens County depending on the late hatch. Covey size seems to be average (10-14 birds).”
Jerry Bob Daniel reports from Knox County. “It's hard to say what we have at this point because our cover is so heavy but I would rate us at “6.”
Jay O‘Brien reports from Donley County. “I would rate it at “8.” We had huntable numbers last year which was a WOW after the previous two years. I have already seen a 30 bird covey of grown birds and am still seeing quail mating. To be a WOW it will have to compare to the 70's through early 90's and we are not there.”
Buddy Baldridge reports from southwestern Kent County. “I would call our quail forecast a “4-5” here in Kent County. We may even get to shoot a few birds this year.”
I would rate the RPQRR as a “4”; May and June brought such promise, but July and August proved to be a reality check. We’ve had a record nesting season (92 nests to date and nesting success above 60%. I’m impressed with covey size. Manager Lloyd Lacoste counted 41 birds in a “gang brood” last week while shredding a road. As of last week, we still had six radio-marked birds sitting on nests.”
Joe Pat Hemphill reports from northern Coleman County “I'm planning on a “6” and surely hoping for an “8.” Others in the area are making very favorable predictions. My dogs will make the final report.”
Larry Richardsoin reports from Mitchell County. “I give Bobs a 7+ this year. Blues are all over the place. Large coveys with 20 to 30 birds. What a comeback! I give Blues 8+ this year.”
Ron Speed is a neighbor of Richardson and reports from his ranch and his lease (2,200 ac) on a large ranch just west of there. “I would give it a “10” on each ranch. I havent shot a quail in 5 years but that is all ending come this season!
Steve Mayer reports from western Runnels County. “I don’t want to seem too optimistic so I’ll call it a solid “7.” I’m seeing large groups of half-grown birds accompanied by 2 or 3 adult males and I’m also just starting to see coveys of 15-20 birds. Here’s hoping for that 30 covey day when the hunting season rolls around.”
Rick Barnett manages a ranch just across the Colorado River from Mayer. He reports “We think our rating would be a 7+. Covey sizes are 15 bird average. The blues are making a minor rebound! Saw 6 coveys on the ranch and several pairs. Roadside counts confirm the most bobwhites and blues we have seen in 3 years. We are excited!!! Could be some 20 covey days.”
Wade Clifton is excited about the prospects in Concho County. “I really did have a 10 last year after years of forbearance and light grazing, and we had a very good carryover. I think we will do at least an “8” again this year in this part of Concho County.
Gary Bomar reports from southeastern Runnels County. “I’d give it a “5.” Good size coveys, just not that many of them to warrant a higher score. Maybe be a little low ( Hope so ), but a improvement over the past years. Still think of the late 80's of 20-25 coveys each day.”
My hunting buddy Steve Sherrod rates his lease in western Tom Green County as a “6”.
Frank Price calls Sterling and Coke counties in the 3 or 4 range.
Cal Hendrick has a ranch just west of San Angelo. “I have seen lots of bobwhite pairs, and heard lots of calling this summer. However, I have only seen 2 Blue Quail pairs, and no chicks. At best, western Tom Green County (Arden Road) is a 3-4. For at least the 10th year in a row, I will not hunt my wild birds.”
Skipper Duncan ranches in the western Tom Green County also. “All lovers of quail have their fingers crossed. But most all of us can tell horror stories when those promising years turned sour as the fall rolled on. Right now, I’d call it a 5. Just a couple of days ago in western Tom Green County, I spotted a bevy of birds in the road, crept in close to them, counting as best I could. I lost track after 35. I cannot remember such an event.”
Ken Argo reports from Kinney Co. “I’d rate it a “7” after last 3 years of 1-2's.”
Tommy Haegelin reports from Zavala County. “I would say that Zavala County is a “5.”
Ronnie Howard is a long-time (35 years) quail manager in Brooks County. “I am giving it a “7-9”— I have not seen this many quail in 10+ years.”
Mike Petter (QM ’05) reports from several locales in south Texas. “I think this year with some additional rainfall the score on a 10-scale would be about a “7.” I have also worked a good bit over in Refugio, Goliad, and Victoria Counties to see fair bird production with a bit higher rainfall averages than in past years. I would call this area about a “7.5”. On the very southern end of the sand sheet and Wild Horse Desert I would give an “8.”
Matthew Schnup reports from a large ranch covering several counties in south Texas and ratrs it across the board as a “5.”
Irvin Welch reports from Jim Hogg County. “Despite an approximate 4-inch deficit to our average rainfall we are in surprisingly good shape with our population. I'd rate us a 7-7.5 as of today even though we have hit another dry spell.”
I’ll hold off on the blue quail reports til October, so if you wish to share (or revise) one, please drop me an e-mail.