Quail populations recovering, strongest in years
By Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Nov 16, 2023
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Austin, Texas —Texas quail hunting season opened Oct. 28, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) surveys indicate an increased number of bobwhite and scaled quail in the field thanks to a combination of cooler temperatures and spring rainfall during the start of nesting season.

“Statewide, we are still far from where we would like to be and drought conditions this summer caused us to temper expectations,” said John Mclaughlin, TPWD Upland Game Bird Program Leader. “But with that said, quail populations are likely in their strongest position since 2018-19 and primed to grow if winter and spring conditions are favorable again in 2024.”

Despite the summer heat, bobwhite numbers exceeded expectations as birds took advantage of early season nesting opportunities. Thanks to the weather reprieve during that crucial time, TPWD biologists recorded the most promising population survey results of the last five years.

“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.

Good numbers were also observed in the Texas Panhandle.

“While bobwhite populations are still recovering in these regions, and drought has threatened progress in the short-term, there should be good opportunities to put dogs on the ground and enjoy a hunt with family and friends this season,” Added Mclaughlin.

Further west, the Trans-Pecos continues to be the standard bearer for scaled quail populations in Texas. Building off a good nesting season in 2022, birds picked up where they left off and quickly got to work this year.

“Much like with bobwhites, a combination of cooler temperatures and spring rainfall led to reports of early hatches,” added Mclaughlin. “Large broods were seen throughout the spring and into the summer. As habitat conditions improved, birds were able to take advantage and put chicks on the ground. The only speed bump for scaled quail this year was the summer heat, which settled in and enveloped much of the state through July and August.”

While Texas works its way out of the current drought, the winter outlook favors an ongoing El Nino cycle, which should bring average temperatures and above-average rainfall. If conditions hold, both should equate to good hunting conditions in the near-term and favorable conditions for quail populations heading into next spring.

More information about quail populations in Texas can be found on TPWD’s quail webpage. For county specific outlooks, contact a local TPWD wildlife biologist.

Hunters taking advantage of Texas Public Hunting Lands must have the Annual Public Hunting Permit. It is important for public land hunters to consult the Public Hunting Lands Map Booklet to review regulations that may apply to specific areas. The My Texas Hunt Harvest app can be used to complete on-site registration electronically at a public hunting area.