After back-to-back years of ideal weather conditions—namely wet, cool summers—bobwhite quail populations are surging in Texas and Oklahoma. In Oklahoma, especially, hunters are reporting the best season in years.
"It's 100 percent better this year," said hunter Lee Francis, president of Tulsa's Tall Grass Heritage Chapter of Quail Forever. "It's like a new day."
According to a media release by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife, hunters in one region are reporting an average of four coveys per day, each averaging 13.5 quail. A far cry from the glory days of southern quail hunting? Sure, but those are nonetheless some very encouraging numbers.
"I have seen five to 10 times the number of birds that we've had in previous years," said Oklahoman Bobby Bell. "I've seen eight to 10 coveys in areas where there was just one last year. Covey sizes are really good compared to last year, and there are plenty of young birds. It looks like they hatched out right up into September."
Texas quail are likewise faring well.
"Bird numbers are the best they've been since 2010," Chip Ruthven, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist, told Lone Star Outdoor News. "Hunter success is about double what it was last year, but that still only gets it to fair based on historical averages."
Texas quail hunters should fare even better once things dry out from the recent, heavy rains.
Does this mark a turning point for Mr. Bob? Perhaps not just yet, as habitat concerns continue to limit populations. However, the birds have displayed amazing resiliency in responding to the recent favorable nesting conditions. And hunter-conservationists are at the ready to assist in bobwhite recovery. Three newly minted Quail Forever chapters have sprung up in north Texas alone. So, while the path to 1990's numbers (when Oklahoma had 7 million quail) remains long, optimism is swelling with every covey rise.