Arkansas Quail Hunting Forecast 2019

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WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

“We didn't have much snow or ice, but it was colder for decently long periods of time and we did have above-normal rainfall for that time of year,” reports Marcus Asher, quail program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “As a result, overall we are seeing a 15% decrease in spring whistle counts statewide. Spring conditions were above average, but mid-June to current has seen normal or below normal rainfall, so later hatches will be fair to good.”
   
Ryan Diener, Arkansas state coordinator for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, adds that although last fall and winter was exceptionally wet in Arkansas, things eventually turned around and dried out, which should help. “The rain started falling last August and continued right on through May of this year,” says Diener. “That surely damped the outlook for winter survival and early nesting in the state. However, since early summer, we have turned the opposite direction and been quite dry, which should translate to good late nesting attempts from the quail that are still out there.”
 

HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS

According to Asher, late hatches will be more successful, but overall broods surveys are still showing below average for the broods observed. However, in areas of managed habitat, things are looking better.  

Even with less than ideal conditions through winter and spring, where landowners and agencies are doing quality habitat work folks are reporting good numbers of sightings of both adult birds and broods. “Even with roadside counts falling some this year across the state, the reports from landowners actively managing habitat and the spring counts from managed public lands showed increases," says Diener. "This goes to show you that making improvements to habitat can really make a difference in helping quail make it through tough weather years, and even increase when numbers take a dip in unmanaged areas.”
 

TOP SPOTS

 According to Asher, the Arkansas River valley, the Quachitas and the Ozarks are the main quail areas. “Poteau/Cold Springs Ranger District, Moro Big Pine WMA and Fort Chaffee WMA are all good bets,” says Asher.

Diener agrees, adding, “The Arkansas River Valley, Ouachitas, and Ozarks are still the best places to find decent numbers of quail. We all know that you can’t find quail just anywhere, but if you look for well-managed areas of National Forest you can still have multiple-covey days in Arkansas.”

Diener says in areas where QF has partnered with the Ozark/St. Francis and Quachita National Forests, birds will be there for the finding.

“Our partners with the Ozark/St. Francis and Ouachita National Forests have several areas that are intensively managed with timber thinning and prescribed fire where quail can still be found in decent numbers,” says Diener. “The best place for quail hunting in Arkansas is still Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center. Co-managed by the Arkansas National Guard and AGFC, you can hunt Fort Chaffee WMA but you will have to attend a hunter information class and get a permit to do so.”

Diener also cautions that hunters shouldn’t count out the Mississippi Alluvial Valley of east Arkansas for quail. 
“There is a good amount of conservation work done there, through both CRP and WRE,” says Diener. “Many of these areas have been planted to trees, but if you find large tracts of trees under 8 years of age you can find good numbers of quail on the dry portions. These areas are often ignored by upland hunters and seen as waterfowl areas only, but I will tell you there are quail in the delta, and more than people think.”
 

INSIDER TIP

“Find areas that were burned or disked last year that have 10-20 percent woody cover throughout the field,” suggests Asher. “Avoid areas that are chock-full of thick grasses. In timbered settings find areas that are burned regularly and have 40% or less canopy cover.”

“Quail hunting in Arkansas is not for the faint of heart, so you will have to put in some miles on your boots to find birds, and a good day is finding three coveys,” says Diener. “But with the support of the hunters and outdoor enthusiasts in Arkansas, and all of the great partners doing quality habitat work in the state, I look forward to the day when we will be able to find 10 coveys on a good walk!”
 

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