Oregon Quail Hunting Forecast 2019

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Quality habitat, strong quail numbers and ample public lands make Oregon a great destination for quail hunters

By Curtis Niedermier

As an upland hunting destination, Oregon has a ton of opportunity thanks to ample public lands and a variety of species. Quail hunters can chase California (valley) and mountain quail.

“Mountain quail are more abundant in the western coast range and west slope of the Cascades, though transplant efforts to eastern Oregon have been successful in certain areas,” says Mikal Cline, upland game bird coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). The core mountain quail range in Oregon is in the southwest corner of the state, with Roseburg and Medford being good jumping-off points for hunters. Mountain quail prefer steep and brushy hillsides with a healthy riparian component. California quail can be found across the state in lower elevation, early successional habitats, but never too far from water. Eastern Oregon hosts the most abundant California quail populations, with Burns, Ore., arguably the epicenter.”
 

Weather and conditions

Quail numbers look strong in Oregon this year, according to Cline, though winter and spring conditions weren’t ideal for production in some areas.

“An early spring snow event was detrimental to some of our birds, particularly in the northeastern and north-central parts of the state,” she says. “This doesn’t mean hunters won’t find quail in Oregon’s Columbia Basin, however, broods may be on the younger side. Southeastern Oregon populations seem to have fared the best in terms of California quail. Mountain quail are difficult to census, but anecdotal sightings in southwestern Oregon are very encouraging.”

Cline say conditions improved for quail throughout the summer.

“Post-thaw habitat conditions have been excellent for quail with unusual late-summer precipitation keeping forage green and insects abundant, even in the most arid corners of the state,” she says.
 

Habitat, hatch and brood-rearing

Habitat is king for upland birds, which is why quail hunters should enjoy the fruits of productive nesting and brood-rearing seasons.

“Habitat is above average going into fall,” Cline says. “Riparian areas are green and holding water. This was a particularly good year for grasshoppers, with quite a few still on the ground in September."

“Brood counts reflect a patchy distribution of California quail, with declines in the Columbia Basin but high numbers in the southeast routes. Mountain quail are not reliably counted on these routes,” she adds. “Very large broods of California quail have been reported in Klamath, Lake, Harney and Malheur counties.”
 

Top spots

Both California and mountain quail appear to be particularly abundant in Oregon this year. Cline recommends the Medford to Roseburg areas at mid-elevations or Klamath Canyon for mountain quail. Klamath, Lake, Harney and Malheur are top counties for California quail.

“Mountain quail opportunity is patchy in eastern Oregon, with only certain counties open to hunting,” Cline adds. “Hunters should check bag limits and open areas before hunting mountain quail in Oregon."

“Oregon offers abundant public hunting opportunities on federal land (Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service), state wildlife areas and private lands access programs. Hunters can check out access opportunities at oregonhuntingmap.com.”

The state is wrapping up 15 years of mountain quail research and translocation efforts in eastern Oregon. Cline says hunters should report any eastside mountain quail sightings to ODFW to assist with the project.
 

Insider tips

Like any Western state with vast tracts of public land, in Oregon it pays to invest time in pre-hunt research and actual on-the-ground scouting before venturing out. Digital hunting maps such as onX are also basically essential tools. 

Cline offers some more specific tips.

“Mountain quail coveys can be located along roadsides in the mornings and evenings,” she says. “Once you have the covey located, you can hunt them in a traditional sense, and even return to the same covey location year after year. A good bird dog is essential for retrieving mountain quail in thick shrub cover. These birds will become more difficult to locate as the season wears on, so try to get out early."

“California quail are never found too far from water, though this can often mean they are on private agricultural land or, frustratingly, in city limits. Hunt weedy and brushy areas – including fencerows and ditches – in the vicinity of riparian areas, irrigation waterways or wildlife guzzlers.”

It’s worth also mentioning the additional upland opportunities that a visiting hunter could pursue during a stop in Oregon. Matt Hardinge, the Quail Forever regional rep in the state, is a vagabond wing-shooter with a lot of multi-species hunting under his belt. He says thanks to ample precipitation, conditions look good across Oregon for a number of upland opportunities.

“Go to southwest Oregon for mountain quail and pheasant and southeast Oregon for chukar, sage grouse and valley quail,” he says. “Basically eastern Oregon has the vast majority of the public land. Everything west of the Cascades is where all the people are."

“I think the precipitation from the winter looked really good,” Hardinge continues. “Generally, mountain quail are west of the Cascades, and valley quail east of the Cascades.”