Hunting & Heritage  |  10/03/2023

2023 Quail Hunting Forecast


Conditions are Good: Make This Your Best Quail Season Yet

I lucked into my first good quail spot while spring turkey hunting. It was a relatively unremarkable stretch of BLM in Northern California, not a gobbler in sight. But the manzanitas were brimming with valley quail.

My friend and I returned for them that fall. There were hundreds — but they put us through the ringer. After hours chasing them over miles of rugged country, we bagged one each; It was one of the most challenging — and fun — days of hunting I can recall.

This is my first time editing the 27-state hunting forecast for Quail Forever members. It made me realize just how much quail country is out there I’ve yet to explore — and I wish I could drop everything to do it.

This year, conditions vary widely from state to state — and between regions within each state. That said, recent moisture throughout much of quail country largely portends an above-average year wherever there’s habitat. Whether you’re planning a multi-state adventure or are just curious about how the coveys near you are doing, this forecast has all the info you need to find success. The rest is up to you.

So, get ready to check your quail spots — or better yet, find a new one. Because there’s a covey out there somewhere, holding tight in cover just long enough for you to turn your back on them before blitzing the horizon.

Sage Marshall — Quail Hunting Forecast 2023 Editor

Sage Marshall served as editor for QF’S 2023 Quail Hunting Forecast. Sage is a freelance writer and editor who recently finished a stint as Field & Stream’s News Editor. He is an avid bird hunter who enjoys chasing quail and grouse through rugged terrain just as much as sitting in a marsh calling ducks. He currently lives in Western Montana, where he is plotting to get his first bird dog.

Click on a state to jump to its report

State-by-State Reports - Click to Expand

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Alabama

Bobwhite hunting should be good in the Heart of Dixie’s prime habitat pockets

By Oliver Hartner

Alabama quail hunters can expect average to above-average hunting this fall. A mild winter followed by optimal spring and summer weather conditions favored the quail this in the Yellowhammer State.

Recent Weather

“Winter weather conditions across Alabama were relatively mild and should not have adversely affected quail populations,” says Steven Mitchell, Upland Bird Coordinator for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Spring and summer weather have been favorable for quail production. There has been adequate rainfall all summer resulting in good vegetation growth, insect, and seed production.”

He adds that flooding on low-lying properties in different parts of the state was not extended and should not have had negative effects on overall nesting or brooding.

Habitat Conditions and Brood Counts

According to Mitchell, overall “Alabama’s landscape, like most of the southeast, is lacking quality upland habitat.” However, on properties scattered across the state that contain moderate to good upland quail habitat, the outlook is positive. “Given the rainfall and growing conditions over the summer, properties that focus their management activity on increasing or maintaining quality habitat should be in good shape this fall,” Mitchell believes.

Anecdotal evidence regarding the 2022 hatch ranges widely. “Many private property managers that implement intensive year-round quail habitat management have reported an increase in observational brood sightings compared to last year,” says Mitchell. “Other private and public lands have reported around the same or fewer observations than last year. With spring and summer weather conditions favorable overall for vegetation growth and quail reproduction, we are hopeful production has been good across the state and translates into a good quail hunting season.”

The Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries in Alabama conducts fall covey call and spring male whistling surveys on several of their Wildlife Management Area (WMA) properties throughout the state. Results from these surveys also varied widely.

Hunt Here

The best quail hunting is undoubtedly found on intensively managed private properties. That said, quail also can be found on several public Alabama WMAs. “The 2022 spring surveys indicated the WMAs with the higher counts of whistling males were Barbour WMA in the southeast region, Geneva State Forest and Perdido WMAs in the southern area, Choccolocco WMA in the east, and Freedom Hills in the northwest,” says Mitchell.

Additionally, public land hunters could try Boggy Hollow, Blue Spring, Hollins, and Oakmulgee WMAs. It’s also possible to get into some coveys in the Talladega National Forest.

Insider Tips

Whether hunting private or public land for wild bobwhite quail, plan to put in some legwork. “Look for open or thinned timber stands with native grasses and scattered thickets,” says Mitchell. “Also, work your dogs along field edges, young clearcuts, and early-stage pine plantings. Identify and hunt around quail foods in those areas which may include beggarweed, partridge pea, ragweed, lespedezas, pine seeds, and even acorns.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Arizona

Improved Conditions Portend Good Hunting in the Grand Canyon State

By Brad Trumbo

Arizona, one of the most well-known late-season quail states, has recently suffered a spate of dry years and subpar broods. Fortunately, 2023 is shaping up to buck that trend. Hunters can expect a good year with quail found across most of the state’s 114,000 square miles.

Recent Weather

Southern Arizona continues to recover from severe drought conditions experienced in 2020 and 2021. Desert areas experienced normal rainfall patterns from January to May this year, but winter precipitation was below average for higher elevations and the far southeast corner of the state. In contrast, winter precipitation was solid in northern Arizona — an area that likely saw good quail production. Keep in mind, late summer “monsoon season” moisture was weak across the state this year — and this may have impacted Mearns quail brood rearing success.

Habitat, Broods, and Counts

Arizona Game and Fish’s 2023 Gambel’s quail call counts showed recent improvement. This year’s number sits just below the long-term average in southern Arizona. “Scaled and Gambel’s numbers are looking better than the past few years,” says Zach May of Southern Arizona Quail Forever. Overall, the species’ nesting and brood-rearing conditions were good across the state. In 2022, the number of harvested juvenile Gambel’s quail in 2022 was “well over the 10-year average of 46 percent and the long-term average of 49 percent, indicating harvest may improve this fall.”

Meanwhile, Mearns quail numbers are expected to be slightly below average due to the weak monsoon precipitation in southern Arizona — but it’s hard to say definitively. Mearns quail hatch in August and September, and the chicks rely on monsoon rain to provide food. “Mearns quail are more difficult to predict. These birds are hard to count in the spring as they don’t respond well to calls, and their reliance on the monsoon season rains for brood success means their populations are best known around the time the hunting season begins in December, “ explains May.

Hunt Here

Gambel’s quail are widespread in the open desert country, semidesert grassland and chaparral, and the edges of pinyon-juniper woodland and pine forest. They can be found in approximately two-thirds of the state — west of Highway 89 and south of Interstate 40.

Scaled quail are found mainly in the semi-arid grasslands and open plains and foothills of the Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion, Cochise and Graham Counties, and in southeastern Arizona.

Mearns’ quail are traditionally found in southern Pima and Cochise Counties and rely heavily on oak-grassland or pine-grassland savannahs. The towns Patagonia and Sonita along the Mexico border are near good quail country. Mearns are seldom found in areas without good grass cover and vertical terrain.

Quail hunting is popular throughout the Grand Canyon State. To avoid highly pressured areas, consider exploring the “sky islands” in southeastern Arizona, where all three species are found.

Insider Tips

Scaled and Gambel’s quail are big runners. Hunters without a pointing dog can have success hunting these two, but Mearns quail are best known for their tendency to hold extremely well. A good pointing dog is necessary to consistently harvest Mearns.

It’s important to remember that cacti and rattlesnakes can prove problematic for hunting dogs. Keep pliers and a comb handy to pull needles from their skin and fur. Additionally, rocky soil can wear on a dog’s paw pads. Hunting after New Year’s Day can help you avoid snakes. Be sure to run your dog with boots to save their feet and extend the hunt. Also, keep in mind that javelina roam southern Arizona and can be aggressive when threatened. Keep an eye out for these small pig-like critters and rein in the dog if you encounter them.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Arkansas

It’s another banner year for bobwhites in the Land of Opportunity

By Oliver Hartner

Though successional habitat continues to challenge quail populations in Arkansas and across the Southeast, areas with the best land management practices have covey counts comparable to or better than 20 years ago. This year’s data in Arkansas showed a slight year-over-year decline in reproduction, but quail numbers are still the best they’ve been in the state for at least a generation. The successes experienced here emphasize the importance of maintaining and recovering viable quail habitats.

Weather Conditions

Winter did not seem to present a problem for quail according to Clint Johnson, Quail Program Coordinator for the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission. “Quail populations can fluctuate wildly from year to year, mostly dependent on seasonal weather conditions,” says Johnson. “Fortunately, the data corroborated my gut feeling that we had a mild winter. The number of adult quail seen in Arkansas has been rising steadily since 2015, with only a slight downtick in 2021 after the hardest winter in my memory. Time will tell what this winter holds for adult quail survival, but we have done our part with as much habitat as we can provide.”

June and July saw rainfall totals that were close to 20-year averages for Arkansas, which also bodes well for quail on properly managed properties.

Habitat, Broods, and Counts

Efforts to cultivate and improve habitat continue to pay dividends for bobwhite populations in Arkansas. “In 2023, we recorded 5.3 adult quail per observer in our incidental summer breeding season data, which is by far the highest level of adults we have seen since 2005 when this data gathering method began,” says Johnson. “It does appear that reproduction slowed down a bit in 2023, but production in 2023 is still higher than the 20-year and 10-year averages and right in line with the 5-year average. So, this was by no means a bad year for reproduction. After a banner year of production in 2022 with temperate weather, we are also seeing good carryover from last season.”

Arkansas conducts intensive data collection throughout the year on managed public properties, and Johnson suspects most are getting close to or are at carrying capacity. Fortunately, more projects will be on the way soon. “We are hard at work with habitat management and restoration on both public and private lands, so we hope to make homes for all these birds being produced,” says Johnson.

Top Spots

“With Arkansas being a primarily forested state, we will never compete with the prairie states for out-of-state hunters,” says Johnson. “But we do have adequate public lands for people to enjoy following a bird dog and pointing a few coveys, as long as you are happy with a couple of birds in the bag, rather than a tailgate full.”

The best quail populations are on lands managed by the state along with federal partners, such as Fort Chaffee. Restored glades and woodlands on National Forest lands also hold coveys. “If you look around at National Forest ownership on aerial maps, you can easily pick out forests open enough for quail,” explains Johnson. “Anywhere that has less than 50 percent tree coverage has a good chance of supporting birds.”

“Some of our leased lands for Wildlife Management Areas like Big Timber, Lake Greeson, Casey Jones, Cedar Mountain, Cherokee, and Jim Kress also support healthy quail populations in clear cuts,” he adds. “These lands are owned by industrial timber companies and leased by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for public access, which only requires a $40 permit for the year.”

Insider Tip

“Invest some time on a computer looking at aerial maps to see what areas need to be investigated on the ground,” suggests Johnson. “After that, be sure to invest in some briar chaps and good boots, as quail tend to occupy some of the rougher areas.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: California

Weather had a mixed impact across the state, but overall there are quail to be had

By Brad Trumbo

California can more than hold its own against other well-known states as an upland bird hunting destination. At nearly 164,000 square miles, the state offers brushy mountainsides, desert coulees, and valley farmland, each attracting one or more of California’s three native quail species; California, mountain, and Gambel’s quail. At least one of these three species can be found in every county of the state.

Weather and Conditions

“Throughout much of 2021-2022, California experienced dry conditions that continued into the fall and early winter of 2022. Beginning in December 2022 and extending through March 2023, most of the state received more snow and rain and experienced colder temperatures than the 30-year average,” reported Dr. Katherine Miller with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

In contrast, though, “the desert [where Gambel’s quail are found] received normal or lower-than-normal precipitation,” Miller said.

Summer weather was average, but smaller weather systems affected local populations in central California. “Critical rains prompted vegetative growth and insect populations, so overall we anticipate a good year for quail hunters,” Miller said. Additionally, the fire season was not as severe as in recent years.

Habitat, Broods, and Counts

Spring weather systems impacted the first valley quail clutch in central California. “The Temblor and Caliente Mountains were hit hardest,” said Ben Lewis with the CDFW. That said, Lewis and Miller reported that 2023 is shaping up to be a good year overall for California or “valley” quail elsewhere.

Mountain quail population trends have been declining since 2017, but 2023 is looking to be a better year, Miller reported. The heavy snowfall provided good rearing conditions. Hatches were slightly later than the valley quail and spring weather systems did not impact the mountain quail habitats.

Gambel’s quail populations continue to decline and were the most negatively impacted by weather systems this year, but there are still birds to be found in the southeastern desert portion of the state.

Top Spots

Valley and Mountain quail are widespread across California. Valley quail populations are strong in the chaparral shrublands along the coast. Fresno, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Tehama, and eastern Kern Counties are prime areas.

Mountain quail can be found in brushy mountain cover along the Sierra Nevada and coastal ranges where dense brush covers about half of the area. Mariposa, Tuolumne, and the edge of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties are prime locations. If their namesake is any indication, they prefer steep terrain and a mix of pinon-juniper, oak woodland, chaparral, and coastal forest.

If Gambel’s quail are on your list, try the eastern portions of San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial Counties, as well as the Mojave Desert. Look for shrubby areas with mesquite, saltbush, tamarisk, and prickly pear, particularly near water.

Insider Tips

Mountain quail are often found in extremely thick cover. A dog with good retrieving capability is recommended for bird recovery in such challenging habitat. Look for berry-producing shrubs like poison oak and manzanita. Expect to hike in unforgiving terrain. Steep, brushy, prickly, and coarse or rocky soils are common conditions. A good pair of boots for yourself and your dog are recommended.

It is unlawful to camp or “occupy” lands within 200 feet of a “wildlife watering place” and up to one-quarter of a mile for a few specific areas. Avoid hunting directly over water sources and move past them within 30 minutes to allow wildlife continued safe access. Remember that California requires hunters to use lead-free ammunition.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Colorado

Birds are struggling in the northeast — but it’s a different story in the Centennial State’s southeast corner

By Andy Fondrick

While parts of quail country in Colorado continue to try and rebound from the drought conditions in 2022, other sections of the state should be in much better shape. With a little research into regional habitat conditions and attention to weather conditions over the past year, quail hunters should be able to find success this fall.

Weather and Conditions

Weather conditions and winter survival rates varied significantly depending on the part of the state. “Northeast Colorado experienced severe winter weather conditions that likely induced high mortality rates on bobwhites,” says Ed Gorman, Small Game Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). “We had close to 90 days of crusted snow cover in this part of the state.”

Spring didn’t provide much reprieve to the upland birds there, either. “Quail were also impacted by severe drought in the spring and summer of 2022,” says Gorman. “Bobwhite populations were already suppressed prior to severe winter conditions. Adding in the likely winter mortality rates resulting from crusted snow cover, bobwhite populations here are likely to be very low in 2023.”

Luckily, there is some good news for quail hunters in Colorado willing to try the southeast part of the state. “This area missed most of the drought conditions that fell farther north for the last couple of years, as well as the devastating winter in 2022-2023,” says Gorman. “Coming out of winter, bobwhite populations in southeastern Colorado were in good shape.”

Habitat, Broods, and Counts

Even though there were some tough stretches for quail over the past year, nesting and brood-rearing conditions provided some hope. “Spring and summer conditions have been good for the most part,” says Gorman. “However, in the northeast section of Colorado, densities of breeding quail were very light, so it’s likely that we won't see a quick recovery there.”

Meanwhile, CPW expects southeast Colorado bobwhites to see an increase this year. For scaled quail, there may be a slight bump in population as well.  “Habitat looks pretty good across the eastern plains of Colorado,” says Gorman. “Most areas had significant rainfall beginning in May of 2023.”

Top Spots

This fall, quail hunters should focus on the far southeast part of the Centennial State. “This population was not impacted by severe winter weather, and there is plenty of access through CPW's Walk-In Access program and the Comanche National Grassland,” explains Gorman.

In addition to bobwhites, hunters can chase scaled quail here. “Scaled quail have a very wide distribution in southeastern Colorado but often at very low densities,” says Gorman. “Local weather conditions that benefit scaled quail are much more difficult to identify. My best advice for scaled quail is to conduct thorough scouting and habitat identification missions to find pockets of higher densities.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Florida

The Sunshine State’s Quail are Holding Strong

By Oliver Hartner

Florida quail hunters should continue to see healthy bobwhite quail populations in places where proper land management practices are being implemented. Though Hurricane Idalia may have affected quail in parts of the state, the population remains stable overall.


Last winter and spring weather conditions were optimal for bobs. “Due to favorable winter weather conditions, Florida experienced excellent over-winter survival across the state which, in turn, set the stage for a strong start to the nesting season,” says Greg Hagan, Quail Biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “Drought conditions affected limited portions of the state in late spring, but beneficial rains finally arrived throughout the majority of the nesting season resulting in successful nesting and brood rearing.”

Since then, Hurricane Idalia might have hurt some bobwhite populations, but responsible land management practices on both private and public lands allowed most quail populations to — literally —weather the storm.

Field Reports

“On areas implementing favorable bobwhite management, the habitat is in excellent condition,” says Hagan. “If those conditions hold, populations should be well positioned heading into the fall.”

He also notes that hunters should be aware of Hurricane Idalia’s impact on recruitment in some areas. “Unfortunately, any late-season nesting and brood production in the northcentral region of the state might see some adverse effects on their populations.”

Go Public

Many Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) located in the panhandle, central, and southwest regions support quality bobwhite populations, according to Hagan.


“If you’re planning to hunt on one of Florida’s many public WMAs, please consult the WMA brochure specific to the area you plan to hunt before heading afield as many areas have differing season dates, rules, and regulations,” advises Hagan. “Identifying and concentrating your efforts on recently-burned areas or habitats that have had other management activities such as timber harvest or roller chopping usually provides the highest success.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Georgia

It’s largely business as usual in the Peach State

By Oliver Hartner

Georgia experienced a colder-than-usual winter this year, but it doesn’t appear to have hurt the state’s bobwhite population. Though Hurricane Idalia affected some parts of the state, the damage was mostly localized. Overall, Georgia quail hunters should expect an average 2023 fall season.


“We had some unusually cold days in December and January, but it didn’t appear to have affected overall survival,” says Dallas Ingram, State Quail Coordinator for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Most areas had good populations coming into breeding season.”

Dry conditions and extreme weather events over the summer months might have impacted some parts of the state. “There were periods of drought, but the brood cover didn’t appear to suffer badly, and we were receiving good reports of nesting and broods by midsummer,” says Ingram. “We saw very hot conditions during August, and the impact on those broods is still unclear.  Several counties in South and East Georgia received heavy damage from Hurricane Idalia with some areas seeing over seven inches of rainfall in a rather short timeframe.  So, small broods and nests could be affected in those areas.”

Field Reports

In parts of Georgia where habitat management projects and initiatives are taking place, the outlook remains positive going into the 2023 fall season. “Even with periods of drought, most areas appear to have good food and cover going into fall,” says Ingram. “Areas with good rainfall have been reporting large broods through the summer.”

Fall covey counts will begin in mid-October and the data will be available on the Georgia DNR website.

Look Here

“The best wild bird hunting runs in a band across the coastal plain from Burke County down to Seminole County,” says Ingram. “Public land is fairly limited in Georgia, and most of the best quail areas are quota permit only. You can apply for the drawing for this season’s quota hunts here. The deadline is October 15.”


“Do your homework and be flexible,” Ingram says. “Many of the wildlife management areas in Georgia are relatively small and can get a lot of pressure. Many non-quota areas are only open on select days. So, be sure to check the regulations for the area you are hunting before arriving, and complete a harvest record even if you don’t find any quail.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Idaho

The Gem State could live up to its nickname this year, with experts predicting plentiful quail throughout their range

By Jack Hutson

Northern Idaho

North Idaho experienced good winter conditions with ample snowpack and moderate temps. Going into the spring, the rains cooperated during the all-important weeks of nesting and early brood-rearing. Everything looks good for valley quail going into fall.

“From what I’ve observed, it would seem that the good spring and summer conditions provided excellent brood survival this year,” says Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) regional biologist Iver Hull. “Everything leads me to believe that the quail hunting outlook for the Clearwater region will be average to above average this season.”

South-West Idaho

Southwest Idaho mirrored the panhandle’s moderate winter conditions, which bodes well for quail in the area. “Quail appear to have overwintered well in the region and, given the ideal summer habitat conditions, have responded with successful first and second broods,” says IDGF Regional Wildlife Manager Ryan Walrath, who’s based out of Treasure Valley. “In the lower elevations, quail production was good to excellent this year.”

South-Central Idaho

Valley quail aren’t supposed to do well at altitudes above 3500 feet — but don’t tell that to the quail in this part of Idaho. “They haven’t read the literature,” jokes Nick Gailey, Co-Chair of Habitat Projects for the Upper Snake River Chapter of PF. Known as the Magic Valley, the region’s unique environmental conditions can produce quail above their normal elevational constraints.

The past winter hit parts of south-central and eastern Idaho with record snowfall, but it may not have greatly impacted the birds. “After winter finally ended, we had an early warm up with good moisture that produced an excellent growth of vegetation. So, the nesting conditions were pretty good,” says Gailey. “Though I expected bird populations to be severely affected, much to my surprise, the opposite seems to be the case. Our valley quail numbers have exploded!”

What to Look For

Idaho is home to valley, Bobwhite, Gambel’s, and mountain quail. Of those, mountain quail are the only native quail species. Gambel’s remain closed to hunting state-wide. Bobwhite quail can be found in small pockets within the southwest portions of the state. But by far the most populous and widespread species, valley quail can be found along the state’s western border from the panhandle to its southwest and south-central regions.

In the north, quail can be found along grain fields bordered by pine trees or cut by draws filled with elderberries or blackberries. To the south, quail are found in thick tangles of tall brush, especially near stream beds and irrigated valley bottoms. Look for draws filled with tall sage or green vegetation along irrigated fields of agriculture.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Illinois

Where habitat remains, birds can be found

By Casey Sill

Let’s be honest, Illinois is not a destination for most traveling quail hunters today. Like much of the bobwhite’s historic range, a once robust population and hunting culture has dwindled here as habitat has disappeared. But wild quail can still be found, and as habitat improvement continues to progress in the Land of Lincoln, the future for Illinois bobwhites is looking a little brighter.

Weather, Nesting, and Brood Rearing

Winter conditions in southern Illinois were pretty much par for the course. There were a few cold snaps with some isolated rain and snow, but nothing that would significantly impact quail survival. Conditions remained on the dry side as winter gave way to spring, which may have hurt nesting.

“We had a dry summer with drought conditions in early summer,” says Caleb Crawford, a Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Farm Bill biologist based in Mount Vernon. “The early drought conditions may have had impacts on nesting and brood rearing, but as we moved further into summer, southern Illinois saw an increase in rainfall, which hopefully increased conditions for later broods.”

The rains that did hit were spotty, which led to an unusual summer, according to Katie Kauzlarich-Stockman, Pheasants Forever’s Illinois state coordinator. “It was odd this year,” she says. “One county would be getting dumped on with six inches of rain, and the county directly south of it would be in drought warnings.”

Overall, the diagnoses seem mixed heading into the fall, varying largely on the part of the state. Conditions have not been ideal, but the summer rains did turn things around in places. “From what I have seen in the field and heard from coworkers and landowners, it seems like we had a decent hatch this year,” says Crawford. “I personally have seen several broods, and I know of other people seeing broods regularly.”

Long-Term Habitat Conditions

It’s no surprise habitat conditions have been trending downward in recent years — and with the habitat go the quail. Illinois had over 80,000 quail hunters annually as recently as the 90s. That number plummeted to less than 5,000 by 2020, making the state a perfect example of the larger, nationwide trends. But it’s not all doom and gloom looking forward.

“With the new Quail State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) initiative, there will be an increase in the amount of CRP acres that will be established or converted to warm season grass practices across Illinois,” Crawford says. “This will help increase the acres of habitat on the landscape in a big way.”

Created in 2007, SAFE allows states to design CRP practices that maintain the program’s hallmark soil and water conservation benefits while targeting specific wildlife species. Because of continued, and in some cases, rapid habitat loss, many states—including Illinois—have tailored their programs to bobwhite quail specifically.

Where to Look

Quail hunters should focus their time and efforts on the intersection between weedy field edges, shrubby habitat, and some form of grain (corn stubble, sorghum, etc.). Shrubby cover includes blackberry, dogwood, giant ragweed, sumac, and loose brush piles. It functions as an escape cover or covey headquarters and is a necessity for finding quail. Studies have shown birds seldom stray more than 30 to 50 yards from some form of shrubby cover.

The Illinois quail season opens on November 4, 2023, in the northern zone and runs through January 8, 2024. The southern zone also opens on November 4, and runs through January 15, 2024.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Indiana

Hunting could prove fruitful in the southwest portion of the Hoosier State

By Andy Fondrick

While there is a lack of concrete data on coveys in Indiana heading into the 2023 season, there are at least some anecdotal signs quail are more abundant than in recent years.

“You aren’t going to find birds everywhere, but if you know where to look there are birds to be had,” says John Kinney, Indiana State Coordinator with Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “It’s nothing like it was 30 years ago, but I think there has been a small uptick in quail, and pheasants should be about the same as last year. Our winter was pretty mild, so that should be good for bird numbers.”

Try Here

According to Kinney, there are a few pockets of quail country to investigate this fall. “In general, I feel quail numbers might be better in some areas where quality habitat exists, mainly southwest Indiana moving north into northwest Indiana, with remnant populations sort of holding their own elsewhere across the state.”

If You Go

Quail hunting in Indiana is divided into two zones — north and south. Interstate 74 is the dividing line. The North Zone season runs from November 1 to December 15, with a bag limit of four birds. The South Zone season is from November 1 to January 10, with a bag limit of eight birds.

Be sure to check the Indiana DNR website for more information on regulations and season requirements.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Iowa

Bobwhite hunting should be solid, despite lackluster survey results

By Anthony Hauck

Iowa’s statewide bobwhite quail index remained steady from last year. There were 0.8 quail per route in 2023 compared to 0.9 quail per route in 2022. The Bobwhites were surveyed along with pheasants and grey partridge during the Iowa Department of Natural Resources August Roadside Survey. Each route accounts for 30 miles of Iowa countryside. Looking at longer-term trends, this year’s statewide quail index is 23 percent below the 10-year average and 42 percent below the long-term mean.

However, with pheasant and partridge counts on the upswing, Todd Bogenschutz, Upland Wildlife Research Biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says he’s surprised the quail population didn’t rise, too. “Why counts were not better is a mystery, as anecdotal reports across the region report good numbers of whistling males this spring,” Bogenschutz says.

Given last year’s mild winter and lack of snowfall, Bogenschutz expected an increase across Iowa’s quail belt in 2023. Even if the numbers don’t bear it, he thinks the survey may be underrepresenting the number of bobs out there. “Quail hunting was pretty good last year and should be good this year as well.

Jake Holt, a Resource Conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, concurs. Hold covers the southwesternmost four counties in Iowa, where the summer survey indicated a year-over-year decrease of over 50 percent.

“I don’t think our quail surveys mirror what’s actually here,” he says. “I think we’re maintaining the population at least.” He pins the potential undercount on big late spring and early summer rains that may have hampered the ability of bobwhites to pull off a first successful nest. But bobwhites are persistent nesters, and he saw many adult pairs running around later in the breeding season. “I think our brood hatch was just later this year.”

Where to Hunt

The roadside survey pegs southwest Iowa as the state’s second-best geographic region for quail, with 2.17 birds per route, topped only by the neighboring south-central region, which saw 2.83 birds per route. “If you want to find quail, you’re going to find quail, but we’re not going to have the ‘there’s quail everywhere kind of year,’” Holt said.

This year’s better quail survey counts came in Adams, Madison, Taylor, Union, and Wayne counties.

Iowa’s west-central region is as north as it gets for bobwhites in the state, but Uriah Hansen says it’s the up-and-comer on the quail scene. A current member of the Iowa Natural Resource Commission, Hansen is a traveling quail hunter who regularly heads west from his residence near Des Moines.

Hansen says the continued enrollment of Iowa Habitat and Access (IHAP) program properties in this region and its newer actively managed grassland plantings has been a boon for bobs. Hansen likes the region’s mix of shrubs, ag fields, and weedy habitat, as well as the “dirty farming” that’s good for quail.

During the roadside count, quail checked in flat year-over-year in the west-central region, but like Bogenschutz and Holt, Hansen thinks that count is a bit low.

“With the mild weather and multiple hatches, quail should be strong,” Hansen says. With an early crop harvest already underway, the getting should be good right from the opening bell. “It should be a phenomenal opening weekend,” he says.

Season Dates

» Quail season is Oct. 28-Jan. 31, 2024

» Youth pheasant season is Oct. 21-22

» Pheasant season is Oct. 28-Jan. 10, 2024

» Partridge season is Oct. 14-Jan. 31, 2024

Daily Bag & Possession Limits

» Bobwhite Quail - 8 / 16

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Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Kansas

Bird numbers should remain above average this fall, but watch out for localized declines

By Casey Sill

Weather and conditions

Quail are a little less hearty than pheasants when it comes to winter weather. The kind of extended cold snaps, ice, and snow that a rooster could shake off can hurt bobwhites that inhabit some of the same territory. This is especially true in Kansas, which lies on the northern end of the bobwhite’s range and can experience intense winter storms. As is typically the case, the 2022-23 winter likely did have some impact on localized pockets of birds, but it was not an especially harsh season.

“We didn’t have anything that I would be really concerned about,” says Jeff Prendergast, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks small game specialist. “We had one extreme cold event right around Christmas of last year that probably had some impact — but nothing major.”

Spring saw an end to the long-term dry spell across the state, helping rangeland and other upland habitats begin to climb out of a years-long downturn due to drought. Theoretically, the timing of these rains should’ve helped the state’s quail population, but that hasn’t necessarily been evidenced in the data so far.

Habitat and Brood Rearing

“Quail’s nesting peak is a little bit later [in the year], and they don’t need quite as much cover to nest in,” Prendergast says. “The rain we had improved rangeland conditions enough that I was expecting it to have a positive effect on quail — but that didn’t bear through in the results of our brood survey.”

The recently released survey actually showed a slight decline in numbers statewide, with significant drops in several areas that have been quail strongholds in recent years. Other localized increases helped offset the overall numbers, and Prendergast included a caveat in his assessment of the data.

“Our brood survey has always done a really good job of predicting hunter success,” he says. “But this year, I think there’s still a chance that we had good enough conditions across the landscape that we just weren’t detecting those broods at the rates we normally do.”

What to Expect in the Flint Hills

The Flint Hills, and in particular the southern Flint Hills, were one of the areas where Prendergast saw significant declines compared to recent years. If the data holds, a lack of moisture is the likely culprit.

“While those good summer rains hit a lot of the western half of the state, the southern Flint Hills stayed incredibly dry comparatively,” he says. “So that would probably be the biggest factor. It’s also worth mentioning that while we saw some big declines in the Flint Hills, as a whole the spring numbers here were still above the long-term average.”

What to Expect in Southwest Kansas

The southwest portion of Kansas is comparatively difficult to survey for quail. However, several counties in southwest Kansas did see a noticeable jump in numbers this year. Areas along the Arkansas River in particular returned good survey results, according to Prendergast.

What to Expect in the Red Hills

The Red Hills of south-central Kansas may also be an area for hunters to look at come fall. The spring survey and brood survey both pointed to excellent numbers across the region. While public access is not widespread in the area, it should be a productive year for anyone who can hunt the Red Hills.

What to Expect in the Glaciated Plains

Far northeast Kansas also saw a decline in brood survey results, but much like the Flint Hills, numbers are still above the long-term average.

“Northeast Kansas does not have a lot of quail, but it’s above average for the region,” Prendergast says. “And there were a few places that saw some jumps, so there may be decent opportunity where habitat exists.”

When to Hunt

Kansas quail season runs from November 11, 2023, to January 31, 2024. The daily bag limit is 8.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Kentucky

Should see stable quail populations comparable to last year

By Oliver Hartner

Overall mild winter weather conditions and marginal precipitation in the spring means well-managed properties in the Bluegrass State should have quail populations like last year. Temperatures were warmer during the winter season with higher-than-average precipitation levels in early spring. Though major weather events such as tornados and flooding did occur in parts of the state, areas with successive habitat management should see stable quail populations comparable to last year.


According to Cody Rhoden, Acting Small Game Coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, “The winter of 2022-23 was again mild overall. While there were extreme weather events in the western and southeastern parts of the state in the form of tornados and floods, these tragic events were localized and likely did not affect bobwhite populations to any great extent. Quail were likely in good shape coming out of the winter and into the spring in Kentucky.”

Rhoden reports that the 2023 spring and summer weather patterns remained tolerable for quail, saying, “The spring started out a little wet, but there was a period of dryness in late spring/early summer that delayed some hay cutting across the state, which likely helped utilize some hay fields for a bit longer. The summer has been mild, and there have been few periods of intense rain or extended dry periods. Broods likely made it through the summer as well as possible given the dearth of marginal habitat across the state.”


Consecutive tracts of land with optimal habitat remain in short supply across the state, but well-managed areas should see stable populations. Rhoden says, “Kentucky likely continues to lose open land and old field habitat, mostly to the bush hog, as well as to old field succession into cedar and marginal trees. But the habitat that is left is likely in good condition as we head into another mild fall and winter.”

Anecdotal evidence and reports indicate a stable population despite a slight decline when compared to prior years. Rhoden says, “We conduct a rural mail carrier survey in July each year and continue a voluntary hunter dairy-type log. Both reveal very similar trends as last year. While the 2023 rural mail carrier survey shows a slight decrease in number of birds observed per 100 miles compared to last summer, it is likely a very insignificant decline and should be viewed as very much on par with last season.”.


“Hunters should first focus in the western portion of the state, but we do have a few diamonds in the eastern portion of the state,” Rhoden advises. He favors Peabody Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in west-central Kentucky, Clay WMA in northeast Kentucky, and Boone Forestlands WMA in southeast Kentucky near Harlan.


Rhoden says, “Contact the local public lands biologist or small game biologist for tips on where birds might be holed up this fall. Sportspeople in the Commonwealth can find wild birds on public land, but they should be prepared to lay down some boot rubber in their pursuit. Hunt early in the season and go slow, in other words, avoid trying to get to the ‘next good spot.’ Pressured birds on public areas have been shown to hold and let hunters and dogs pass over them before flushing.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Louisiana

Coveys can still be found — but you have to work for them

By Oliver Hartner

Persistent habitat loss continues to hurt bobwhite populations in Louisiana. Otherwise, weather conditions have been fine in The Pelican State. Below-average rainfall has not created any recent additional challenges for quail, nor did mild winter temperatures. Public and private areas where successional quail habitat has been cultivated should still hold birds, but elsewhere, bobwhite quail populations will continue to struggle and decline.

Weather Conditions

“Winter weather conditions in Louisiana are typically mild and present less of a problem for populations than in other states,” says Cody Cedotal of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Last spring was dry, and so was the summer, which is a good thing when it comes to bobwhite quail. “Conditions appear to have been good,” Cedotal says. “Thus far, we have had below-average rainfall throughout the spring and summer pretty much across the entire state, but this could have a positive impact on reproduction where habitat is cultivated.”

Bird Counts

According to Cedotal, a scarcity of habitat continues to present a severe problem for bobwhite populations — and it shows no sign of abating. “The primary issue impacting quail populations in Louisiana is a lack of quality habitat, and we seem to be losing more. The amount of available habitat for quail is very low compared to what was once available across the state.”

Cedotal has not received any anecdotal insights or evidence into the hatch or brood numbers that might have survived going into the fall season, and the roadside surveys the agency conducts show a sharp decline in the population compared to past years.

Where to Look

Despite the habitat scarcity, dedicated quail hunters can still find birds in places — including on public ground. “Western Louisiana still has viable populations of bobwhite around parts of the Kisatchie National Forest,” says Cedotal. “You will need to scout these areas heavily for good habitat and check the regulations for each area.”

Insider Tip

“Scout for areas of good habitat, check regulations, be persistent, and manage expectations,” says Cedotal.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Mississippi

Variable weather may signal a below-average year in some parts of the Magnolia State

By Oliver Hartner

Despite a hard freeze last December, mild winter temperatures this past year did not hurt the quail population in Mississippi. But heavy rains this past summer followed by a prolonged heat wave may be a cause of concern for some areas. These extreme conditions could impact the vegetation quail rely on for food and cover throughout the season, leaving them in a vulnerable position to harsh fall and winter weather conditions. Anecdotal evidence also suggests a decline in the population over previous years. However, weather conditions seem to have moderated so far. In areas where best habitat management practices are being implemented, bobwhite hunters will have a greater chance of success.

Weather Conditions

“The winter was generally mild this past year except we had a very hard freeze for several days around Christmas. Overall, I expect birds came out of winter about like usual,” says Rick Hamrick, Wildlife Biologist for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. But he adds that the extreme weather conditions that followed could present some challenges.

“We had a cooler start to spring compared to last year,” he explains. “It got somewhat dry in May and June, and some areas unfortunately got heavy rains around the peak hatching times during the first half of July. Then, we experienced very hot and dry conditions through August.”

Hamrick believes these weather conditions could create poor conditions for nesting and brood-rearing. “Vegetation quality, nesting conditions, and insect production may have been negatively affected for many areas,” he says. “Therefore, some of the later brood production may have suffered compared to recent years. Acorn production may also be lower this year compared to previous years due to these conditions, which would deny the quail a highly valuable winter food resource.”

Field Reports

“It is hard to say exactly how good or bad quail production has been,” says Hamrick. “Recent rainfall has increased throughout Mississippi and temperatures are starting to moderate back to normal. As such, vegetation quality has improved. However, given the erratic weather through the summer and unevenly distributed quail habitat, which has been a problem for decades, I estimate that production is probably a little below average this year.”

Field observations have so far offered an inconclusive view of how the birds are faring. “Reports have been more subdued this year,” Hamrick says. “Some of that may be affected by weather extremes between very wet or very dry conditions at different times throughout the summer affecting normal activities. It is difficult to know.”

Mississippi conducts breeding season quail call counts from selected Wildlife Management Areas, and the results look disappointing. “Looking at some of our typically ‘better’ quail habitat Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), the numbers from call count surveys are down this year,” says Hamrick. “From these WMAs, we saw an average decrease of about 20 percent in the 2023 call count index compared to 2022. The 2023 range in these counts is about 0.4 to 1.5 male bobwhites heard calling per listening station from about 12 to 25 listening stations.”

See the data for yourself here.

Hunt Here

Despite mixed conditions, Mississippi WMAs and national forests in the southwest and southeast regions have the potential for good public land hunting opportunities. “Prescribed burning and other forest management activities in these piney woods areas produce some favorable quail habitat spots,” says Hamrick.

He adds that Charles Ray Nix WMA in northwest Mississippi has been opened to quail hunting since the prior season, and some private land areas of northeast Mississippi have slightly more favorable land use conditions for quail if hunters are willing to “knock on doors” for access.

Insider Tip

“Quail hunters in Mississippi should be prepared to cover a lot of ground to find birds,” says Hamrick. “Birds will often use hardwood edges and very thick cover, particularly as winter progresses and birds get more pressure from hunters and predators. Working these areas within the vicinity of grass fields and more open woods with grassy ground cover, especially those that have burned within the last year, may be the most productive. Woodcock are often found in many of the same areas as quail and can provide some additional bird contacts.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Missouri

The Show-Me State is primed for a fast and furious quail season

By Andrew White

As we head into the fall hunting season, quail hunters have reason to be optimistic about prospects in Missouri. With the state’s unique geography, you can find coveys just about anywhere. And this year is shaping up to be a good one, according to anecdotal reports and roadside surveys.

Weather Conditions

Last winter was rather mild, and this summer was hot and dry — as it’s been in recent years. There was just enough moisture to keep insects around, which is crucial for brood production. Overall, the weather conditions were good. Paired with continued conservation and restoration of native grasses and wildflowers on the landscape, the state is experiencing an uptick in birds.

Bird Counts

This year’s statewide roadside survey documented 1.1 quail per route, a solid 22 percent increase statewide over last year. Northern Missouri will continue to be one of the best regions in the state — but other areas saw some sizeable recent increases in survey results. Here’s a breakdown of this year’s roadside bird counts.

Bird sightings in the Northwestern Prairie were up 29 percent over last year, with an average of 2.82 birds per route. The results are 54.43 percent above the 10-year average — good news for hunters. Meanwhile, the Northern Riverbreaks results were up 7 percent with an average of 2.55 birds per route. It’s no surprise that these two regions are particularly well-known for their quail hunting.

Meanwhile, roadside survey results in the Northeast Riverbreaks were down 38 percent with an average of a measly 0.81 birds per route. That number is 56 percent below the 10-year average. Additionally, the Northern/Eastern Ozark Border averaged just 0.18 birds per route, which is 90 percent below the 10-year average, though last year there were 0 — yes, 0 — birds counted in that area.

In contrast, bird counts in the Mississippi Lowlands and Ozark Plateau were up big. The Mississippi Lowlands zone was up 150 percent over last year with an average of 1.43 birds per route. That number is still down 22.7% from the 10-year average, but it’s trending in the right direction. The Ozark Plateau was up a staggering 258.44 percent over last year with an average of 1.05 birds per route. That number is still 43 percent off the 10-year average.

In the Western Ozark Border region, numbers remained the same as last year with 0.23 birds per route—a decrease of 87.57 percent from the 10-year average. In the Western Prairie, the count was up 50 percent over last year with an average of 0.5 birds per route. That number is 73 percent off the 10-year average.

Key Takeaways

Although the roadside survey results are largely below the 10-year averages, there’s one thing you need to remember: Quail do not live on roads. Quail Forever staff in Missouri have received numerous reports from private landowners and have witnessed increased quail numbers across the state. I personally cannot recall a time when I’ve seen or heard more birds than I have this year.

Focus your efforts on the diverse grasslands that have most, or all, habitat components quail need, and you will find success. You can find these areas in MDC’s Conservation Areas that lie within designated Quail Restoration Landscapes. There are also several other opportunities through MDC’s Missouri Outdoor Recreational Access Program, which allows walk-in access on private lands throughout the state.

The rest is up to you. May your dog hold point, and your shooting be straight.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Nebraska

Bobwhites are holding steady overall in the Cornhusker State — but this year’s hunting outlook varies widely depending on the region

By Anthony Hauck

Overall Data and Weather Trends

Results from Nebraska’s Rural Mail Carrier Survey — the state’s version of a summer upland brood survey — show native bobwhite quail down 9 percent. The postal-led survey took place on the heels of spring whistle counts that showed no percentage change from 2022.

Experts say the relatively stable results can be viewed positively when one considers the persistent drought that’s gripped and degraded Nebraska’s grasslands in recent years. In fact, Bryan O’Connor, Upland Game Program Manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, notes that some recent weather is trending in the right direction for quail.

“Moisture during the winter months did assist with early growing conditions, which were followed up with some much-needed spring rains,” says O’Connor. “This early moisture helped provide some better nesting conditions than we have seen in the past few years.”

That said, more severe winter weather hit the northern fringes of Nebraska’s quail range, which is also the north fringe of the bobwhite’s national range. Mild-to-average winter weather was present across Nebraska’s core bobwhite range — the southeast corner stretching west along the southern border with Kansas.

O’Connor and his agency are predicting the rebounding population should provide improved hunting opportunities this fall. And while bobwhite numbers aren’t yet back on par with those seen during Nebraska’s most recent quail peak, which extended from 2015 to 2018, birds in some parts of the southeast, east central, and northeast regions are approaching those levels.

But that’s not the case everywhere. Ben Wheeler, a Coordinating Wildlife Biologist for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, says even though his area of central Nebraska enjoyed some moisture recovery, that is less true in some other parts of the state. “In some areas of eastern Nebraska, the chokehold of drought is still hanging on,” Wheeler says.

This means much of central and eastern Nebraska again qualified for emergency haying and grazing this year, so many Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) fields will have portions mowed off. Because CRP underpins much of the habitat also enrolled in Nebraska’s Open Fields and Waters public access program, the amount of publicly available cover will be widely affected.

What to Expect in the Northeast

Quail numbers are strongest in the southern part of this region. A layer of ice in the region’s northern edge last winter combined with localized habitat degradation is keeping quail populations low in that part of the state.

What to Expect in the Northwest

Even with great-looking habitat conditions, bird numbers for the Panhandle have not recovered. Early nesting was poor, so most brood observations are from re-nesting attempts as evidenced by their small size. Quail are only found in select Panhandle counties, so be sure to check the Nebraska quail range map if bobs are your target. Observations of broods in the southern part of the district appear to be better than the northern, but both are still below average.

What to Expect in the Southeast

The southeast ranks number one in quail abundance in Nebraska this year. Brood reports have been good for both quantity and size, indicative of early nesting success. Even more promising is the fact that breeding activity continued well into summer as reports of whistling males and paired adults were reported into early August. After a 25 percent increase in spring whistle counts, the Rural Mail Carrier Survey showed a 12 percent increase. Perhaps strongest of all, whistle counts are up approximately 30 to 50 percent across the region from the 5-year average.

In the southeast, the best quail numbers are typically found in some of the region’s many wildlife management areas (WMAs) — especially those in the southern two tiers of counties. That’s because these WMAs are managed specifically for quail habitat. Open Fields and Waters access sites that dot this area are also worthwhile.

What to Expect in the Southwest

The good: Habitat conditions have improved immensely, here, and the number of CRP fields affected by emergency haying and grazing this year will be much less than in the past couple of years, providing good cover for this fall. The bad: Based on spring and summer surveys, it’s still a poor outlook. Based on spring whistle count surveys, the southeast portion of this region — east of Highway 283 — appears to have held the better quail breeding population coming into the spring.

This area east of Highway 283 is ideal for quail because there is more of the right kind of woody cover, the native shrub thickets such as American plum and chokecherries, and downed trees where bobs thrive. The WMAs and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lands surrounding the region’s irrigation reservoirs also support good numbers of quail while providing some of the largest blocks of habitat for bird hunters to explore.

Guides & Maps

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: New Mexico

Drought conditions persist in the Land of Enchantment — but this year may still be better than some

By Brad Trumbo

New Mexico has it all when it comes to quail hunting. Bobwhite, scaled, Mearns, and Gambel’s quail all reside in the state and offer something a bit different with each hunt. And this season should be a good one, with New Mexico Department of Game and Fish wildlife biologists reporting encouraging results from late-summer quail call surveys.

Weather and Conditions

Precipitation was good over winter with some additional rain in the spring. No precipitation events negatively affected nesting or brood-rearing. That was followed by hot, dry summer conditions, which persisted across much of the state but with minor potential impacts to broods. Overall, continued drought has affected the habitat for several years, but 2023 has been a better year.

“Southeastern New Mexico has suffered poorer conditions over past years, but precipitation and residual vegetation were good coming into the spring and summer. Late summer brought a fair monsoon season to the state, providing decent conditions and food sources for Mearns quail nesting and brood rearing in the southwestern part of the state,” says Casey Cardinal with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

Habitat, Broods, and Counts

Hatch and brood-rearing conditions were acceptable this year. Spring and fall quail call surveys suggest that 2023 is an average year for bobwhite, scaled, and Gambel’s quail. The monsoon season provided good conditions for Mearns quail as well, meaning the late summer hatch is expected to be average or better.

Overall, Cardinal says the 2023 call counts, which were in progress when this forecast was drafted, were “showing improvement over recent years. Hunters may experience more opportunities this year compared to the past few.”

Top Spots

For bobwhite quail, focus on bunchgrasses and sand sagebrush in the easternmost counties of the state, namely Eddy, Lea, Chaves, and Roosevelt Counties.

Gambel’s quail are generally found in the southwestern portion of the state and seem to be doing well in Hidalgo, Grant, and Luna counties, according to Cardinal. Water and shrub cover are key for Gambel’s quail. Look for drainages and darker areas on the map that show high shrub density.

Scaled quail is the most widespread species in New Mexico, occupying approximately two-thirds of the state. Southeastern New Mexico is a good focal area. Scaled quail rely on a composition of shrubs, forbs, and grasses with a good amount of bare dirt and rocks. “Avoid habitats with dense creosote bushes as scaled quail are not likely to be found there,” Cardinal said.

Mearns quail occupy the mountainous areas in Catron, Sierra, Grant, and Hidalgo counties in the southwest, and Lincoln, Chavez, Otero, and Eddy counties in the southcentral part of the state. Pinion-juniper tree cover between about 30 to 70 percent with good grasses and rolling terrain is optimal for Mearns.

Insider Tips

Range overlap among Mearns, scaled, and Gamble’s quail in the southwestern corner, and scaled, bobwhite, and possibly Mearns in central and southern Eddy County provide opportunities to encounter all three species in close proximity, albeit among different habitats. Encountering at least two species anywhere in the state is likely.

The Bureau of Land Management and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish have collaborated to provide hunt maps through the “CarryMap” application. This map contains surface ownership, officer contacts, roads, and much more.

Cactus and rattlesnakes can be problematic for hunting dogs here, and mesquite can be thorny as well. Additionally, rocky soil can wear on a dog’s paw pads. Hunting after the New Year can help you avoid snakes. Be sure to run your dog with boots to save their feet and extend the hunt.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: North Carolina

Bobwhites continue to decline in the Tar Heel State — but decent hunting can still be found

By Oliver Hartner

Bobwhite quail populations in North Carolina have continued to dwindle this year, mostly due to an inadequate amount of viable habitat. Populations remain low, especially in western parts of the state. However, there are some hopeful spots located in corners of the state where land management practices and continued work by Quail Forever volunteers have stabilized populations.

Weather and Habitat Conditions

Weather patterns have had less effect on North Carolina’s quail population than the lack of suitable habitat. “Summer conditions here have largely been dry through late spring and summer. That usually translates to modest levels of nesting and brood rearing,” says Hannah Plumpton, Upland Game Bird Biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission. “More rainfall would have boosted vegetation and insects, but the lack of tropical deluges so far has been good.”

Areas implementing best management practices for habitat should not have seen a drastic change in the number of coveys they hold. “While we do not conduct any formal brood surveys or whistle counts for quail, anecdotal reports have pointed to modest-to-average reproduction rate, but again, we really don’t receive a lot of reports for quail,” Plumpton says.

Top Spots

In places where habitat is being managed in southeastern parts of the state, there are still opportunities for quail hunters in North Carolina. “Permit hunting opportunities for quail on the Voice of America Game Land and Murphy Brown Corporate Cure area are pretty good,” says Plumpton. Hunters may apply for this drawing here. The deadline is October 1.

“Holly Shelter Game Lands and Suggs Mill Pond also have some habitat that might be worth pushing,” says Jacob Comer, Senior Farm Bill Biologist for Quail Forever in North Carolina.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Ohio

Wild coveys are trending in the right direction

By Andy Fondrick

Ohio’s average winter weather and favorable spring conditions have upland habitat in better shape this fall than the past few years. While quail populations aren’t as plentiful as they once were, there are still good opportunities to test healthy cover and find coveys in The Buckeye State this fall.

Weather and Conditions

Upland birds enjoyed a forgiving 2022-23 winter across Ohio. Dry conditions through most of the spring also provided ideal nesting conditions, according to Joseph Lautenbach, wildlife biologist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

Ohio did not monitor the overwinter survival of northern bobwhite. However, Lautenbach says that past research in Ohio suggests that mild winters typically result in increased overwinter survival for northern bobwhites.

“Across Ohio’s quail range, spring and summer average temperatures were near or slightly above average,” says Lautenbach. “Precipitation, especially during April, May, and June was below average. Ohio did not directly monitor nesting and brood-rearing activity. However, dry years may have a positive effect on bobwhite in Ohio as wet years often result in flooding of nesting cover, and presumably, reduced nest survival.”

Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever’s Ohio State Coordinator, Cody Grasser agrees with Lautenbach’s assessment. “Conditions for nesting and brood-rearing were probably better than what we have seen on average over the past few years,” he says.

Habitat, Broods, and Counts

According to Lautenbach, quail habitat on public wildlife areas looks excellent going into fall. “Anecdotal field reports indicate that there was some moderate success for the bobwhite hatch,” says Lautenbach. “Ohio completes annual roadside whistle-count surveys each spring. Preliminary results show that the 2023 spring population index was slightly increased when compared to the past 3 years.”

“The amount and quality of upland habitat in Ohio is steadily improving,” adds Grasser. “On the private lands front, we have seen good enrollment numbers in Farm Bill programs like CRP and EQIP. Quail Forever and other conservation partners have added to the number of wildlife professionals available to assist landowners in successfully restoring and enhancing quality habitat. Additionally, in the past year, QF & PF entered an agreement with ODNR's Division of Wildlife on a Habitat Share program to enhance upland habitat on public land to build on existing efforts to improve and increase upland habitat acres available to hunt.”

Local Intel

“Relatively speaking, quail numbers are greatest in south-central and southwestern Ohio, says Lautenbach. “All public land is closed to quail hunting, except for Tri-Valley Wildlife Area and a very limited controlled hunt opportunity at Crown City Wildlife Area.”

“Quail hunting on private land in Ohio is restricted to select southern counties and closed on most public hunting areas, so hunters should carefully review the regulations before going afield this fall, “says Grasser. “In open counties, you can find walk-in access opportunities through ODNR's OLHAP program, as well as plenty of CRP on private land where you can seek hunting permission from the landowner.”

Lautenbach adds that while quail populations are not what they used to be in Ohio, there are still opportunities to hunt wild quail in the state. Hunters should make sure to secure written permission before hunting private land. Make sure to check the regulations to see if a county is open for quail hunting. Quail exist in pockets outside of the counties open for hunting.

Visit the Ohio Division of Wildlife website to find public land hunting opportunities.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Oklahoma

Quail counts are well-below long-term averages — but Oklahoma is still one of the best places to bust up coveys in the country

By Brad Trumbo

Oklahoma is a top quail hunting destination for good reason. The midwestern state offers a wide range of cover types and bobwhite quail can be found just about anywhere throughout it. Hunters have harvested an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 quail annually here over the last 5 years, which consistently ranks Oklahoma in the top three states for quail harvest in the country.

Weather and Conditions

Oklahoma weather patterns have generally been favorable for nesting and brood-rearing this year. A mild winter led to a short but wet spring. Severe drought plagued Oklahoma in 2022 and hot, dry conditions persisted this summer across southeastern Oklahoma, but the northwestern portion of the state saw around 20 inches of rain between May and August.

Habitat, Broods, and Counts

Nesting and hatching conditions were generally good. An abundance of grasshoppers provided good protein for chicks. Quail Forever chapter members Mike Ford in northwestern Oklahoma and Dan Bacorn in southeastern Oklahoma both reported seeing and hearing more bobwhite quail this year than in recent years — and they are not alone.

“There’s a lot of weeds and sunflowers this year,” said Ford. “I’m optimistic, but it’s thick, so we’ll have to beat the brush to find out just how good the quail numbers really are.”

While 2023 is shaping up to be better than recent years, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation 2023 August roadside quail survey shows the statewide quail index was still 55.6 percent below the 34-year average and 28.3 percent below the 10-year average for bobwhites. Annual roadside quail counts have shown consistent population decline and call counts below the long-term average since 2006. Note: Due to the scaled quail's limited presence in Oklahoma, the state’s quail call surveys are not a good indicator of scaled quail abundance.

Top Spots

Bobwhites can be found nearly anywhere in the state, so targeting good habitat is key for finding birds. Harper, Ellis, and Beaver counties the northwestern part of the state typically offer good opportunities. Look for open fields with timber edges and thicker shrub patches intermixed. Anecdotal evidence suggests that bobwhites and juniper trees do not mix.

If scaled quail are on your list, try Cimarron and Texas Counties in the panhandle, as well as the counties in the state’s southwestern corner.

Insider Tips

Bobwhites can be found in most counties, but the northwestern part of the state is well known for quality hunting on state wildlife management areas. Seek isolated spots that are tougher to access, good edge covers, and islands of thick cover in open terrain.

Much of Oklahoma provides a prairie hunting experience, but southeastern timber stands offer a different experience for those willing to work a little harder to find birds.

Take advantage of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s resources for upland bird hunters and familiarize yourself with the “Oklahoma Land Access Program,” which expands hunting opportunities through private land access.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Oregon

Despite a slow start, numbers should be good this year in the Beaver State

By Casey Sill

Weather Conditions

A late spring may have delayed nesting in parts of Oregon this year. But since warm weather arrived, conditions have been ideal for the state’s quail population. “We had a fairly significant winter in Oregon this year,” says Mikal Cline, the upland game bird coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The snow persisted fairly late into the season, so if we’re talking about some of our higher elevation birds, we saw about a two-week delay in terms of breeding activity and hatches.”

Outside of delayed nesting and a summer event in Lake County that may have caused some localized mortality, the late spring did not have a major impact on quail across the state. “There were probably some pockets where that freeze in June may have killed some chicks,” says Cline. “But not range wide.”

Conditions outside of those isolated cold snaps have been quite good for both mountain and California quail.

Habitat and brood rearing

All things considered, it’s a fairly rosy picture for quail in Oregon this year. Long-term positive trends in weather and habitat have led to steady numbers, and that trend looks to continue in 2023.

“California quail have been having some good years recently,” Cline says. “I’m hearing that things are a little bit late with quail this year in pockets, but the broods that people are seeing are complete and are quite large.”

Mountain quail are much more difficult to survey simply based on the terrain they inhabit. But all signs point to the high-elevation birds also having a banner year. Since 2020, several forest fires on the west side of the state have left scars across the mountainsides. As those scars start to regrow, they provide excellent habitat for mountain quail.

“The first thing that’ll happen in burn zones is they’ll brush back up, and Mountain quail love that,” says Cline. “They’re going to capitalize on all that post-burn habitat. Our mountain quail are definitely not habitat-limited right now.”

Top Spots

Head west in search of Oregon’s mountain quail and east for California Quail. Pockets of recently burned timber in high-elevation areas are great places to start for mountain quail, while California quail will almost always be found at lower elevations.

“They’re called ‘valley quail’ for a reason,” Cline says. “California quail are also always going to be associated with some type of water. So, you’re looking for those riparian areas, those muddy spots that they like.”

Much of that kind of lowland country is privately owned in Oregon, but there’s also plenty of habitat provided by the state’s public access programs. “Our access and habitat programs are great choices for finding California quail,” Cline says. “People tend to use those properties for big game hunting, but there are some great opportunities for upland birds as well.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: South Carolina

Get off the beaten path for the best quail hunting in the Palmetto State

By Oliver Hartner

Recent reports and trends suggest an average year for the quail in South Carolina given weather and habitat conditions. Efforts from the private, public, and non-profit partnerships fostered through the South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative continue to benefit bobwhite quail on well-managed properties here, and large-scale efforts made by Quail Forever with the acquisition of Bobwhite Hills in Sumter County will also pay dividends in the near future.

Weather Conditions

“Last year’s mild winter weather likely created some stress for quail that were hunted regularly,” says Dan R. Peoples, III, Assistant Small Game Project Leader for SCDNR. “While the weather certainly wasn’t close to what a South Carolina summer heat wave could be, 80-degree days during winter months can really work on a bird that has been flushed several times through the day.”

That said, precipitation levels were normal for the year, and conditions should remain largely favorable for the quail, barring any late-season tropical weather events during early fall. “Winter weather is rarely a problem in South Carolina, and the outlook for winter looks good for both the birds and the hunters with cooler and dryer weather in the forecast,” says Peoples. “Spring and summer weather can be a major factor in reproduction. While we experienced a temperature drop in April that caused some concern for quail, it doesn’t appear to have been a factor.

Habitat Conditions and Brood Counts

Given the slight variables in weather conditions, places where best land management practices have been implemented should hold the healthiest coveys. “Results from our 2022-23 Quail Hunter Survey were slightly lower than the previous season, but there were very few responses to the survey which made a small sampling pool,” Peoples says. “However, the Spring Whistling Cock Census has been completed and is being reviewed with preliminary findings showing no significant difference from the previous year’s survey. The better takeaway here is that the long-term downward trends in the data have flattened out over the last 10 years. Reports from landowners and field staff are that the broods are doing well this year.”

The SCDNR is still gathering data from the brood survey for quail and wild turkey. The agency will make that information available on the SCDNR website as soon as possible.

Top Spots

Hunters will have the greatest levels of success in the Piedmont and Midlands regions of the state. According to Peoples, these areas will likely continue to hold birds where best management practices are being implemented. “Though Lee, Edgefield, and Newberry Counties are having the greatest success rates, public lands in these particular counties experience higher than normal pressure from quail hunters, which can be detrimental to their populations,” he says. “It’s important to remember bobwhite quail can be found in any South Carolina county where you have good habitats like clearcuts, old fields, and fence lines. The national forests, state forests, and Wildlife Management Areas that span several other counties other than Lee, Edgefield, and Kershaw all have these features and very little, if any, pressure from hunters.”

“Wherever you decide to go, public participation in our hunter surveys is vitally important for estimating quail populations, trends, and harvest percentages,” he adds. “To participate in this survey or any other survey, please visit our website.”

Quick Tip

“Put some miles on your tires and your boots and find some good habitat,” says Peoples. “There are pockets of quail on both named and unnamed Wildlife Management Areas across the state where you can find a covey or two and with little-to-zero pressure from other hunters.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Tennessee

Poor weather likely hurt quail in the western part of the state, but coveys are doing fine elsewhere

By Oliver Hartner

Much of the land in Tennessee has not been favorable for bobwhite quail for quite some time, and significant summer flooding in western parts of the state could hurt the population this season. However, in places where habitat is being managed intensely, the quail population should stay stable, and wild coveys can still be found.

Weather Patterns

Tennessee’s weather did not seem to have impacted the bobwhite population in much of the state. “Nesting cover overwintered well due to light precipitation,” says Michael McCord, Certified Wildlife Biologist for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “Despite unseasonably cold weather in late December, monitored quail populations came through winter in good shape.

However, exceptionally wet conditions and flooding in the western part of the state in both spring and summer might have had localized negative impacts on coveys in those areas.

Habitat and Brood Conditions

As in many areas of the Southeast U.S., habitat loss has created serious problems for Tennessee’s bobwhite quail population. “Today, habitat exists almost exclusively where land managers are intentional about providing early successional plant communities,” says McCord.

With poor habitats throughout most of the state, drawing any substantive conclusions from brood data is difficult — and so is forecasting the fall hunting season. That said, Tennessee is trying to make inroads into stabilizing and growing its quail population through habitat improvement. “We are continuing to open up more ground and improve the open lands management in our WMA system, and annual foods, especially ragweed, are abundant on disturbed sites this year,” explains McCord. “We have received many anecdotal reports of broods this summer but do not currently conduct any late summer surveys.”

Hunt Here

“Fort Campbell Military Reservation is always a safe bet for public land coveys,” McCord says. “Work with the wind and target cover edges where the native grasses give way to forbs or shrubby cover. Don’t be afraid to push into less traditional cover as the season progresses.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Texas

Drought lingers, but better conditions this spring should lead to solid bird numbers

By Casey Sill

Texas has been bone dry for the last several years. Like much of the country, those effects will be felt to some degree for years to come. But a turnaround in the weather this spring made for better habitat conditions across the state, and quail numbers could see slight increases in 2023.

Weather and Conditions

The Texas Panhandle and South Plains were unseasonably warm and dry last winter. These conditions followed a hot summer and mild fall, which reduced habitat quality across the state. A mid-winter storm dropped nearly ten inches of snow across the region, but outside of that weather system and a few other small pockets of snow, winter conditions were not severe.

“Compared to 2021, it was definitely mild,” says Thomas Janke, Pheasants Forever’s Texas state coordinator. “We had very few snow events and outside of a few spotty examples, there was not a lot of ice or snow compared to previous years.”

Mild winters in Texas are a double-edged sword when it comes of upland birds. A lack of ice and snow no doubt helps over-winter survival, but that same weather is often a region’s only way to recover from drought. “For the high plains area of the Panhandle, it might have been beneficial that they didn’t have a harsh winter to deal with,” he says. “But at the same time, sometimes that’s our only set of moisture.”

Despite a slow start, though, conditions turned around in early spring. Steady rainfall in April and May provided relief for much of the region, and conditions rapidly improved through June.

Habitat and Brood Rearing

Thanks to the solid spring, Janke believes Texas’ 2023 nesting season should be an improvement over the last several years. “Across the state, we’ve produced more birds this year than we have in the last couple,” he says. “The 2015-2017 span still sticks in people’s minds as being boomer years for quail. We’re nowhere near those levels, but we’re in a good spot compared to the last three or more years.”

Texas has received more precipitation in the first half of 2023 than it’s seen in over two years, which has helped improve habitat conditions dramatically. Drought effects still linger, but the outlook for upland birds is far from dire.

"We grew a lot of cover this spring, which benefited our birds this nesting season,” says John McLaughlin, the upland game bird program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Since then, much like other states, Texas has been baking in an extended heat wave. However, it’s likely the cover we grew provided our birds some insulation.”

Janke heard birds in central Texas as early as April and had reports of broods on the ground in May — all of which points to a positive year for quail production. “We are definitely trending positively,” he says. “We had a very favorable spring and decent rain at the right times. The anecdotal reports I’ve heard from different parts of the state have told me it’s going to be a season worth getting out the gun and the dog.”

Top Spots

Janke said the rolling plains and southern panhandle will be worth looking into for quail this year. The combination of good conditions and appropriate management could make for high numbers — especially for bobwhites.

“I would also say the Texas mid-coast, especially the southern region of the mid-coast, might be another area to look at for bobwhites,” he said. “And the Trans-Pecos right now has potential for blue quail. They caught some decent rains this spring, and I think there’s going to be some good numbers there.”

If You Go

Quail season in Texas runs statewide from October 28, 2023, to February 25, 2024. The daily bag limit is 15 total for Bobwhite quail, Scaled quail (blue quail), and Gambel's quail. There is no open season for Mearns (Montezuma) quail in the Lone Star State.

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Virginia

The Old Dominion State’s coveys are holding steady

By Oliver Hartner

Milder winter conditions and optimal rain levels should bolster Virginia’s coveys, especially in the southeastern portion of the state. Folks hunting public and private lands where best practices for habitat management are practiced are in for a good quail year.

Weather Conditions

“Virginia’s winter was not severe,” says Marc Puckett, Wildlife Biologist and Small Game Project Leader for the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. “Overall, it did not adversely affect our quail populations.”

Additionally, average to above average rainfall seems to have helped areas intensely managed for quail. “The weather was pretty good early in June during peak hatch,” says Puckett. “We had a lot of rain in August and nothing like a hurricane. So, I think we have had ideal conditions to date for hatching and brood rearing. Vegetation seems abundant and so are insects.”

Field Reports

Virginia is poised for another fine upland hunting season in 2023. Wildlife managers continue to see encouraging results from their efforts over the last decade to increase conservation program recruitment and habitat restoration. “Our private lands biologists continue to add projects, and Virginia’s timber industry is recovering. So, early successional habitat should be increasing again,” explains Puckett. “However, our agency continues to face staffing challenges that prevent us from doing all the habitat work we would like to do on our agency lands.”

Ancillary reports from landowners and hunters suggest a good hatch and summer survival rate for quail chicks. “Many anecdotal reports are suggesting there is a very modest quail recovery occurring in parts of Virginia, but it varies widely,” Puckett says. “The overall feel is that conditions are improving in southern and eastern Virginia.”

Survey data analyzed from recent years confirms anecdotal reports and suggests a stable trend for Virginia’s quail population overall for the 2022-2023 season.

Top Spots

The eastern third of the state in the coastal plain, along with the Piedmont area, offer the best opportunity for successful quail hunting. “Most of our Department of Wildlife Resources Wildlife Management Areas, and our Department of Forestry State Forests in the Piedmont and coastal plain of Virginia have some decent quail coveys – though none of them would be considered above ‘fair,’” says Puckett.

To find upland hunting WMA properties in Virginia, look here.

Insider Tip

“As always, upland bird hunters in Virginia will do well to hunt when seasons overlap between woodcock and quail and should even add the late dove season into that calculation,” says Puckett. “Success here is more about working hard, enjoying the exercise and dog work, and cherishing the opportunity to be out in the field. It only takes a few woodcock and a quail covey to make a great day.”

Quail Hunting Forecast 2023: Washington

A Mild Winter Means Ample Valley Quail in the Evergreen State

By Jack Hutson

Weather and Conditions

Valley quail hunting could be particularly fruitful in Washington State this fall. Sarah Garrison, Small Game Specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), reports that though slightly colder than recent years, Washington had a relatively mild winter. “Overall quail survival should have been good,” she says. “This spring was cooler than normal, but it was dry so hatching broods should have done well.”

Bradly Trumbo, a biologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and avid upland hunter in the state’s southeast corner, concurs. “I’ve seen several good-sized broods of varying age groups,” he says. “It looks like another banner year for quail in our region.”

Meanwhile, the south-central portion of the state, which has long been Washington’s top quail-producing region, also had a mild winter — good news for hunters in Yakima and Grant counties. “The areas occupied by quail in Yakima County appear to have experienced an average to slightly wetter summer which, all things considered, should result in better young bird recruitment,” adds Moore.

Harvest Reports

For the past several years, the quail harvest in the Evergreen State has been on a downward trend — but hunters shouldn’t put too much stock in that when it comes to this season. “In this region, back-to-back years of extremely low harvest are likely due to widespread public land fire closures, which hindered hunter efforts and resulted in a significant decline in harvest,” explains WDFW Assistant Wildlife Biologist Callie Moore.

That said, last year’s harvest report saw a slight uptick from 2021. Combined with positive nesting and brooding conditions, this year could be even better.

What to Look For

Valley quail are prevalent in eastern Washington. Hunters should look for cropland bordered by brushy to lightly forested areas or riparian zones.

In the drier central portion of the state, valley quail are found in thick tangles of tall brush, especially near stream beds and irrigated valley bottoms. Look for brushy draws that run down to irrigated fields of agriculture. Also, ag bordered by tall sage or shrub-steppe.

Mountain Quail

The elusive Mountain Quail can be found in the southwest portion of the state. Seek state or county-owned forestland in the Key Peninsula, Pierce County, and southeast portions of Thurston County. Keep in mind that much of this region is privately owned and permission is essential. Look for brushy areas of 2- to 6-year-old logged forest in mountainous terrain. Due to the secluded nature of mountain quail, the specific outlook for the autumn season is difficult to determine.

Field Reports

The WDFW recently launched a brood and distribution survey for wild turkeys and upland birds — including quail. This survey is open to the public and reports can be made any time of the year. July and August sightings are the most valuable for developing fall predictions. Those wishing to report game bird sightings can do so here.