Florida Quail Hunting Forecast 2019

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Opportunity, habitat and favorable conditions should set up a good season this fall and winter for Florida quail hunters

By Curtis Niedermier

You might call Florida a “momentum state” for Quail Forever. According to QF Regional Representative Kenny Barker, there’s a lot of intensive habitat management being done in the state to benefit bobwhite quail, as well as several very active QF chapters pumping dollars into habitat projects and working hard to continue the Southeast’s rich tradition of quail hunting.

The other thing Florida has going for it (besides the opportunity for saltwater and freshwater cast-and-blast trips) is a diverse array of habitat types for quail hunters to enjoy.

“North Florida is in the Red Hills region. Pine plantations, long-leaf, wiregrass – it’s spectacular,” says Barker. “In south Florida, you’re going to get into more of the scrub, sand pine and palmetto flats. And it’s like you’re hunting a completely different type of ecosystem. Then you can get over on the east coast and kind of get a little bit of a mixture of the two; more of an open savannah type, oak hammocks, grasslands.”

Opportunity, habitat and favorable conditions should set up a good season this fall and winter.
 

Weather conditions and habitat

Mother Nature is lending a helping hand to bobwhite quail in Florida.

“Thanks to moderate weather conditions throughout the winter months, over-winter survival was on par with previous years,” says Greg Hagan, a quail biologist with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. “As such, birds were well-positioned going into the breeding season."

“Favorable weather conditions across the state, combined with quality habitat management, have resulted in above-average habitat conditions.”   
 

Nesting and brood-rearing

While Florida does not conduct any comprehensive summer surveys, reports from the field have indicated adult survival throughout summer has been high.

“This, combined with quality habitat, should result in a good late hatch,” says Hagan, who adds that spring and summer weather conditions have been favorable, leading to above-average nest and brood production."

“According to Dr. Theron Terhune [Game Bird Program director at Tall Timbers Research Station], the hatch has been record-breaking on several of their research sites located in central Florida,” Hagan says.
 

Top spots

Throughout parts of Florida, the practice of managing private lands for multiple uses – including quail hunting – is a long tradition. For those who have access to private quail plantations, Hagan says the opportunities for successful days afield are still excellent. On public lands (he recommends the panhandle and central Florida), it’s important to study the management practices in place.

“Bobwhite populations on public lands where the species is featured and management efforts increased are good with steady increases,” he says.

Barker, who lives near Tallahassee, cites several specific areas.

“Florida has got a ton of hunting opportunities,” he says. “A lot of them happen to be quota hunt opportunities. We have a chapter in Punta Gorda down in south Florida. They’ve been around for a long time, and those members actually hunt a lot of the public lands around there. The numbers aren’t where they used to be back in the ‘good old days,’ but there are some humble densities of birds there. Babcock/Webb is the name of one of the Wildlife Management Areas."

“Jumping up to the northern part of the state, south of Tallahassee, we have the Apalachicola National Forest. There are a lot of great walk-in opportunities there. If somebody is willing to put in some footwork there and get off the beaten path, they can find the birds for sure."

“There are several Quail Enhancement Areas throughout the state,” Barker adds. “Tall Timbers, Quail Forever and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission partner in almost all those areas to provide some kind of habitat work, also keeping in mind hunter access and maintaining those good numbers.”
 

Insider tips

First and foremost, public land hunters should reference site-specific regulations for WMAs at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website. Information about federally managed lands can be found on the respective agencies’ websites.

These online resources are good tools for locating Quail Enhancement Areas and information about other habitat management practices. 

Finally, Barker recommends that hunters also research woodcock habitat, as mixed bag hunting can expand opportunities during the season.
 

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