By Greg Breining
Hunters can anticipate above-average numbers of quail in western Idaho this year.
Habitat, Broods, and Counts
“Quail production was good to excellent this year,” said Jeff Knetter, reading from one of his regional reports on the upcoming game bird seasons. Knetter is the upland game and migratory bird coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “I’ve heard from multiple folks this year that there are abundant quail on the landscape. Quail appear to have fared all right in this dry, dry year that we’ve had.”
California quail are a secondary species for most Idaho hunters and fewer statistics are kept on them than many game species. So Knetter doesn’t have a lot of numbers to share with quail hunters.
Why so good? “Truthfully, I don’t have a good answer for you in regard to how to account for it. We were exceptionally dry here. That being said, California quail are kind of a shrubby, riparian critter, so they will likely hang out where there was water on the landscape in the riparian areas. Outside of that, I wish I had a better answer for you.”
Strongholds of California quail in Idaho are the Clearwater Region (northern Idaho, excluding the Panhandle), Southwest Region, and western edge of the Magic Valley Region. And those are the areas Knetter would send hunters. “Those are the primary three regions where folks can harvest quail,” he says. (No quail hunting is allowed in eastern Idaho.)
Hunters should look for water. That’s especially true this year, when drought has been widespread.
“Where there’s water, you’re going to find quail, especially if there’s nice thick habitat around,” Knetter says. “Ideally a riparian area that’s surrounded by intact sagebrush. Or brushy field edges adjacent to irrigated agriculture—I would anticipate finding quail there as well. Anywhere there’s good cover and some moisture. A little ag to boot doesn’t hurt.”
Hunters without connections to private land have options, Knetter says.
“I would be looking for BLM [Bureau of Land Management] land that is adjacent to a substantial river or stream,” he says. “BLM probably has the most land available to hunters in Idaho.”
Knetter also recommends scouting the Access Yes! web pages to find private lands that have been leased for hunter access.
Finally, many state wildlife management areas have quail.
If You Go
Idaho’s quail season began Sept. 18 and runs through Jan. 31. The limit is 10 daily with 30 in possession.