By Greg Breining
Despite a heavy late-winter snow that killed a lot of quail, preliminary data from roadside surveys indicate that in Indiana overall there are probably as many quail as there were last year, says Matt Broadway, small game research biologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Hunters can expect numbers that are average or better.
Habitat, Broods, and Counts
“Overall, the roadside counts were better than average in 2020 and marked the third consecutive year of increase in the annual bobwhite whistle-call index survey. After a good year of reproduction, hunter harvests were up,” says Broadway.
“This year, it looks as though counts are just as good as 2020, and we have perhaps experienced more amenable precipitation patterns for above-average chick survival. I would expect harvest this fall to be as good as 2020,” he says.
The outlook might have been even better but for the March snow storm that hit “when birds already are short on fat reserves,” says Broadway. Heavy snow covered much of the state for several days. “During this period, we detected significant mortality in quail during a research project related to hypothermia. I suspect high mortality was the case across the state in areas lacking adequate winter thermal cover. Unfortunately, that includes most of the state.”
Conversely, the birds—and the hunting season—were aided by dry, even droughty, conditions. “If nest and brood survival were within normal expected ranges, I suspect the fall population to be average or better,” says Broadway. That forecast is based on the preliminary comparison of average counts between 2020 and 2021 surveys. He’ll know more when data from the annual roadside whistle-call counts are compiled. The report will be posted to the DNR website in early October.
Among the public areas Broadway would recommend is Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area in the southwest. Nearby Glendale Fish and Wildlife Area is also good, though it’s more difficult to hunt, he says. Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area in the far northwest offers a mixed bag of quail and woodcock. “They have both, albeit, in lower numbers,” he says.
If You Go
North of Interstate 74 the quail season runs Nov. 1–Dec. 15. Limit is 4 per day with 8 in possession. South of Interstate 74 the season runs Nov. 1–Jan. 10, 2021. Limit is 8 per day with 16 in possession.