Iowa is one of those classic mixed-bag states where, in some parts of the state, you can find both bobwhites and pheasants, often on the same walk. But a brutal winter combined with a mediocre nesting season means Iowa quail hunters will need to put in some extra steps for their birds this fall.
WEATHER AND CONDITIONS
“The winter of 20-21 was a brutal one for Iowa quail,” says Todd Bogenschutz, upland research wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “The southern third of Iowa is our primary quail range and we saw repeated snow and icing from January through February with single-digit and below zero temps.”
Quail do not handle heavy snow and ice nearly as well as pheasants, and according to Bogenschutz, they suffered accordingly. “By middle February grown men couldn’t walk anywhere in southeastern Iowa without breaking thru the snow and ice layer. Winter mortality was very high, especially in the southeast region. Our best regions for quail are the east-central, southeast, south-central, and the southwest, and all showed double-digit declines in roadside counts, with most of these declines likely caused by the bad winter.”
The one glimmer of hope is that nesting season wasn’t bad, but merely average.
“The spring and summer conditions were about average,” says Bogenschutz. It was a bit on the dry side in the southwest region and we had a major flooding event in the southeast region. Across the entire Iowa range I'd call it a so-so nesting season. Generally, in our drier years our quail production suffers a bit”.
HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS
“This should be mostly unchanged from a year ago, but emergency haying of CRP was allowed and this may impact some hunting especially in the western part of the state,” says Bogenschutz.
As for brood counts, Bohenschutzs says the results reflect the brutal winter. “Only a single brood of quail was reported on about 100 survey routes in our quail range,” he says. “Counts are 58 percent below the 10-year average this year. It’s going to be a lean year for quail in Iowa.”
Despite the grim numbers., Bogenschutz says that for quail hunters looking to find birds, it’s probably best to concentrate efforts on the southwest part of the state. “That’s where our better bird numbers came out of this year. But do your scouting prior to hunting if you want to be successful on quail in Iowa this fall.”