Kentucky Quail Hunting Forecast 2020

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A mild winter, good spring nesting conditions, and being in the upswing of a seven-year population cycle are making Kentucky quail hunters hopeful for a good quail season  


“We had a mild winter over all in Kentucky this year, reports Cody M. Rhoden, small game biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources. “There was slightly higher than average precipitation, mostly in the form of rain, in the eastern portion of the state, but bobwhite should have come through winter just fine across the Commonwealth.”
Rhoden says the spring of 2020 started out on an abnormal cold snap in late April and early May, but the cold weather thankfully did not last long, and is not believed to have hurt reproduction.
“The summer precipitation has been consistent and largely average across the state, with great nesting and brood rearing for quail,” says Rhoden. “Early brood reports from public areas hint at possibly a slightly early start to the nesting season, but overall this year’s reproduction seems to be spot on in terms of timing.”


“The upland habitat is likely not changed a lot in the last few years,” says Rhoden. “The Commonwealth has large tracts of connected open lands, but unfortunately the vast majority is not fit for bobwhite. Our quail-centric public areas have not been able to work as much ground this year overall, but we still have areas with decent quail numbers for the mid-south.”
According to Rhoden, the 2020 hatch and broods appear to be slightly better than last year. “This year we have had better and more consistent weather during hatch and brood rearing than last year,” says Rhoden, “and our statewide population is climbing naturally from its cyclical 7-year low from 2018.”
Rhoden says Kentucky has two main ways of indexing the quail population: Hunter Cooperator Logs and the Rural Mail Carrier Survey. “Kentucky’s quail population cycles naturally in seven-year cycles, with a peak at year one then a low at year seven. 2018 was the worst year on record for the Rural Mail Carrier Survey, but fortunately we have seen increases in the statewide indices from last year to this summer going into the fall 2020 and 2021 season,” says Rhoden. “Quail hunters in Kentucky averaged 1 covey per 4.5 hours of hunting, and we should expect less time to coveys in the upcoming 2020-2021 season based on the observed trends.” 


Peabody WMA in west-central Kentucky, Clay WMA in the northeast, and Rockcastle River WMA in the southeast are three good bets when it comes to finding some public-land Kentucky bobs, says Rhoden.
“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,” he says.


“Quail hunters in Kentucky should be prepared to do some walking for the greatest reward in hunting, which is the thunderous covey rise,” says Rhoden. “Many of our public areas where we have relatively good quail numbers are also really good rabbit hunting spots. Sometimes this leads to more elusive bobwhite than one might expect. My best tip would be to try to go out and hit these areas as early as you can, or as early as your dog will tolerate. Combine this early hunting with moving SLOWLY. Many times, coveys will run before getting up, sometimes only a single from the group will flush, leaving the rest to stick to the ground and run off. Taking your time in these scenarios can lead to flushing more birds, especially early in the season.”


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