New Mexico Quail Hunting Forecast 2019

9efdcf96-ffc1-4d7e-8f3c-fc47ad37bde1 The Land of Enchantment may fly under the radar of many quail hunters, but it shouldn’t. With ample public land and the opportunity to hunt four different species of quail (bobwhite, scaled, Mearns’ and Gambel’s) New Mexico is an often overlooked wingshooting destination.


“It was a relatively mild winter in New Mexico, so overwinter survival was quite good,” reports Casey Cardinal, resident gamebird biologist with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “There were fewer birds on the landscape because of poor reproductive success the previous year, but birds that made it into winter, likely survived fairly well.”
Casey says that overall, spring and summer weather conditions were good for nesting and brood-rearing. 
“There was good spring moisture across the state, leading to good nesting conditions and early brood-rearing,” says Cardinal. “There were some areas that were hit by hail, so these local areas likely experienced bird die-offs and reproductive failure, but for the most part across the south, reproductive efforts from May to July were likely quite successful.”
However, Cardinal also noted that late summer moisture was less ideal, and as a result there may have been fewer late-season reproductive efforts, or they were unsuccessful.    


How is the upland habitat in general in NM (amount and quality) going into fall?
Some areas of upland habitat still look extremely good in the east-central portion of the state from the early-season moisture,” says Cardinal. “Unfortunately, precipitation patterns were patchy in late summer into this fall, and much of the southern portion of the state is falling back into drought condition. Portions of the southeast and southwest are quite dry and fall and winter survival may be slightly reduced in these areas.”
Overall, however, Cardinal says it was a pretty good early season hatch across quail range in southern New Mexico, and there are still a good number of young that made it to fall.  
“A research study in eastern New Mexico found improved reproduction this year compared to last,” notes Cardinal. “New Mexico’s roadside survey is still in its preliminary stages of implementation, but anecdotal reports are that there are more birds on the landscape, and most of the young were near full grown by September.”  


“Eddy, Lea, and Chaves counties will likely have the highest harvest again this year,” says Cardinal. “There is good numbers of birds and public land in the area, and these counties provide good hunting opportunities.” 


“Coveys near the road get hit pretty hard, and become very skittish early in the season,” Cardinal says. “So don’t be afraid to get off the road to look for birds. Drainages are a great place to start your search, as they have green vegetation and insects that quail readily utilize.”
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever West Region Director Al Eiden says New Mexico offers a unique opportunity to harvest multiple species, often in the same day in certain areas, but you’ll have to work for them. “For scaled quail look for grasslands with a good amount of bare dirt and rocks, and for Mearns’ get in those oaks with about 30 percent cover and look for scratching on the ground where the birds are looking for tubers.”