New Mexico Quail Hunting Forecast 2020

25c90d52-d966-458d-b64a-9d13d601e65d By Ted Gartner

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A long and dry summer didn’t do New Mexico quail any favors, but for those who are willing to put in the miles, the Land of Enchantment will continue to lure bird hunters.
 

Weather and Conditions

“It was a relatively mild winter in New Mexico, so overwinter survival was good across the State,” says Casey Cardinal, resident game bird biologist at the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “In the southwest portion of the state there have been several years of good winter precipitation, which is beneficial for Gambel’s quail.”
 

Habitat, Broods and Counts

Unfortunately, spring and summer were very hot with little precipitation. Nesting and brood rearing conditions were not ideal, particularly in the southeast portion of the state. By the end of summer, much of the quail range was in some level of drought. Production was likely average to below average across much of the state this summer. There was some monsoon moisture late in the summer, so there may have been a late hatch.
 
In the extreme southwest, winter moisture benefitted habitat and conditions seemed to stay decent longer in this area, which may have resulted in increased bird numbers along the Arizona border.
 
Surveys in 2020 indicate that there could be fewer broods on the landscape in the southeast, due to dry conditions during the breeding season.  This could result in fewer birds harvested compared to previous years.  Though there may be fewer broods on the landscape, broods that were found tended to be decent sized, with some broods found with 15+ birds in September. Folks who put in the effort will still be able to find birds, but it could be after logging more miles than average.
 
Good Gambel’s quail numbers were found near the Arizona border, with broods of 20+ birds found in several areas. Though there are still fewer broods found in the southwest compared to the southeast, brood sizes were larger and more healthy than found in the last several years.
 
New Mexico’s Roadside Survey is still in its preliminary stages of implementation. Because these are new surveys, the state won’t have comparison data from previous years, but that will hopefully change by the 2021-22 hunting season.
 

Top Spots

Though production was average or below, quail densities are still highest in the southeast. Scaled quail harvest will still be highest in Chaves, Lea, and Eddy counties.
 
Gambel’s quail hunting will likely be good this year near the Arizona border, including Hidalgo, Grant and Luna Counties.
 

Insider Tip

“Coveys near the road get hit pretty hard, and become very skittish early in the season.  Don’t be afraid to get off the road to look for birds,” Cardinal says.  “Drainages are a great place to start your search, as they have green vegetation and insects that quail readily utilize.”
 
 

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