Tennessee Quail Hunting Forecast 2019

8387b6f6-a414-4444-87b2-0b16bbbad77b By Ted Gartner

Tennessee has been home to historically significant populations of wild quail - particularly on stately grounds like the Ames Plantation, the home of the national championship for field trial bird dogs. Today, loss of habitat has reduced the chances of encountering Gentleman Bob, but if hunters are willing to knock on some doors and work at it, they should be able to find a few wild coveys.


Last winter was moderate, so biologists feel that quail populations were not impacted heading into the spring nesting season. Spring in the Volunteer State brought heavy rains.
“Spring rains brought lush vegetation early to Tennessee, but continued rain through the early brooding season may have been unfavorable to young chick survival,” says Andy Edwards, a Quail Forever regional biologist. “Late summer conditions have been dry and hot, which shouldn’t negatively affect quail that survived through the rainy weather.”


Quality upland habitat in west and middle Tennessee that has been managed for quail should be holding birds. 
“However, this habitat is limited due to changes in farming practices, and the proliferation of introduced grasses such as fescue and bermuda,” says Edwards.
Tennessee conducts long-term quail counts on four focus areas within the state, but as of publication time, the counts have not been analyzed. Beginning next year, the state hopes to collect more data. 

“We will be doing a hunter harvest survey this year with the University of Tennessee,” says Roger Applegate, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency small game program leader. “This will be repeated annually and is the first in nearly a decade. Going forward, we expect to have a much better estimate of harvest and the number of quail hunters.”


“Hunters who are willing to knock on doors for private land access should look to west Tennessee. This portion of the state has the best chance for providing hunters with a chance at a wild covey flush,” suggests Edwards. “The best time to attempt this would be after our statewide deer season ends in early January.”


Edwards says hunters should look at areas like overgrown pastures, scrubby fencerows, abandoned farms, and newly established tree plantings that are two to five years old for quail. If you find these areas, be prepared to bust through the tough brush in search of quail. 
“Briar pants are a must,” says Edwards. “Go where other hunters wouldn’t, and you just may be rewarded with a flurry of wings from a wild Tennessee covey flush.”

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