By Oliver Hartner
Much of the habitat in Tennessee has not been favorable for bobwhite quail for quite some time, and a harsher winter seems to have had a negative impact on the population. However, for those places where habitat is being managed intensely, the quail population looks stable, and wild coveys can be found.
WEATHER AND CONDITIONS
A bitter winter across the state this year seems to have affected the bobwhite population. Roger D. Applegate, Certified Wildlife Biologist for the Tennessee Wildlife Resource agency, reports, “We had some ice and snow that likely had local impacts on quail numbers.”
However, a warm spring and hot summer with average precipitation levels might have offset the damage caused by freezing winter conditions. Applegate says, “Conditions this summer have been fine. Weather has been hot, but we have had plenty of moisture.”
HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS
As in many areas of the southeast, habitat loss has created problems for Tennessee’s bobwhite quail population. However, those places where healthy habitat exists seem to have normal and sustained levels of bobwhite quail. Applegate explains, “The population looks fine in areas that are carefully managed, but otherwise it looks fair across areas of our state that sustain quail.”
The adverse weather conditions during the winter might have delayed nesting efforts, which may be a cause of concern. Applegate says, “We have some indication of a decent hatch but no data, and we’re still hearing folks finding nests which is concerning.” The data collection on the sites they survey has not been analyzed yet, and biologists won’t have a clearer picture until their research is finalized around the end of October.
For quail hunters interested in public land hunts in Tennessee, Applegate suggests central areas of the state south of Nashville. “Some of the best quail hunting right now in Tennessee can be found on the wildlife areas in the middle section of the state. Yanahli and Laurel Hill Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) generally have birds. Our website tn.gov/twra
has excellent sources on the WMAs by region, and our hunt guide provides details on what can be hunted on those areas. There’s also a contact at each site that you can talk with to get local info.”
Applegate suggests inquiring with local WMA managers for suggestions on where to find birds on their areas, and to manage your expectations. “Set reasonable expectations on how many coveys you will locate, and be willing to accept that some days will be covey-less,” he says.