Texas Quail Hunting Forecast 2018


Weather and Conditions

"This past winter was extremely dry across the core quail areas of Texas," says Robert Perez, upland game bird program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "Lack of winter moisture equates to a short supply of winter greens needed to get into good breeding conditions. Couple that with a dry spring, and both bobs and blues got off to a slow start. Starting in about July, parts of the state began to receive some precipitation but it was spotty and in turn quail production was also spotty."

Hatch and Broods

"Anecdotally, much of Texas appears to be below average but of course there are a few reports of some areas holding good numbers of birds," says Perez. Following is a regional breakdown of hatch and brood success.

Gulf Prairie and Marshes: Surveys indicate that bobwhite numbers have decreased from 10.4 to 6.6 in the Gulf Prairies and Marshes region and remain below average. Heavy mid-summer rains likely negatively impacted bobwhite brood survival in mid-coast prairies. It is possible that late summer re-nesting attempts could produce some additional broods.

Crosstimbers and Prairie Region: A precipitous drop in quail counts, from a high of over seven birds observed per route during 2016 season to 6.1 birds in 2017 to .71 birds observed in 2018, translates into a tough year for quail in this region. The 15-year average is 2.89 birds per route.

South Texas Plains: Spring-summer nesting was limited to areas in the northeast portion of the region where there may be some good hunting opportunities this season. Overall, very dry conditions through July negatively impacted production across much of south Texas. The least amount of production reported includes most of the western half of south Texas where late summer rains were not enough to offset July high temperatures. Few broods have been reported although there are some exceptions. The Coastal Sand Plain is nestled within the region and has fared better than areas further from the coast. This Sand Plain is known for some of the good quail hunting and reports from land mangers suggest an average year. Widespread, significant September rains could result in a late second hatch with young birds on the ground at the beginning of the season.

Edwards Plateau: There were steep drops in observed numbers of both scaled and bobwhite quail from the highs of 2016. For bobs, from almost 12 birds per route in 2016, to 4.61 in 2017, to 3.82 this year. Scaled quail fared even worse, dropping from a high of 24.75 birds observed in 2017 to 3.5 this year.

Rolling Plains: This past winter was exceptionally dry across most of the Rolling Plains where some places went without any precipitation for 100 consecutive days. Field reports are mixed primarily due to differences in the amount of rainfall received in June and July. The first broods reported contained few young (3-5) which indicate limited success. Later broods have been larger and more common in the few areas that caught more rain. The northeast panhandle is one of these spots and may be more productive. In contrast, the central panhandle from Paducah to west of Lubbock has been drier than most other areas and reproduction is expected to be limited. Scouting ahead is advised this season since good hunting opportunities will likely be limited. The average number of bobwhites observed and heard per route was 5.4 compared to 26.7 last year. This is a significant drop and is well below the 15-year mean of 19.6. 

High Plains: Observed bobs per route declined in 2018 from 18.33 in 2017 to 15.78 in 2018. Both years, however, are well off the 35.33 number of 2016. Scaled quail fared worse in this region, dropping from 7.09 birds observed per route in 2017 to 1.73 this year.

Trans-Pecos: Last season scaled quail populations were about average and may have had decent carryover. However, this past spring was dry overall and July rains were limited in distribution. Overall, field reports indicate good hunting opportunities will be limited to those areas that received higher precipitation with good range conditions. The average number of scaled quail observed and heard per route was 11.8 compared to 21 last year. This below the 15-year mean of 20.6 and is predictive of a below average year in the Trans-Pecos.

Habitat and Programs

"There are millions of acres of potentially suitable rangelands in the Rolling Plains and South Texas regions of Texas," says Perez. "Here on the western portion of the bobwhite range, annual fluctuations in quail abundance are largely driven by weather patterns. That said, private and public properties that include habitat management practices for quail generally do much better in down years than unmanaged properties. So, scouting ahead can definitely pay off in below average years."

Top Spots

"Although not detected by our annual roadside counts, certain counties appear to be doing better by comparison," Perez reports. "Specifically, Medina and Frio counties in south Texas and Hemphill and Wheeler counties in the northeast Panhandle. It’s still too early to tell but there may be some Scaled quail hunting opportunities in the Trans Pecos. I suggest calling ahead or scouting for blues since our regional survey indicates a below-average year overall." 

Insider Tips

"Most hunters delay trips until mid-December and the majority of hunting takes place in January and February," Perez says. "After a freeze or two, scenting conditions become much better and snakes for the most part are inactive, but there are plenty of warm winter days in Texas! Look for standing vegetation at least 6-8 inches tall and a good distribution of woody cover."