Illinois Quail Hunting Forecast 2017


Illinois, once quail heaven, faces tough times

Annual upland surveys in Illinois found that quail numbers this year were slightly higher than last year. That’s the good news. The bad? 

“Despite the slight increase from the survey, the Illinois quail population is still as low as it has ever been,” says Stan McTaggart, agriculture and grassland wildlife program manager for the Illinois DNR’s Division of Wildlife.

“Last year’s harvest was estimated at 36,000 wild birds compared to annual harvests of 400,000 to 900,000 during the 1990s,” explains McTaggart. “We continue to lose habitat and connectivity between patches of habitat. Some landowners have been enrolling in various Conservation Reserve Program practices that can provide great quail habitat (CP4D Wildlife Habitat, CP33 Upland Bird Habitat Buffers, CP38 State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, and CP42 Pollinator Habitat, for example). But we are not keeping pace with the loss of habitat and deterioration of habitat quality statewide.”

Throughout much of the state – with the exception of northern Illinois, which experienced heavy rains and record flooding during the summer – weather conditions were good in July and August following a wet spring and early summer. McTaggart expects those conditions were favorable for broods as well as birds that nested or re-nested later in the summer. 

McTaggart says quail hunters should focus their efforts on west-central and southeastern Illinois, both of which have strong CRP acreage and a good mix of agricultural and forestland.

“Hunters should focus on areas with timbered edges and small fields with relatively new CRP practices such as CP33, CP38 and CP42,” McTaggart says.


“Quality quail habitat must provide four main features,” says McTaggart. His insights comprise good advice for finding quail in Illinois … or most anywhere for that matter. Here are the four habitat features:

* Adequate nesting cover with mixed grasses and forbs

* Good brood habitat, which provides plenty of bare dirt with flowering forbs that attract insects for chicks

* Escape/roosting cover that provides overhead protection from predators and the elements and should be present within 50 to 75 yards from wherever the birds may be within their home range

* And food, which is generally found on the landscape in most of Illinois.


Illinois Upland Birds Page