Summer Quail Report: New Mexico

35e010f4-8eb3-4d21-adcc-66a92dffea09 “Last year’s quail hunt was about average,” says Casey Cardinal, Resident Game Bird Biologist with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “Hunters were still seeing a fair number of birds in the Southeast, while hunters in the Southwest reported that bird numbers were spotty.”
New Mexico small game harvest reporting is voluntary, but the following figures came in:

*Total quail harvest reported in 2016-17 season (2,342 reports): 36,788

*Total quail harvest reported in 2015-16 season (2,696 reports): 54,785

*Average Birds per reporting hunter: 
       Montezuma Quail: 4.5
       Scaled Quail: 18
       Gambel’s Quail: 9.3
       Bobwhite Quail: 12.9

*Average birds-per-hunter was about 23% lower in 2016 compared to 2015.

“Our winter started dry,” says Cardinal, “with some precipitation arriving at the beginning of 2017. There were no major snowstorms that seemed to substantially increase winter mortality, so there was good overwinter survival of birds into the breeding season.” 
“Then New Mexico had a warm spring,” she continues. “The Southeast received some spring precipitation, which helped with grass and forb production. Even with this rain, early spring production has been lower than expected.  There have been a lot of pairs observed this spring, but few coveys. Quail numbers will likely be average in the Southeast this coming fall.”

“The Southwest is dry and has not picked up much precipitation this spring,” she adds. “Quail numbers will likely be spotty there again this year.”

“Quail habitat in New Mexico continues to look good in the East and fair in the Southwest,” says Cardinal. “Precipitation has been more ideal in the last few years on the eastern side of the state, while the western side continues to struggle with drought conditions.  Quail population trends have mirrored these weather patterns with bird numbers being higher in Southeast during the recent years and lower in the southwest.”
“Southeastern New Mexico has a good number of scaled quail, as well as bobwhites in some areas,” adds Cardinal. “There is a lot of public land in the Southeast and harvest will likely be highest in this area in 2017.”

As for habitat, Cardinal reports: “The BLM is still working hard on the Restore New Mexico Project, which was launched in 2005.  Together with their partners, they have worked to restore over three million acres across the state.   A large proportion of this habitat improvement occurred in quail habitat.  A graduate student from Oklahoma State University will be starting a study on the impact of BLM prescribed burning on scaled quail in Southeastern New Mexico this coming winter."

See the summer quail report from neighboring Arizona here.

Tom Carpenter is Digital Content Manager at Quail Forever.

Photo credit: D. Longenbaugh, Shutterstock