Nevada Quail Hunting Forecast


Rains rejuvenate Nevada quail habitat, birds respond

Generally speaking, things are trending upward as it relates to all three quail species in Nevada – California quail, Gambel’s quail and mountain quail. As a result, it should be a good hunting season for quail hunters in Nevada, according to Shawn Espinosa, upland game staff biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

Following are Espinosa’s prognoses for each species.


“After over four years of severe to exceptional drought conditions throughout much of the California quail range in northwestern Nevada, the winter of 2016-2017 essentially brought an end to that drought across much of Nevada,” says Espinosa.

“Precipitation receipts for the major river basins in western Nevada including the Truckee, Carson and Walker river basins exceeded 200 percent of average and the Northern Great Basin received 142 to 148 percent of average precipitation,” he explains. “This not only led to improved habitat conditions and water availability in the uplands, but also contributed to agricultural production and cover within western Nevada valleys that are population strongholds for California quail.”

“The improved habitat conditions mentioned above within agricultural valleys such as Lahontan Valley in Churchill County and Lovelock Valley in Pershing County, plus improved riparian habitat conditions – largely due to increased water availability – should lead to increasing California quail populations throughout most of their range in Nevada,” he adds. 

“This situation was evident during the annual aerial chukar density surveys conducted in early August of 2017 and anecdotal observation throughout Lahontan Valley where several large California quail broods have been noted later in the summer of 2017,” Espinosa says. “Overall, the upcoming season is expected to realize an increase in harvest and hunters should expect to find more and larger coveys than they have in the past three to five years.”


It’s difficult to know exactly what’s going on with populations of Gambel’s quail, though the number of birds harvested per day is likely a good metric, Espinosa says. The number of birds per hunter per day has been on the decline from 1987 through 2016, likely due to the fact that production has been down because of ill-timed rains or lack thereof. 

Yet, conditions have been better the past two years, and it’s likely that production was better, too. 
“As with most upland game bird populations, Gambel’s quail experience population cycles and the species may be on the leading edge of a recovery,” Espinosa says. “Gambel’s quail hunters should expect to experience more and larger coveys during their outings during the 2017-2018 season in most traditional areas, particularly in Lincoln County.”


Similarly, mountain quail populations may have rebounded slightly, according to birds per hunter per day values, Espinosa says. In mountain quail range in Nevada, “hunters should expect to encounter the species more often during the upcoming season,” he says. 

“The Nevada Department of Wildlife has invested considerable resources into establishing and augmenting mountain quail populations within suitable habitat through a fairly aggressive translocation program over the last decade,” says Espinosa. 

“Augmentations have taken place in the Stillwater Range in Churchill County and the Vya Rim in Washoe County,” he describes. “Population establishment efforts have also occurred in the Bilk Range in Humboldt County, Buck Mountain in White Pine County and the Fish Creek Mountains in Lander County. Almost 900 mountain quail have been released during these translocation efforts.”


Nevada Upland Birds Page