When it comes to hunting bobwhites this season, it’ll pay off to have your homework done. With drought conditions spreading over much of bobwhite territory – the South got some relief – and the continued loss of habitat, most state departments agree it’s going to be a tougher year with scattered opportunities.
Last year, KANSAS had an average to below-average harvest. Though the brood numbers won’t be tallied until September, Dave Dahlgren, Small Game Specialist, provided an anecdotal report. Southwest and south-central Kansas have been the most affected by the drought, and those areas had already experienced a hard year in 2011. “There are some bright spots,” says Dahlgren. “It seems the Northern Flint Hills and northeast Kansas had better production. Parts of southeast Kansas have potential with the current habitat conditions.” Hunters will also likely find some spots in the north-central part of the state, based on preliminary reports from landowners and biologists.
NEBRASKA bobwhites were on the rebound in 2011, despite the loss of woody cover and CRP acres. Broods hatched last year were better able to sustain the mild winter that came to the state; however, unusually warm weather soon set it, and that could have affected department surveys. “Conditions during the July Rural Mail Carrier Survey [high temperatures and drought conditions] may have biased low the survey results and should be interpreted with caution. Results from the Whistle Count Survey indicated that statewide, bobwhite populations were comparable to 2011, with regional increases in the East-Central, Southeast, and West Platte bobwhite management regions,” says Jeff Lusk, Upland Game Program Manager. Jefferson and Thayer counties in the southeast region will probably be the best places to go, Wildlife Management Areas in particular. The full gamebird forecast will be available at www.outdoornebraska.org within the next few weeks.
Mostly due to drought conditions, the OKLAHOMA statewide index in 2011 declined 37 percent below the 2010 level, leading biologists to forecast low hunting opportunity in nearly every region. And unfortunately, that turned out to be more true than not. Last year, the number of hunters (17,000) and number of birds harvested (109,000) were the lowest numbers on record. The adult quail population was also low going into the 2011 season due to the high heat. Doug Schoeling, Upland Game Biologist, is hoping for a better year, and it looks like there will be a slight increase. “We had decent carryover into the nesting season, and a fairly decent first hatch,” says Schoeling. The department is seeing a high percentage of juvenile birds, which will help to “fill in the gaps of adult birds taken last year.” But the unfavorable weather, high temperatures, and little moisture have made it another tough year on bobwhite production. There’s still time for a late hatch if there were more moisture and a break in the heat, but birds can’t wait too much longer, says Schoeling. There are enough insects for food but it’ll depend on if the birds can find shade. Visit www.wildlifedepartment.com for updates.