HARLINGEN — While the number of hunters pursuing quail continues to drop, state biologists say this year wing shooters in the South Texas Plains region who do reach the field will find bobwhites in abundance.
Quail season begins today and runs through Feb. 23.
“Habitat and weather can cause dramatic shifts in bobwhite and scaled quail populations from one year to the next,” said Robert Perez, quail program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Although last year’s quail season was not very productive, quail have an uncanny ability to quickly bounce back when conditions are good. Thanks to favorable weather conditions earlier this year, hunters can look forward to productive quail hunting across most of the state this season.”
The two best regions to pursue quail in Texas — and the best in Texas may be as good as can be found anywhere — are the Rolling Plains sector, which runs from north Texas into the Panhandle, and the South Texas Plains, which includes the Rio Grande Valley.
For the core quail range in Texas, this year’s El Niño weather pattern translated to above-average rainfall and below-average temperatures, resulting in an above-average bobwhite quail season in most of South Texas, TPWD reports.
“Favorable weather conditions spurred calling and pair formation in the majority of South Texas counties, and land manager and staff reports suggest an average to above-average season,” Perez said.
TPWD projections are based on annual statewide quail surveys that were initiated in 1978 to monitor quail populations. This index uses randomly selected, 20-mile roadside survey lines to determine annual quail population trends by ecological region.
This year in the South Texas Plains the average number of quail counted per roadside survey route was 13.55, the highest since 2016 when it was 13.97 birds. Last year, a poor one by quail standards, the regional survey counted just 5.06 birds per survey run.
Quail hunting season runs through Feb. 23, 2020. The daily bag limit for quail is 15, with 45 in possession. Legal shooting hours for all non-migratory game birds are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.
Hunters can find public quail hunting opportunities at several wildlife management areas in Cameron County, including the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area’s Longoria, Tucker, Anacua, Arroyo Colorado, Carricitos and Ebony units.
A hunting license and an annual public hunting permit are both required to hunt these areas.