Pop Decline Causes TX Officials to Consider Changes to Quail Season

It's no secret among Texas (or Oklahoma, for that matter) quail hunters that the 2011-12 season has been about an order of magnitude worse than dismal. How bad was it? So bad that many Texas quail hunters--as hard-core a group of bird hunters as you'll find anywhere--voluntarily decided not to shoot anything at all.

In fact, the good folks at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch (featured here in a recent F&S web gallery) have even sponsored a "Shoot the Covey Rise" photo contest for quail hunters who have decided to put down the shotgun and pick up only the camera this year. It's a really cool idea, and for more information on that click here.

In light of the ongoing issue of declining quail populations, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department is considering changes to the Texas quail season. From this story in the Austin American-Statesman:

Texas Parks and Wildlife commissioners decided Wednesday they don't have enough information to make decisions about the future of quail hunting in Texas. Quail populations have been in a steady decline of about 2.8 percent per year for four decades, upland game bird program leader Robert Perez told members of the commission's regulations committee. "The decline is symptomatic of a habitat problem," Perez said. To address the current situation, state quail managers recommended that commissioners adopt a new set of regulations that would create two quail zones, a shorter hunting season and a reduced bag limit in part of the state.

One of the zones would be in the east part of the state and would have a 5-bird daily bag limit. The other zone would be in the west and would retain a 15-bird-per-day limit. The hunting season in both zones would close at the end of January rather than late February. Rather than act on the recommendation, Commissioner Ralph Duggins proposed delaying a decision until late August in order to give wildlife staff a chance to accumulate and assess February harvest data from this year, measure summer rainfall and review late summer call count surveys that are used to develop population trend data.

What do you think, southwest bird hunters? Even though no action was taken right now, I think most of us realize that a change in quail regulations is as inevitable as it is needed. Keeping in mind the current precarious nature of King Bob, what changes would you like to see made to quail hunting regulations in your state? For example, in Texas and Oklahoma the quail season runs through mid February (Feb. 15 in Oklahoma and Feb. 26 in Texas) and many hunters have long argued that shooting into next year's brood stock that late in the season is a bad idea and the season should end at the end of January. Others say reductions in limits would help. Your thoughts?