a practical means for estimating local bird numbers and understanding the effectiveness of annual habitat management efforts.
Covey counts can’t begin until coveys form in early to mid-October, making it difficult to gather results from around the state and report them by the start of quail season. However, I can share what some managers are seeing during ongoing covey counts. The following observations are not final results, but they capture the fact that quail populations vary widely across the state and indicate that favorable weather and good management have combined to produce some good hunting prospects this fall.
- The picture with this post was taken by Resource Assistant Chez Kleeman at Bois D’Arc Conservation Area (CA) in Greene County. He flushed a covey on Oct. 11 that included sparrow-sized birds that could barely fly. In addition to this evidence of successful late-season nesting, Bois D’Arc staff report their quail numbers are up this year!
- Dave Hoover, manager of the Seat CA in Worth County, told me their counts are slightly better than the last year, with evidence of a good hatch for all ground nesting birds. He also cautions that overall numbers remain low due to extremely poor weather conditions from 2007-2010. Some parts of the state need two or three consecutive years of good production to see populations bounce back to levels that were common prior to 2007.
- Staff from Whetstone Creek CA in Callaway County and the William White area in Lincoln County report that their counts are running about half of what was observed last fall. Heavy snow which lingered throughout much of last winter in parts of central Missouri may have hit some local populations pretty hard.
- Private Land Conservationist (PLC) Mike Gaskins passed along that landowners in Dent and Shannon counties are seeing late-hatched quail and turkey broods in recent weeks.
- PLC Nathan Mechlin calls 2011 a good quail production year for Clinton, Caldwell and Daviess counties, with both quail and turkey brood sightings up from previous years. Those results are spotty, as landowners in some areas report seeing very few birds.
- Phil Sneed manages Poosey CA in Livingston County. He reports hearing coveys in new locations; an encouraging sign of good habitat conditions. Average covey size on Poosey is 11 to 12 birds, with a couple 20-bird coveys. Phil also reports that some birds were still too young to fly well, so portions of north Missouri have seen late nesting success as well.