Regulation Changes Provide More Quail Hunting Opportunities in 2009
Last year the Conservation Commission approved quail-hunting regulations that will simplify quail-hunting rules and provide a quality hunting experience on designated conservation areas around the state. The proposal was reviewed by several Department biologists, the Regulations Committee and the Missouri Quail and Grassland Bird Leadership Council, which is composed of hunting and farming organizations such as Quail Forever, Quail Unlimited, Missouri Soybean Association and Missouri Cattlemen’s Association.
Most notably has been the elimination of the 1 p.m. closure on a few department areas. On these areas quail hunters can now pursue quail all day during the prescribed season. The 1 p.m. closure was implemented in the late 1980s to reduce hunting pressure and to provide time for coveys to regroup and feed in the evening. The 1 p.m. closure was dropped because research didn’t support keeping it. In the late 1990s, Department biologists conducted a study comparing restricted hunting regulations to statewide regulations on the Blind Pony Lake Conservation Area in Saline County. The study divided the area in half with part of the area open to statewide quail hunting regulations and the other half only open to restricted hunting regulations. Interestingly, at the end of the study the researchers found no difference in quail densities or the physical condition of birds between the two sites.
Researchers also found that restricted hunting, like the 1 p.m. closure, didn’t improve winter survival. In fact, many of the birds still died from natural causes over the winter. Biologists also noticed that after 1 p.m., quail were still being “pressured” by other legal activities on the conservation area. For example, coveys were still flushed by rabbit hunters and other area users. Other research projects have shown that quail wise up to hunting pressure and often take drastic steps to avoid hunters. For example, in one research project coveys were documented roosting on the conservation area only to fly to private land to spend the rest of the day. Other studies showed that coveys started to move away from hunters and researchers when they were more than 300 yards away. Somehow the birds knew they were coming! I’ve observed similar behaviors during late-season hunts on conservation areas. The later in the season, the smarter the birds get.
Additionally in 2009, eight conservation areas will require quail hunters to have a prescribed hunting permit and a valid area daily tag to quail hunt. The