Review of Missouri's Quail-Hunting Season Dates
or at unhuntable numbers on most of the landscape and the huntable populations scattered around in small pockets. The fragmentation of quail habitat and populations translates to an increased chance of local extinction. And although there are fewer quail hunters, they are efficient and persistent and have the potential to push local populations to extinction. Unlike the old days, the chances are slim that neighboring quail will move in and reestablish a thriving population.
· A new closing date? Based on the scarcity of quail some have argued for a December closure or other restrictions, such as custom regulations for counties, as is done in South Carolina. Of course this would get us back into the mode of working on saving what we have left, instead of focusing on improving conditions and increasing quail numbers. Further, most of the improvements made for quail are being spearheaded by hunters, so further restrictions in hunting would likely result in fewer quail. So, almost two decades later we arrive at the same conclusion drawn in 1986: the Jan. 15 closing date is a compromise between biology and sport. Extending the season into late January or February could potentially impact breeding numbers. Further, in 2002 the state embarked on a massive quail restoration program because of the dwindling quail population—to liberalize hunting now would send a mixed message. Fortunately, there are numerous examples in recent years where public land managers and private landowners have restored and managed habitat for bobwhites with an incredible response. For example, the November 2008 issue of the Missouri Conservationist featured an outstanding story by Jim Low on how Jeff Churan has turned his property into a quail haven. As a result of Jeff’s dedicated work, hunters averaged one covey every 24 minutes during the 2005-2006 season. On one hunt, they moved nine coveys in three and a half hours. Despite all time low densities, success stories from around Missouri have shown that bobwhites will respond to active habitat management.
· A new opening date? No, with a biological constraint on the closure, we are forced to look to fall for increased recreational opportunity. Biologically, this is easy because at this time harvest has little, if any, effect on breeder abundance. Many of the quail killed by hunters would have died anyway because of predation, malnutrition, etc. Biologists have known since the 1940s that good management demands that harvest by the gun come as close to the reproductive season as reasonably possible. With most of Missouri’s quail production finished during August and September, this is exactly what the Nov. 1 opener does.
In conclusion, the future of quail hunting is more dependent on hunters focusing on habitat improvement than getting side-tracked on hunting regulations, predator control and pen-raised quail. The future of quail hunting in Missouri is in the balance—are you contributing? The above summary covers only a portion of the review—for the complete review go to the following link.
Habitat is the Key!