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Conduct Fall Covey Counts

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Fall Quail Covey Calls

male northern bobwhite in snow
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Northern Bobwhite

Photo of northern bobwhite
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Gauge management success and hunting outlook

Count calling fall coveys the last three weeks in October to find out how many quail coveys are on your land. Unlike the familiar “bobwhite," the covey call is a clear, loud whistle vocalized as “koi-lee” (click on “quail call” file below to hear covey call). It can help you estimate how many quail hatched and survived the summer, giving you an idea of what hunting season might be like. Counting covey whistles is challenging because they are brief—typically lasting only 30 seconds—and they occur about 25 minutes before daybreak.

Use maps and aerial photos

To conduct a successful count, use your maps and aerial photos to establish listening stations. The average maximum distance a quail whistle can be heard is about 500 meters (547 yards), so space listening stations about 1,100 yards apart. This will help you avoid counting the same covey more than once. If trees or topography limit your ability to hear quail whistling 547 yards away, you can place listening stations closer together and still avoid double counting. With a 547-yard listening radius, you are theoretically hearing quail in a 194-acre circle around you. To maximize your listening distance, locate stations on ridge tops.

Mark your listening stations and keep records

Permanently mark your listening stations so you can use them every year. During the last three weeks of October, listen on clear and calm mornings, starting 45 minutes before sunrise. Listen until about 10 minutes before sunrise. When a covey calls, estimate its location and mark it on the map, or fix the location in your mind. Often multiple calls will be heard from the same covey location—be conservative and count this as one covey. Listen for other coveys to call back in response. In Missouri's best quail habitat, expect to hear up to 10 coveys. For best results, be consistent in the way you collect data. Remember to keep track of all the data and keep it on file for year-to-year comparison. This will help you evaluate how well your management is working.

Key Messages: 

Conservation makes Missouri a great place to hunt and fish.

This simple black-and-white data sheet includes instructions and a table to help you conduct and record your October covey counts.

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