Quail season winding down
It's been a good hunting season for quail in Oklahoma, although it didn't quite live up to its preseason hype.
Roadside surveys by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and anecdotal reports before the season opened in November predicted a boon year for quail and created a lot of excitement among quail hunters.
Derek Wiley, upland bird biologist for the Wildlife Department, acknowledged that many hunters on the state's wildlife management areas didn't think they were finding the number of birds as reflected by the roadside surveys, but “it was pretty dry the whole season.”
As a general rule, hunters found more birds in southwest Oklahoma than northwest Oklahoma.
“The northwest didn't seem to be as good as last year,” said John Bellah, president of the Central Oklahoma 89er Chapter of Quail Forever. “The southwest lived up to my expectations and was probably the best region in the state. The amount of hunters on public land was ridiculous.”
Sue Selman, who owns a ranch near Buffalo and books quail hunters from across the country, said this season didn't turn out to be as good as the last on her ranch, but it was still "so much better than it was for so many years.”
Hot and dry conditions during most of the season made scenting conditions tough on bird dogs, said Selman, who is already looking forward to next season.
“We have plenty of birds left, and with the right weather conditions this summer, I am anticipating another good season next time,” she said.
Laura McIver of Oklahoma City, who is the Texas-Oklahoma regional representative for Quail Forever, said the quail hunting was as good as forecast in certain places, but not widespread.
“It was great in some areas and others not as expected,” she said. “It really depended upon the rainfall, too thick or too thin of cover/habitat and some localized storm events.”
Quail hunter Reid Simmons of Mangum called the bird hunting in southwest Oklahoma the best it's been in several years.
“But it has also been difficult at times,” he said. “The early mornings and late evenings have been the best, in my opinion. The thick cover and dry weather has made it difficult for the dogs to smell the birds. I can't imagine trying to hunt without a good dog.
“Overall, it's been a great season, and we feel blessed to have quail back in southwest Oklahoma."
Quail hunting enthusiast James Dietsch of Oklahoma City felt the same way. Even if the hunting season wasn't as grand as predicted, it was still a far cry from some of the lean years in the past.
"Quail numbers in Oklahoma are good enough to keep me and my dogs in the field every chance we get," he said.
Wednesday is the final day of Oklahoma's quail season.