I received emails from Beaver to Blanchard in response to my column about whether the quail hunting season should be closed since the bobwhite population seems to be at a record low in Oklahoma. Here is what readers had to say about it:
This past weekend myself and many concerned quail entusiasts met at Packsaddle Wildlife Management Area for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Field Day and assisted Oklahoma State University in a post reproduction quail survey on both Packsaddle and Beavers WMAs.
During the Field Day, the same question was asked about closing the quail season in Oklahoma. All of the experts present agreed that closing the season would not fix the problem and that hunter pressure is not a factor on a large scale, so it would not make a difference on quail populations.
James Dietsch, founding chairman of the Central Oklahoma 89er Chapter of Quail Forever
I have seen a tremendous decline of quail in the last five years. My dad and I have personally witnessed predators (snowy egrets, hawks, bobcats) at work. I just feel like the drought and the predators are decimating the species. Really miss hearing the quail along the creek close to my house.
Mike Claflin, Wakita
If the Wildlife Department still had their game farm, they could still be replacing part of the birds that we lose each year. They still raise and stock fish for the fishermen, why not birds for the hunters?
Samuel Griesel, El Reno
Mother Nature has driven a few nails in the coffin of the bobwhite. It’s the only thing that has changed. I have never felt heat like I’ve felt the last two summers. It punishes you for being outside. It dries and withers anything that doesn’t have a source of hydration. It limits life. And it is limiting quail in Oklahoma.
Michael Harris, Oklahoma City
Hunters are not putting a decline on the quail population. We think down here it’s the predators: wild hogs, skunks and red-tailed hawks. The severe drought is also taking its toll. We hope this season will be better. During our dove hunt Sept. 5 we jumped two separate coveys, nice-sized coveys too. Another place west of Altus we saw a large covey of at least 14 birds get up and we walked to our dove hunting spot. Sure made us feel good to see more quail this year than the last three years.
John Karr, Altus
Habitat hasn’t changed much west of I-35. I’ve covered much of the area and I go all the time. What has changed? I’m seeing a lot more raccoon and the dogs are finding more skunks. High numbers of ground predators are apparent. We’ve shot some birds with eyeworms, never seen that before. When some quail get up, they are flying like sick birds. The birds are weak. I have been finding more nests with the eggs eaten while running the dogs. Everything eats quail. I have personally watched turkey eating the baby quail. That was the biggest shock so far.
Wade Alexander, Lindsay
My first question to a person who complains that “there ain’t no birds” is, ‘What are you doing about it?’ Oklahoma quail hunters are passive. Rather than unite and work on the problem, they complain, sell their guns, sell their dogs, and quit. I had the opportunity earlier this year to attend the Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic in Kansas City, put on by Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever and witnessed a large number of people eager to do something about their bird populations.
Not many that I saw were from Oklahoma or Texas. We have what is considered one of the top three states for quail hunting and we have two Quail Forever Chapters, Texas only has 3. Kansas has 11. Missouri has 23. Tennessee has nine. The avid quail hunters I know have been hunting in Kansas for the past three years. Our chapters here in the state do a lot of good, considering the lack luster support they have from hunters. It is involved quail hunters that will get the birds back.
John Bellah, Midwest City
It saddens my heart that the quail population has disappeared completely in most central areas and struggles in other areas. I have been mad at hunters on the Red River that hunted them with no responsibility to limits. I know in many and most of the areas I had hunted the people population had nothing to do with it and the food source had nothing to do with the lack of quail.
I know there are no facts to support the increase of turkeys having to do with the demise of quail, but I wonder. I have used a quail call and called up tom turkeys in a rush. I have heard they tear up the quail nest and eggs. I would vote to close quail season, and change the days for the next year to Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays only. And I would like to see quail trapped and transferred to landowner properties that show good food and habitat areas.
Ed Smith, Choctaw
I agree that we should stop killing off the remaining quail and try to increase the population by any means possible. I have an acreage on Kaw Lake and have watched the decline of quail for 15 years. I am lucky to see one small covey a year now, down from many coveys a few years back. Yet the hunters till come to kill the remaining few. I cannot help but believe that laying off hunting for any amount of time will slightly increase the population.
Sandra LeMonnier, Kaw Lake
I think we should do away with quail season. Years ago, I used to see and hear quail all the time in this rural area, but not anymore. I have maybe seen one small covey in the past year and I have been hunting off and on for the past 40-plus years. I think part of the problem is an over-abundance of roadrunners, turkeys and bobcats.
George Bowling, Blanchard
“I too have witnessed hawks on the hunt for quail, on average most every year. When in the field, I’ve also come to make note of the many more bobcat tracks than I did 30 years ago. Perhaps an effort to thin out some predators would be a good idea.
“I have long advocated for a smaller limit on quail, as well as going back to the old system of specified days for hunting. And lets not forget about the 800-pound gorilla in the room, which is the exponential growth of cattle herds over the past 50 years.
“This practice has brought about tremendous damage to quail habitat throughout the plains area here in Beaver County. More cattle brings about the need for the clearing of natural grass lands for irrigation circles, the bulldozing of old homestead locations for more grazing, and the clearing of tree rows along fence lines.
“From there, the fields are then grazed down to look like felt on a pool table. There used to be three or four homesteads on each section of land which created great habitat for quail here in flatland territory. Today, those homesteads are slowly being bulldozed away and the barns, corrals, trees, shrubbery, and plum thickets are, too.
“What once provided cover, is now nothing more than windswept land of wheat pasture, intended for grazing. Upland birds have no chance in this scenario.
Brock Russell, Beaver