Fall is finally upon us. We have all said goodbye to the long, hot, dog days of summer and are now turning our thoughts toward this upcoming hunting season.
Here at RSK we are in the midst of sending home the dogs that traveled with Ronnie and Susanna to Montana for work on the wild prairie birds. All the attendees of that wild bird training program did an excellent job and we are excited to hear how they do in the field this coming year! Now all of our attention will be focused on finishing up the second formal training class that Gabe has been working for the past month. This class will be finishing up their formal training just in time for this season of hunting!
Our first Texas hunts will begin the first part of November. So far bird reports across Texas are mixed, but overall most people are “cautiously optimistic.” As of this time, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department has not released their 2010-11 Quail Forecast. We will be attending a Texas Tech University quail field day in Guthrie, Texas later this month and hope to learn more from the TTU researchers.
Dale Rollins with the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch (RPQRR) has his ears to the ground gathering information on the Texas quail crop. After speaking with many local landowners and QuailMasters alumni across the state and doing his own research, Rollins has released his forecast for this year and rates the crop on a scale of 1 to 10 (a score of ten being what we are all hoping for!). To say the least, it’s a mixed bag across the Great State of Texas!
North Texas: An average year scored at 5. “But, given the past couple of years, it’s a “5” that looks like an “8”, i.e., our standards have slipped after several mediocre seasons.” They are, however, still seeing some late hatches on the RPQRR.
West Central Texas: Scores are across the board from a 1 in Eastland County to “perhaps it is not a “10” but it has to be close” in Coke County. There are still reports of young chicks being seen.
West Texas: Located south of I-10 near Van Horn, Ron Helm reported on the blue quail, “I’m afraid I do not have good news. We’ve been working cattle all this last week and I have been horseback a lot, along with the cowboy crews. I can only report seeing one covey of hatched out blues and they were probably 8 weeks old.” Locations north of Helm, however, report 7s and 8s.
South Texas: The “hot spot” of quail forecasts. With up to 35 inches of rain in South Texas this year, landowners are optimistic for the birds. Rollins received many reports of 7s and 8s. Close to the Mariposa Ranch is the San Tomas hunting camp in Brooks County. The San Tomas camp manager gave a more conservative report, “I will go out on a limb and say it’s gonna be better than we may think. Call it a good ’6 or 7′. Will not be a boom year—we just didn’t carry enough [breeding stock] over.” Everyone agrees that early hunting conditions during November & December in South Texas may be tough with jungle-like vegetation and sunflowers shoulder high.
In essence, our constant effort to predict the success of this hunting season is probably about as accurate as the weather forecast! After the season is over we will know how it went and then be able to give some reliable information! Until then we will hope for a good recovery year for the Texas quail and maintain our conservative management practices on hunts.