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Quail get top billing in game-bird outlook
Web Posted: 10/03/2004 12:00 AM CDT

Ron Henry Strait
Express-News Staff Writer

The Texas game-bird front has much good news this year, with top billing going to bobwhite quail, a bird known for its cyclical population patterns.

This year the cycle is up.

Robert Perez says South Texas quail hunters will see a banner crop when they get out in the field this season.

Perez, quail program leader for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, gives most of the credit to the weather — two-consecutive years of cool, damp springs and summers.

Consistent soil moisture through the summer extended the bobwhite's breeding season and gave young birds plenty of cover and food to boost survival rates over the usually long, hot summers that sap moisture and dry up grasslands.

Perez's quail survey routes registered 19 birds each, up from 13 last year. Perez listed his outlook as excellent.

There are pockets of blue, or scaled, quail in South Texas, especially toward the west. TP&W surveys listed three birds per route, and Perez puts South Texas blue quail chances at only average.

In the Rolling Plains region, northwest of the Edwards Plateau, the outlook is average to above average, Perez said. Per-route surveys counted 23 birds, down from 24 bobs last year.

The region retained good numbers of birds from last year and timely rains boosted production, but the region did get less precipitation than South Texas.

In the Trans-Pecos Region of far West Texas, where blue quail are strongest, Perez's route counts registered 26 birds compared to 17 last year.

This is the region's highest count in 12 years.

"If you have ever considered chasing blues in West Texas," Perez's report stated, "this would be a great year to try it out."

Other ecological regions show bobwhite quail numbers down, but the Hill Country, a region not usually associated with quail hunting, could be above average. Hunters should concentrate on pastures and open areas where bunch grasses are dominant.

Quail season statewide is Oct. 30-Feb. 27.

Rio Grande turkeys: Numbers continue strong, with poult counts and survival high.

The ground-nesting birds also have benefited from the cool, damp weather.

Turkeys can be hunted during the fall archery and general gun deer seasons, but most serious turkey hunting is reserved for the spring season, when strutting toms can be called to the gun.

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