California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) biologists are expecting a very good quail hunting season when the general seasons open, thanks to rebounding populations that benefitted from California’s wet fall and winter in 2016.
California’s prolonged drought reduced quail populations statewide. Biologists found overall declines of 33 percent for mountain quail, 29 percent for California quail and 17 percent for Gambel’s quail from 2005 to 2015 using data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey, which monitors the status and trends of North American bird populations.
Quail populations fluctuate naturally with weather and other prevailing environmental conditions such as wildfires. Fortunately, 2016 brought a shift in weather conditions for California. The rain received was critical to the production of food and cover for quail populations. Perhaps most importantly, rains produce more insects, which are a vital food source for young quail.
Detailed information on California’s various quail hunting zones, including season dates, descriptions and a map, is available at CDFW’s Upland Game Bird Hunting webpage: wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/Upland-Game-Birds.
As a result of the same wet weather conditions, CDFW regional biologists are expecting a strong chukar hunting season as well, particularly in desert habitat that often experiences boom-and-bust population swings based on the amount of rainfall.
CDFW is offering several special quail and chukar hunting opportunities this fall and winter at ecological reserves and wildlife areas in Kern, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles and San Diego counties. Hunters with a valid California hunting license can apply for these hunts through the Automated License Data System (ALDS). Hunt descriptions are available at CDFW’s Upland Game Wild Bird Hunts webpage at wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/Upland-Game-Birds/Hunts.
CDFW’s SHARE Program, which provides public hunting opportunities on private land, is offering several quail hunts in Santa Barbara County this fall and winter. Hunters with a valid California hunting license can also apply for these hunts through the ALDS system. Hunt descriptions are available at CDFW’s SHARE Program webpage: www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/SHARE.
California is phasing in the use of nonlead ammunition for hunting. Nonlead ammunition is required for hunting quail when on state wildlife areas or ecological reserves in California. Learn more about California’s nonlead ammunition requirements for hunting at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/Nonlead-Ammunition.
CDFW photo by Stuart Itoga