Quail Season Enters Final Stretch; It's Time to Think About Habitat

February 7, 2020

As quail hunting season winds down, it's time to begin thinking about improving habitat for the birds. Prescribed fire is one of the ways to do just that. (ODWC Photo)

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Quail Season Enters Final Stretch; It's Time to Think About Habitat

By Tell Judkins, Upland Game Biologist

The countdown is on!

Pheasant season has come to a close, and quail season is in the final stretch. Hunters in northwestern parts of the state are still reporting better numbers than this time last year.

Pheasant season closed Jan. 31. Quail season will end Feb. 15. If you have not had the opportunity to hunt this year, now is your chance. Wildlife management areas and Oklahoma Land Access Program (OLAP) properties in northwestern Oklahoma will offer the best chance at finding a few coveys to wrap up the 2019-20 season.

Quail enthusiasts will soon shift focus from harvest to management; working to improve areas for quail begins now. Here are a few things landowners and managers can do to start making improvements for quail on their property. Stay tuned for more information on habitat management ideas in March.

1. Install and maintain firebreaks:

  • Firebreaks are a great way to protect property from wildfire, but they also provide a greater level of safety for prescribed burns. Prescribed burning provides a better mix of forbs and grasses that quail need, while also slowly reducing canopy cover.

2. Remove Eastern redcedars:

  • Eastern redcedars are a nuisance species in the state. An adult tree can use up to 22 gallons of water per day, hold several gallons on its branches every time it rains, and put chemicals in the ground to prevent other plants from growing nearby, which also causes more serious erosion.
  • Removing redcedars can be done with prescribed fire, hydraulic saws or nippers, or simply cut them off below the lowest branch. Cedars are quite volatile and are a cause of wildfires getting out of hand. Ultimately, it is best to burn the redcedars to get them off a property, whether standing or cut down.

3. Control the spread of "improved" grasses such as Bermuda or fescue:

  • These grasses remove habitat that could otherwise be good for quail. From a quail’s perspective, these grasses might as well be a parking lot.

4. Start thinking about prescribed fire:

  • Using prescribed fire can be the most effective tool to improve a property for quail. Planning is the key to ensure a prescribed fire goes well and is done safely. Historically, most of Oklahoma experienced fires about every four years. Keeping a property within this four-year cycle helps safeguard the property from the effects of wildfire.
  • Prescribed fire is one of the primary tools used to manage the Department’s wildlife management areas.

Ultimately, get out there. Work some ground over the next couple of weeks, trust your dogs, and make a memory. Enjoy Outdoor Oklahoma!

For more information on upland habitat management, email tell.judkins@odwc.ok.gov.