The quail hunting season ends on Feb. 22.

“The quail hunting this year has been better than it has been in recent years,” said Donnie Mathes, a 29-year game warden at Fort Hood. “But quail hunting now isn’t anywhere near as good as it was in the good old days — and by ‘good old days’ I mean about 10 or 15 years ago.”

Mathes said it’s unclear exactly why quail haven’t been as plentiful in Texas in recent years.

“A lot of people have been studying why quail aren’t as prevalent as they once were and they really can’t figure out exactly why,” he said. “Between fire ants, pesticides, habitat erosion, there’s a multitude of reasons.

“But one thing is for sure: Quail are very dependent on seasonal rainfall. They want rainfall to produce bugs for little quail to eat. And last year was a good year for rainfall at the right time and so it was a good nesting year for quail in general. Subsequently we had a better quail year this year than previous years.”

The key to a successful quail hunt is to have a well-trained hunting dog.

“The dog is really the most important part to having a good hunt,” Mathes said. “And there is no doubt about that. Your typical quail hunter is very dedicated to his dog. He’s essentially watching his dog do the hunting and he really enjoys that.”

Mathes had some pointers for those new at quail hunting.

“You want to go out early in the morning, the first crack of daylight, and hear the quail whistling,” Mathes said. “They roost at night on the ground. And in the mornings, as they move from their roost area, they call back and forth to each other to let them know where each other is at. You’ll hear them.”

Contact Allan Mandell at amandell@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7566 and read his column at KDHPressbox.com

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