Bobwhite Quail Hunting Opportunities on Public Lands

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For many upland gamebird enthusiasts, there’s not more of an enjoyable sight than birddogs working in search of this elusive inhabitant of the early successional habitats of Alabama’s piney woods. While this activity was once commonplace throughout the woodland landscapes of Alabama, it cannot be said for recent years. The Bobwhite quail have unfortunately experienced declines throughout their range due to a varied collection of challenges.

Historically, the rural landscapes of the southeast were characterized as habitats favorable to propagating native bobwhite quail populations with well-defined hedgerows of smaller farms, intermittent rotations of fallow fields, abundant use of prescribed fire and a wide collection of early successional habitats dispersed throughout the countryside. Through the years, bobwhite numbers decreased in response to various hurdles it endured. Issues with conversion of old-field habitats to densely-stocked pine plantations, loss of hedgerows to larger and more intensive farming operations, increase of urban sprawl and development, fire ants, predators and other unknown facets are just a few of the hurdles bobwhite quail have faced.

While the bobwhite will continue to endure the challenges mentioned above, the wildlife biologists with Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) are working to make significant strides in habitat restorations within the collective of Alabama’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) to assist populations of this icon of upland gamebirds. WFF staff have focused on landscape scale restorations from the longleaf pine forests within the undulating hills of the coastal plains to the uplands in the hills and valleys of north Alabama with the shortleaf pine. These habitat enhancement actions have certainly modified habitats of the WMAs to provide more favorable habitat for quail. Impacts of habitat restoration efforts are being assessed through quail call counts conducted annually by WFF biologists.

In addition, through the use of established cooperative agricultural agreements, WFF’s wildlife biologists work with contract farmers on multiple WMAs to enhance agricultural fields to better benefit resident wildlife populations. WFF staff work with farmers in designating wide permanent field borders to manage for early successional habitats maintained through biannual winter disking. Preservation of existing hedgerows and their connectivity promotes effective habitat corridors for many upland game species of these areas. Lastly, as part of the cooperative, many farmers leave a certain portion of their crops in the field for resident wildlife.

In 2017, through a cooperative effort between WFF, U.S. Forest Service (USFS), University of West Florida (UWF) and the National Bobwhite Quail Initiative (NBCI), the Boggy Hollow WMA was established on Conecuh National Forest. With this partnership, the USFS conducts the habitat management via timber management and prescribed burning, UWF performs vegetative surveys and analysis of responses and WFF conducts population surveys and manages the hunting programs. Many other National Forest lands within Alabama are being restored to Longleaf Pine open canopy woodlands and managed with prescribed fire. This natural community focus results in abundant early successional habitats attractive to a wide array of wildlife species and bobwhite as well.

If you have the desire to pursue bobwhite quail, several WMAs throughout the state have hunting opportunities for those willing to put the boot tracks on the ground. Interested individuals can review individual WMA map permits and season dates available at www.outdooralabama.com or contact the WMA biologist or District Office for additional information regarding your pursuit of bobwhite quail on our public lands.