Oklahoma’s Quail Season Opens This Weekend
You can't convince me that there is a better tasting bird on this planet than the humble American bobwhite quail. Sure, there's not a lot of meat on those bones perse, but if you're successful enough in a hunt, the results make a meal fit for royalty. The biggest challenge in Oklahoma is where can you find quail?
Over the last couple of decades, the quail population across this state has continually dwindled. Use to be, you could walk nearly any fencerow in any county and walk back to the truck with a daily limit in a relatively short amount of time, and the theories of why that isn't so anymore are plentiful.
If you talk to some of the old-timers that spent their youths hunting quail, they'll tell you it was the introduction of whitetail deer that set forth a doom in the bobwhite populations. You'll hear all about how predators like coyotes and bobcats only came to Oklahoma when the state introduced the deer... the only problem is, deer have historically been here forever. The state only intervened when hunters in the early days of statehood and prior decimated the deer populations seeing as this was still unsettled and wild country where food wasn't readily available at the local United just yet.
The best guess as to what happened to the quail in Oklahoma actually comes straight from the Wildlife Department. They have dedicated biologists that have spent years studying quail in an effort to grow coveys across these lands. Their research suggests it's the farming that has most affected these plains birds the most.
Before you say "They were farming long before quail stocks dropped," you're right. Farming has been around for a very long time, and the quail survived the first hundred or so years of the industry. What changed in farming was the advent and technology of weed control in and around crops.
No farmer likes to look upon a carpet of golden wheat and see that lone careless weed sticking up in the middle of a field. They don't like pushing that green stuff through combines either. Same goes for the other popular crops here. Corn, cotton, milo, etc... So what did science do? They came up with herbicides that selectively kill all of those pesky seed-bearing weeds, or they've genetically modified the crops to live through a barrage of non-selective herbicides like RoundUp. As crops become less weedy, being dependent on a diet of wild seeds, the food supply of the quail has shrunken up. At least that makes sense to me.
So where can you go to find quail to hunt? Here's some good news...
In Southwest Oklahoma, we have a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) that is famed for being so perfectly wild. It's about a two-hour drive west from Lawton, but Sandy Sanders WMA is a place where all outdoorsmen are welcomed to share the public lands.
Known for producing big bucks and a ton of coyotes and bobcats, Sandy Sanders is probably SWOK's best-kept secret. As a bonus for 2021, the quail populations are currently rising within the confines of that WMA, so you might actually get to make a meal of the best-tasting bird in the world.
You can get more information about the quail outlook here... and if you decide to go, wear comfortable boots. You'll be doing a lot of walking.