The second leg of Rooster Road Trip launches in the great state of Oklahoma
on November 14th
where bobwhite quail numbers have witnessed another year of booming increases thanks to timely precipitation and with it, enhanced habitat conditions for one of our favorite birds. Only a few short years ago, many resident and non-resident quail hunters had given up on the Sooner State. Fast-forward to 2016, and it has once again become a premier destination for bobwhite enthusiasts.
Having had the good fortune of hunting the Oklahoma quail opener last year on my own, the Rooster Road Trip crew is headed back to the land of sand and sage in pursuit of some of the most premier bobwhite quail hunting our nation has to offer for 2016. The statewide quail population is up nearly 40 percent over 2015
, and a whopping 44.6 percent over the historical, long-term average. As you can imagine, our anticipation for an Oklahoma opener of bountiful coveys and ecstatic hunters is high.
Here are a few facts about the Sooner State to take into consideration for your next quail hunt in the southern Great Plains:
Power of the Plum
Some of the best quail lands in the state are dominated by a mix of sand sagebrush, warm/cool season grasses, and the ultimate plant community favored by bobwhite quail in Oklahoma: Chickasaw plum (commonly referred to as sand plum)
. If I learned anything from my experiences in 2015, it would be to prepare yourself and the dog to pursue bobwhites in the rather large, thorny thickets of these wildlife-friendly shrubs.
If this vegetation is available to either a running or flushing covey of bobwhites, rest assured they will find it and test the limits of the hunter and his/her dog. Open ground cover underneath a canopy of twisted limbs and thorns puts the advantage back in the favor of the bobwhite. We will be focusing on plum thickets during our visit to Oklahoma, and I would highly recommend this habitat as a focal point for any hunter on a future road trip down south.
A Helping Hand for Public Lands
Anyone who has hunted quail in Oklahoma is well aware that public lands are highly sought after due to the following statistic: 95.4% of the state is privately owned, leaving a mere 4.6% for public recreation. The Rooster Road Trip crew members are expecting a large contingent of public land hunters around opening weekend, so we will be making an early morning entrance to our public area of choice in hopes of securing our own “quail trail.”
Although this statistic might seem overwhelming for the many thousands of resident and non-resident hunters using public lands in Oklahoma, outdoorsmen and women have more public land options coming in the near future thanks to the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Improvement Program. In the fall of 2015, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation landed a $2.26 million Farm Bill grant
to pilot a brand new Walk-in Hunting Access program in the state. With intentions to model the program after Kansas’ Walk-in program (arguably one of the best in the country) and Texas’ leasing regime, Oklahoma quail hunters – all public land users really – will have a big reason to be excited in the near future for public land opportunities throughout the state starting in 2017.
Logging the Miles
A recipe for success when hunting highly pressured bobwhite coveys in Oklahoma is this: take the path less traveled. Studies by Oklahoma State University on specific Wildlife Management Areas have shown that as the hunting season builds pressure on the birds, bobwhite coveys are actually avoiding roadsides used by hunters and their vehicles. With a large percentage of quail hunters parking on the road and making a quarter or half-mile turnout with the dogs, bobwhite coveys have moved farther into public areas in an effort to avoid encounters with people.
Due to Oklahoma Wildlife Management Areas consisting of thousands of acres per property in most cases, quail hunters should plan accordingly and be prepared to burn through boot leather in order to observe better wingshooting opportunities this fall.
Rules, Regs and Licensing
Quail Forever’s Impact in Oklahoma
- Quail Hunting Season: November 12, 2016 through February 15, 2017 (bobwhite and scaled quail)
- Shooting Hours: Official sunrise to official sunset
- Daily Limits: 10 bobwhite quail per day
- Non-resident Licensing: $142 covers the 2016 season, or $176 covers the entire fiscal-year.
*** Quail Forever chapters allocate much of their resources to the Oklahoma Department of Conservation for management of public lands dedicated to quail conservation.
Follow Rooster Road Trip 2016
- Quail Forever Chapters: 11
- Quail Forever Members: 1,095
- Habitat projects completed in Oklahoma: 8 projects
- Total habitat acres improved in Oklahoma: 3,799 acres***
– Daily contests, highlight videos and photo galleries / www.facebook.org/pheasantsforever
Rooster Road Trip 2016
– Blog posts and reports / www.pheasantsforever.org/Rooster-Road-Trip.aspx
– Real time updates / www.twitter.com/pheasants4ever
– Feature photos from the field / www.instagram.com/pheasants_forever
Jared Wiklund is Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Public Relations Manager. Follow Jared on Twitter @Wiklund247 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credits: Main image and second image - Josh Preissner; First image - Josh Dahlstrom