RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – The iconic call of Bobwhite quail has become increasingly hard to hear throughout its historic range over past years.
Quail populations in all 35 states where the birds are native have suffered stunning declines, with a 90 percent plus plummet throughout most of their geographic range.
In Texas, over the preceding three decades, Bobwhite quail numbers have fallen more than 75 percent, and while populations often vary greatly from year to year the drop has been steady. Habitat loss is the primary cause of this precipitous decline nationwide.
However, there is a place where the distinctive call of bobwhite echoes throughout the wildlands. South Texas is the Last Great Habitat in the world where wild bobwhite quail flourish and can be hunted on a grand scale.
Sprawling across the vast South Texas landscape are more than 10 million acres of ranchland where bobwhites thrive.
This time of year, increasing daylight triggers hormones in both male and female bobwhites that cause them to leave their covey and pair off to breed.
Weather, particularly timely rains between April 1 and the end of August, is the driving force regulating quail numbers where habitat remains.
It is too early to predict how successful quail production will be throughout South Texas this year, but quail are resilient and can reproduce rapidly when conditions are favorable.
Hunting is now the economic driver in the ranch country of South Texas, surpassing traditional cattle grazing, and quail and other wild game are a valuable and renewable resource.
The extensive private lands sprawling across South Texas are the Last Great Habitat not only for quail and other game animals, but also for all wildlife. These well-managed hunting lands provide vital habitat for myriad migratory birds and a plethora of native wildlife.