Spring 2018 quail field report

Saturday, Dec 22, 2018

Despite there being excellent breeding of stubble quail during late summer there were no reports of hunter success at the opening of this year’s season.

A combination of late broods and high temperatures probably put a lot of hunters off; good numbers were often seen in the headlights of hunters when driving through stubbles chasing foxes at night. I myself shot just a few in mid to late March - while training my young Irish setter – but they were not ready for the table with cock birds averaging under 80 grams and hen birds just on 90 grams.

By mid-May the vegetation was heavily grazed down and a lack of rain meant that there was no fresh green pick and insect life (apart from the ubiquitous flies) was scarce. So quail being the nomads that they are had left for better habitat.

The arable lands of the Mallee, Yorke and Eyre peninsulas remained dry during winter and again reports of reasonable late summer breeding did not result in any significant harvests; they too had up and left.

Late June and July did produce some reasonable success in isolated areas but for the main part South Australian hunters simply did not see the value in traveling long distances based on the overall negative reports. Enquiries at gun shops confirmed lack of hunter participation with virtually no cartridge sales in quail loads.

The opposite was the case in much of Victoria with high numbers of quail across many districts. Hopefully our usual contributors of field information will be out during this spring and summer listening for cock birds calling and working their bird dogs in the cool mornings.

Due to consistent late summer breeding in the past few years, there needs to be a considered reassessment of when the opening of future seasons begins. Also, because of the way the drought in eastern Australia has become so much a part of conversation across the community we need to be mindful of setting of daily bag limits in the 2019 open season. 

Many of us well remember the devastating drought of 1982, it was much worse than this year across South Australia and Victoria and led to the first ever no duck season in 1983. But come late summer in 1983 a huge tropical rain depression came down and by March 1983 we were up to our knees in clover across both states, north to south. Stubble quail and other highly fecund species seemed to be in countless millions – let us hope and pray for a repeat in 2019.

Happy days in the field to all who cherish our wonderful enigmatic stubble quail.

By Robert Whinnen, Quail Tomorrow

Photo credit: Barry and Kathy Oliver of WGAA Victoria.