By KELLY BOSTIAN
With last season’s population boom fresh on the minds of many and calls already coming to the Department, Johnson pointed out that it’s still too early to know what may happen with the quail population said hunters may find clues for themselves by considering habitat conditions and weather patterns.
He stated: “In general, quail booms can occur when low to moderate nesting-season temperatures are combined with ample rainfall, especially when these occur in consecutive years. Even during years of moderate to high rainfall, quail production can be quite poor if the temperatures are extreme. Moderately good quail production is still possible even during dry years if temperatures remain cool. However, years with exceptional heat and drought, like Oklahoma experienced during 2011 and 2012, will nearly always result in poor quail production.”
To drive home the importance of weather for quail, Johnson posted a chart to illustrate the differences in temperatures and rainfall between the bad quail production year of 2012 and the booming quail year of 2015.
Other factors come into play, of course. Consecutive years of poor production can compound the problem, he said.
“Likewise, consecutive years of good to excellent production can boost quail numbers to population levels that haven’t been observed in quite some time.”
“Sometimes, a year of excellent quail production and habitat condition can help buffer the impacts the following year ...” he stated.
This is brilliants stuff. Rather than hazarding a guess, he has turned hunters back to the countryside to consider what they see in front of them and exercise habitat-based vocabulary looking toward the season ahead.
Will 2016-17 be the year that moderate conditions followed the excellent conditions of 2015 with population and habitat carry-over that led to another population boost?
It’s looking that way. Anyone who has been outdoors the past month knows that 2016 has had many more days over 100 degrees than 2015. The chart provided by Johnson shows, for example, rainfall in the Northwest of 11.3 inches April-October in 2012 compared to 29.7 in 2015.
A quick check of the Oklahoma Mesonet for the past 120 days showed an average of about 12 inches in the Northwest region.
It’s been hotter, and there has been less rain, but there has been carryover.
“The key now is to monitor the rainfall and temperatures for the rest of summer and early fall to determine if (conditions) more closely align with conditions in 2012 or conditions in 2015,” Johnson states.
It’s as good a reason as any to walk around with your head in the clouds.
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