The Outdoor Journal by Kyle Carroll
On Sunday, November 1, Missouri's quail season will open. Excited bird dogs will jump out of their dog boxes to the sound of equally excited hunters sliding shells into their shotguns and as they pull on their blaze orange vests and caps. Opening day is a big deal for the hunters and the dogs as they head off into the brushy ditches in search of a covey of northern bobwhite quail.
There was a time not long ago when you would have a hard time getting a motel room in north Missouri on the opening weekend of quail season. Restaurants were full at noon and conservation agents would always work a call or two involving a hunter that got peppered with birdshot. Those days are gone.
When November first comes around now, you most likely won't even see a dog box in a truck, let alone hunters following a dog in the field. The primary reason is the step decline of the bobwhite quail.
Northern bobwhites were once a common species in eastern North America, but experienced widespread, sharp declines between 1966 to 2014 up to 4% per year, resulting in a cumulative decline of 85%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. According to Cornell University's All About Birds website, the reasons for the birds decline are many. Cornell's description: “The bobwhite’s decline probably results from habitat degradation and loss owing to urbanization, fire suppression, and changes to agriculture and forestry. Agricultural fields have become less suitable for bobwhites with higher levels of pesticides and herbicides yielding less insect and plant food, and fewer hedgerows to provide cover.”
I think this is pretty accurate. An unusually high population of ground nest predators like raccoons and opossums are also not helping the birds recover. Where there is good cover, their still are birds. And a few hunters will still be out there on opening day, keeping the tradition of upland bird hunting alive. Join them if you get the chance.