Mar 11, 2001
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UPLAND FORECAST GOOD FOR OPENER -- matthews-ons 17oct01

Upland bird opener looks very promising.

Reports from Department of Fish and Game biologists and hunters pre-season scouting reports suggest this is going to be the best quail and chukar year since the El Niño year of 1998, thanks to good spring rains that came at the right time to assist bird production in most of the coastal, mountain and desert regions.

Since those well-time spring rains, the conditions have been very dry, and many guzzlers are dry, and we are losing desert water -- developed for cattle -- because of pressure by the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service to reduce grazing at certain times of the year or actual retirement of cattle leases and removal of those water sources.

Still the Department of Fish and Game brood counts in the desert were dramatically up from the previous two seasons’ tallies in both the east and west Mojave desert regions, and the counts here are usually good indicators of how well upland birds have done throughout the southern half of the state.

Andy Pauli, a DFG biologist who does brood counts in the Victorville to Barstow region and out in the Mojave National Preserve, had generally glowing reports. From a sample of 372 chukar he counted on several springs and guzzlers, the average brood size was 15.6 birds, or a 7.9 young-to-adult ratio.

In the East Mojave, he tallied 570 Gambel’s quail at three sites with an average brood size of 11.8 birds, or 5.9 young-per-adult. Counting 570 quail at just three locations should tell you something about bird numbers. “It’s still a rebuilding year, but there are a lot of young birds,” said Pauli.

In the popular mountain ranges around Red Mountain, usually considered “chukar central” by most Southern California hunters, DFG biologist Rocky Thompson said he tallied the third highest number of chukar since he’s began as unit biologist in this area back in 1993.

“This is our best year in the past three,” said Thompson. “We didn’t have a lot of holdover birds, but our production is way up.” He and his crew counted 702 chukar -- well above the 224 birds counted last year but below his 1993 record of 1,822 -- and the brood size was 13.4 young. That works out to a 6.7 young-to-adult ratio. Last year’s brood size was a mere 1.6.

Thompson’s valley and mountain quail counts were also pretty impressive. The average valley quail brood was 9.4, and the mountain quail broods averaged 13.2. Last year he counted no young for either species of quail.

DFG biologist Jim Davis noted that his casual observations on mountain quail in massive burn area on the north side of the San Bernardino Mountains also showed generally good-sized broods of young birds, and he projected a good season in spite of the dry weather since spring.

Most of the biologists characterized this as a solid rebuilding year, and that if we have decent rains this winter and spring, next year’s upland bird numbers could rival the best recorded in recent years in the state.

Lots of young birds in the quail and chukar coveys mean hunter success rates will be up, with more birds holding for the gun rather than flushing wildly and flying out of sight. It should be a good opener.

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