Quail abundance, hunter effort, and harvest of two texas quail species: implications for hunting management
Author(s): J.M. Tomeček, B.L. Pierce, M.J. Peterson
Managing exploited species characterized by declining abundance, such as northern bobwhite Colinus virginianus and scaled quail Callipepla squamata, presents challenges for regulatory agencies and wildlife managers. Our objective was to determine the influence of quail abundance and quail hunter effort on annual bobwhite and scaled quail harvest in Texas, USA. We formulated competing models accounting for quail harvest at both statewide and regional scales using hunter survey and quail abundance data collected by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (1978–2012) and evaluated them using multiple linear regression and model selection (AICc). Statewide bobwhite and scaled quail harvest was best predicted by models that included quail abundance, quail hunter-days or total quail hunters, respectively (R2 = 0.969 and 0.915, respectively). Our most plausible models also predicted regional quail harvest reasonably well (R2 ≥ 0.67), but in some regions diverged from statewide models, with hunter effort alone best explaining quail harvest. Despite our models’ high predictive ability, current hunting regulations do not reflect variability in factors driving harvest at the spatial scales we evaluated. Species characterized by limited dispersal ability, such as quails, are at risk of localized overharvest when hunting management cannot limit harvest at the same spatial scale where hunting occurs. For Texas quails, harvest management implemented by individual property managers, rather than statewide hunting regulations, is the most appropriate way to avoid localized overharvest because property managers can control harvest at the scale relevant to both quails and quail hunters.