Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Heritage Service (WHS) reminds hunters that the hunting seasons for upland game species including cottontail rabbit and bobwhite quail are just around the corner. Seasons will open on Saturday, Nov 5.
Upland hunting is a pastime steeped in tradition, said WHS Director Peditto A. Peditto. Whether hunting with the company of good hunting dogs or just with a few fellow hunters, a day in the field pursuing upland game is a truly rewarding experience. Hunters are particularly encouraged to take a young hunter afield to pursue upland game. Chasing rabbits and quail through good cover provides fast action and a great opportunity for mentoring a young hunter.
Surveys suggest quail numbers have been falling steadily for decades, but extensive research shows that hunting is not the cause. Habitat loss is number one problem facing our quail populations, stated Bob Long, Upland Game Bird Project Manager. Quail thrive in brushy, weedy fields and hedgerows that were common in the middle of the last century, but development, changes in farming practices, and the maturing of our forests have virtually eliminated the type of habitat quail need.
Fortunately, there are a number of federal programs administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), with technical support from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the DNR that encourage landowners to establish habitat through cost-sharing and annual rental payments. In particular, a relatively new program called Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds has great potential to provide much-needed habitat. These buffers, coupled with a variety of other cost-share programs, now gives landowners all the tools they need to make quail conservation a reality, Long added.
Based on annual bobwhite surveys, the Eastern Shore and certain areas of Southern Maryland hold the highest densities of quail, affording hunters in those regions the greatest chance for success. According to field reports, this years favorable weather during the nesting season may have further boosted quail numbers in many areas.
Hunting season for rabbits will remain open until Feb 15 this year, which coincides with the season closing date for quail in the eastern zone. Quail season in the Western zone will close Jan 14.
Interested hunters should consult DNRs website, http://www.dnr.maryland.gov, or the Guide to Hunting and Trapping in Maryland, 2005-2006 for more information on upland hunting regulations and public lands opportunities. Landowners seeking more information on any of the federal conservation programs should contact their local Soil Conservation District or Bob Long, Upland Game Bird Project Manager, at 410-221-8838, ext 106.