What’s Happening Now – August 2014 – AZGFD Small Game Outlook
Take a look at the Arizona Game & Fish Department’s 2014 – 2015 Small Game Outlook by Johnathan O’dell.
2014 – 2015 Small Game Outlook
By Johnathan O’Dell
Small game biologist, Arizona Game and Fish Department
All small game populations have their ups and downs. Weather conditions and more specifically rain patterns play the biggest role in these swings. We’ve got some species that are up and some down.
The mild winters that have become almost commonplace in recent years have provided favorable conditions for both tassel-eared Abert’s squirrel and its smaller cousin, the red squirrel. Spring turkey hunters across the state reported seeing lots of activity during the breeding period. Should be another above average season for red and Abert’s squirrels.
Conversely, with the lack of winter precipitation and spring run-off, drought conditions remain in the Arizona gray and Mexican fox squirrel habitats. Both squirrels still remain at lower numbers throughout much of their range. Expect another below average year with squirrels scarce in some areas.
Cottontail observations continue to be high for another good year.
Jackrabbit observations also appear to be at the same levels as last year. Look for this year to be average to above average
Arizona experienced a 70 day window over the last winter with no precipitation. Since Gambel’s depend heavily on winter precipitation and the subsequent green up for breeding, a dip in the numbers was expected. Spring call counts were below last year’s numbers and the long and short term averages. Covey sizes are better in some areas. In a below average year like this, do some preseason scouting and listen for calls in the early morning hours to locate coveys.
Scaled quail typically follow Gambel’s quail in their breeding by a few weeks and this year’s winter and spring precipitation conditions were poor. Arizona’s scaled quail have been known to delay breeding and nesting until the start of the summer monsoonal period. And the monsoons have been rather good, especially those areas which have scaled quail. It’s still too early to tell, but we could see better numbers this year over last if delayed nesting occurs. Otherwise, expect a below average season.
With the monsoonal rains arriving on time for a third year in a row, conditions continue to improve. We’re still climbing out of the low experienced in the 2010-2011 season, but things are looking up in this back to average year.
The Department would like to better survey blue grouse hunter participation and success. To do this we are asking grouse hunters to provide an address or email to the Small Game Biologist so that they can be surveyed directly after the end of the season. This may be done by sending an email to: [email protected] or through regular mail to the Department’s main office: Attention Game Branch.
Blue grouse in the White Mountains are still spotty around the Wallow Fire burned area, and it will be a while before those numbers fully recover. The brood rearing habitat on the Kaibab looked good and chicks per hen observed in July ranged from 2 to 6, so expect a slightly above average season there. The San Francisco Peaks still holds a number of birds with very few hunters, mostly because of the terrain.
The Department would like to better survey chukar hunter participation and success. To do this we are asking chukar hunters to provide an address or email to the Small Game Biologist so that they can be surveyed directly after the end of the season. This may be done by sending an email to: [email protected] or through regular mail to the Department’s main office: Attention Game Branch.
Mild winters combined with expanding cheatgrass on the Arizona Strip are both benefitting chukar range expansion. Chukar populations should again be in good numbers for this year.
*ATTENTION* This year the bag limit for mourning doves has been increased to 15 birds per day! August marks the month when doves are at their peak numbers and the migration South begins around the start of the hunting season. If the weather holds, and we don’t get a big storm blowing through to start the migration early, the early season dove hunt should be one to remember. Especially with the new increased bag limit.
This year is anticipated to be the largest waterfowl migration in the past 60 years. North American duck numbers are again at record high numbers and goose populations are increasing. The summer monsoons have brought good rains and water to the state which bodes well for our winged winter visitors. Look out for an above average year again.