Small game mid-season forecast/report

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December 13th, 2010

Mid-season 2010-11 Small Game Forecast
By Johnathan O’Dell, small game biologist, Arizona Game and Fish

SQUIRRELS:
My preseason scouting run in June proved to show a mix of good and bad.

Mogollon Rim
The Mogollon Rim had a deeper than normal snow pack which lasted longer than normal. This led to losses in the Abert’s populations where they are typically plentiful. There are pockets that fared better than others, but expect below average numbers.

Red squirrels on the other hand, held over quite well. Populations appear to be average to slightly above normal.

Arizona Gray numbers below the Rim look to be on par with last year. You can expect an average season this year.

White Mountains
While I thought I might expect to see below average numbers for Abert’s, I was surprised to see a good number in the areas I visited. You should be able to get a limit in a day of working mature stands of Ponderosa, but expect an average season overall.

Red squirrels are in good shape here too. Looks like a slightly above average year.

Sky Islands
Abert’s numbers appear pretty much the same as in previous years with little change. With longer seasons in the Catalinas and the Pineleños, this is a good year for squirrels here.
Arizona Grays still remain in low numbers like the previous years. Expect a slightly below average season.

RABBITS:

Cottontails
As with all small game, you can expect cycles of boom and bust, but right now it seems rabbits are in-between cycles. While no areas of the state appear to abundant populations, there are also no areas where you can’t find at least a few rabbits. But cottontails respond to local rain as well, so in some areas that received good monsoons, high numbers of bunnies are out there. It is safe to say this year looks about average.

Jackrabbits
It looks like we are coming out of the really high year we experienced last year. Like cottontails, no one area stands out as overly or under abundant. Expect about normal opportunities as they present themselves.

QUAIL:
With quail in general this year, it will be a tough season. All are experiencing below average seasons.

Gambel’s
Unlike the two previous years where we lost a number of chicks to the cold fronts with cold rains around Memorial Day, this turned out to be an odd year. Instead of a synchronized timing for quail to start laying eggs, they seemed to stagger it out across the entire breeding season. There wasn’t one week that didn’t go by where I didn’t see a brood of newly hatched chicks.
Nevertheless, good numbers of birds can be found in some areas. Expect this year to look like the past few with an average season in desert areas. Higher grassland bird numbers are likely to be low. I have seen pretty good numbers of Gambel’s quail on the bajada regions of the desert north of Phoenix, and the check station in Tonto Basin (northeast of Roosevelt Lake) was pretty good on opening day.

Scaled
For the past several years, environmental conditions here in Arizona have not favored this species at all. Pockets of limited numbers still remain in what is now considered the fringe of their range. Their core area in southeastern Arizona still holds birds, but it is more likely you will see more Gambel’s than Scaled. You can consider this a below average year as well.

Mearns’
This year is a poor year for Mearn’s quail. You can expect low numbers of birds and lots of space between coveys. You’ll work a lot harder this year for every bird you get in this below average season.

For a listing of season dates, there is a quick reference on the right side of this page labeled “WHEN CAN I GO? 2010-11 Small Game Hunting Season Dates.”

WHERE and WHEN:

For the detailed hunting season information, bag limits, open areas and other pertinent information, refer to the appropriate regulations noted:

* Arizona Hunting and Trapping Regulations (quail, rabbit, grouse, chukar, squirrel, others)
* Arizona Dove and Band-tailed Pigeon Regulations (dove, band-tailed pigeon)
* Arizona Waterfowl and Snipe Regulations (ducks, geese, snipe)

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