| Sports

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Frye: Quail quandary hard one to fix

TribLIVE Sports Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, 8:31 p.m.

I remember the smirk.

More than a half-dozen years ago, at the end of a Pennsylvania Game Commission meeting in Harrisburg, the agency announced it was rolling out an “upland game bird” series of pocket knives.

Each would come with a collectible tin highlighting one of the five species presumably most popular among wingshooters: ruffed grouse, woodcock, mourning doves, ring-necked pheasants and bobwhite quail.

The guy next to me leaned in close.

“What's it say when two of the five birds in your series aren't anywhere to be found?” he asked me with a shake of his head.

Such has long been the sorry state of pheasants and quail in this state.

Things have turned around with ringnecks, to a degree. The commission is back to stocking about 200,000 a year, providing put-and-take shooting, and efforts to create habitat and jump-start populations of wild pheasants appear to be working in places if not everywhere.

But quail?

Scarce is the hunter who can say he's actually seen a wild bobwhite in Pennsylvania let alone shot one.

There was a time, into the 1930s, when hunters took up to 200,000 annually in Pennsylvania, said commission biologist Ian Gregg. By the early 1970s, harvests were down to about 50,000.

Now? The 2011 take was fewer than 2,300 quail, and no one knows if those were wild or stocked birds.

Bringing quail back in huntable numbers could take three decades, Gregg said, so there's no immediate fix available.

At the board's most recent meeting, he noted the commission adopted a bobwhite management plan in 2010 but has seemingly done nothing with it. Only this year is the commission starting to collect the historical data on quail and determine if there's any habitat left and whether it might be possible to create more. The delay has been a function of limited time and resources, said executive director Carl Roe, noting that all work is “driven by the bodies available.”

Commissioner Jay Delaney of Luzerne County wants to get that work started, and now, for the sake of small game hunting.

“This is another small part of that puzzle,” he said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.




Show commenting policy

Most-Read Outdoors

  1. Outdoors notices: Aug. 3, 2015
  2. Outdoors notebook: Sporting retailers welcoming more women customers
  3. Outdoors notices: Audubon Society to host hiking, geocaching workshop
  4. Catfish studies aim to provide sustainable fisheries, improve stocking
  5. Frye: Fawn study is only what it is
  6. Fishing report: Fishing picking up with better weather