When to hunt Quail
The open season for Stubble Quail is timed to occur when the population is at its maximum and to avoid periods of vulnerability. The closed season is timed to prevent hunting during breeding, moulting, temperature extremes and food shortage. There is a regular annual peak in Stubble Quail breeding between August and December, with some breeding occurring into late summer. For adult birds, moulting occurs soon after breeding. The end of the open season is timed to avoid the late winter period when the Stubble Quail population is at its lowest, under stress from environmental extremes and food shortages and when preliminary breeding activity occurs.
There is some evidence of a frequent second peak in the breeding cycle that coincides with autumn rains which result in a flush of plant growth, providing quality food and cover resources. Because of this, it has been suggested that the Stubble Quail season could be divided into two distinct periods, avoiding any autumn breeding events and taking greater advantage of the post-breeding harvestable surplus. Further scientific evidence specific to Victorian conditions is required before an educated and informed decision to change the season dates could be made.
The bag limit of twenty birds per day for Stubble Quail minimises any long-term effects of harvesting on the overall population and ensures that the harvest of Stubble Quail is shared equitably among recreational quail hunters. The bag limit does not reduce hunting opportunities for the majority of quail hunters, as few individuals have the necessary skill, perseverance or opportunity to take more than 20 quail per day. The average opening day bag of Stubble Quail over the last five seasons has been approximately eight birds per hunter and the average total seasonal harvest for each hunter over the same period is approximately thirty-four birds.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that Stubble Quail numbers have declined in recent decades, a phenomenon consistent with the reduction of many other ground-dwelling game birds in other developed countries throughout the world. Reports from both hunters and researchers suggest that changes to agricultural practices have degraded already highly modified agricultural environments, which once provided suitable Stubble Quail habitat. Intensified range management and "clean" farming practices using herbicides and pesticides are known to compromise quail habitat by reducing relative food abundance and degrading nesting, brood rearing and protective cover. Any increase to the bag would be inconsistent with a probable declining population or the precautionary principle of management.