Thompson said his total count of chukar was more than 2,600 birds, just shy of his record count of 2,781 birds from last year. He didn’t count several of the places he counted in 2004 to get the record tally, meaning this year’s numbers are probably higher than last season’s banner year. What impressed Thompson was the young to adult ratio for this year. Chukar brood sizes averaged more than 17 birds, with 8.6 young per adult bird tallied in his counts. Last year, the broods were just over nine birds with a 4.6 ratio. Pauli said he had reports from hunters in the West Mojave saying they’re seeing quail in places they had never seen birds before. “It’s pretty amazing what happens when you get two good rain years in a row,” said Pauli, who said quail numbers have been down in the West Mojave for 10 years and are just now starting to recover. In the East Mojave, there were no formal surveys taken by the DFG this year, but Pauli said the quail production has been good, probably on par with last year when the average was 5.7 young per adult or a brood size of over 11 birds. He was concerned that many of the popular hunting areas were burned in the Hackberry Fire that swept across much of the southeast portion of the Mojave Preserve. The rest of the East Mojave is in excellent condition with solid Gambel’s quail and chukar numbers in most areas. “I would say the quail and chukar numbers are still down from what they were in the 70s, but they are way up over five or six years ago at the peak of the drought. All that has changed dramatically with the two years of wet weather,” said Cliff McDonald, an avid Mojave hunter from Needles. Along the Colorado River and throughout the Imperial Valley, there were rains the last two winters and early springs in areas that had not had any rainfall in more than a decade. This has translated into more birds throughout the desert, not just concentrated around the agricultural areas where there always was a good supply of water and bugs. The general quail and chukar season opens Saturday and continues through Jan. 29. The limit on quail is 10 birds per day with no more than 20 in possession after opening day. The limit on chukar is six birds per day and no more than 12 in possession. Jim Matthews is a freelance writer. His column appears on Thursdays. Readers may write to him at 399 North D St., San Bernardino, 92401, phone at (909) 887-3444 or fax to (909) 887-8180, or e-mail [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “These are the highest production values I’ve seen in 10 years of doing these surveys,” said Thompson. If the news for chukar is bright, the quail forecast is even brighter. Virtually every biologist has said they have seen quail in places they have not seen them in years, if ever before. In the southern Sierra Nevada, Thompson said his valley quail count jumped from 346 birds last year with a 3.6 young-per-adult ratio to 1,270 birds this season with a 7.9 young to adult ratio. His mountain quail comp counts consisted of just 73 birds last year, but Thompson counted 317 birds this year. With the mountain quail living at higher elevations the brood size was more than a dozen birds each year, being less affected by drought or rains, but back-to-back solid production years have really jumped numbers. “We’re seeing at least a four-fold increase in numbers this year,” said Thompson, and that was true for both valley and mountain quail. “I’ve seen quail in places I’ve never seen them before, and in the traditional areas, there are quail on top of quail.” BAKER – Wildlife biologists from throughout Southern California are suggesting this year’s quail and chukar hunting seasons could go down as one of the best on record because of excellent production in most areas, especially in the desert, and a high number of carry-over birds from last year. “The combination of high production for all of the birds that carried over from last season – and there apparently were a lot of them – could make this one of the best seasons in a long time,” said Rocky Thompson, a Department of Fish and Game biologist who does annual upland bird surveys. He surveys in the most popular chukar hunting area in the state – the Rands, El Paso, and southern Sierra mountain ranges, collectively known as the “Red Mountain region” to chukar hunters.