Last week SPORTS ILLUSTRATED asked its field correspondents for up-to-the-minute reports on upland game bird conditions in their respective states. Almost all were glowing and optimistic. Herewith the details:
New Jersey: Pheasant are more plentiful than last year, especially in Hunterdon, Somerset, Warren, Morris, and Monmouth counties with excellent reports of carryover stock. Quail shooting also excellent in southern counties. Grouse about the same as last season in northwest section of the state. Best woodcock areas seem to be along Delaware River, especially in Sussex and Warren counties, but if you hit it right Cape May County can also be topnotch.
Maryland: The general outlook is for a very fine season from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31. Pheasants are abundant along the Pennsylvania-Maryland line, in Cecil, Harford, Frederick, Baltimore and Washington counties. The quail population has increased in most southeastern and southwestern counties, particularly along the Eastern Shore. The grouse cycle seems to be on the upswing in hilly regions.
West Virginia: Grouse open until Jan. 5, with a definite indication of more birds than usual. National forests are the most likely spots, and Pendleton County generally regarded as the best. Quail opens Nov. 12 and runs through Jan. 7, with good prospects in the agricultural areas.
Georgia: Quail populations are by and large up for the season opener on Nov. 20. The most productive hunting will be found in the southeast areas but hilly regions also report excellent coveys.
Missouri: The season opens Nov. 10 and runs through December. The preseason forecast by state officials is extremely optimistic, the bag limit has been increased from six to eight birds and 3 million are expected to be harvested. Unusually dry weather, however, will make more difficult hunting. An interesting sidelight finds hunters who sold their dogs for ridiculously low prices during a poor quail season two years ago now trying to buy them back at ridiculously high prices in the face of a statewide bird-dog shortage.
Illinois: Pheasant opens Nov. 11 and the season extends to the end of month. The bird populations generally up and particularly good conditions forecast for Livingston, Ford, and eastern McLean counties. Quail opens Nov. 19 for a month, and this population is also up, with excellent concentrations in the southern third of the state, including counties which border the Mississippi River.
New Mexico: The quail is reported well up over last year, although hunting will be spotty in the central part of state. Eastern areas along the Texas border will give the best shooting, and areas around Clayton, Tucumcari, Roswell and Hobbs should produce 10-bird limits. The New Mexico quail season opens Nov. 24 and ends Dec. 31.
Texas: Dove season is open to mid-December in the southern zone of the state, and birds seem to be superabundant. Drought, however, is posing curious hazards of its own. Recently a hunter dropped a dove into a patch of irrigated cotton field, bent over to retrieve it, and was bitten by a rattlesnake. Rattlers, it seems, seek out the moist cotton patches, which today are about the only moist patches in Texas. Incidentally, the gunner recovered.
Washington: Pheasant is legal until Nov. 18 and with a normal population 300,000 birds are expected to be harvested. Quail, Hungarian partridge and chukar are also in their customarily good supply, and many eastern counties are open until Dec. 9. Better areas for these birds include the Columbia River Basin, the Yakima area, and the wheatlands of the Palouse. Everyone seems to be pleased with the present season, except one dog owner whose champion German short hair staunchly pointed an anthill and refused to budge until said owner kicked the anthill apart and proved there was no bird therein.