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#06-296 October 30, 2006  

Top counties for quail and rabbit ranked by DNR small game project

Survey results for the 2005-06 hunting season show Clarendon, Horry, Sumter, McCormick and Lee counties were the top five counties for quail, while the top five counties for rabbits jumped per hour were Lee, Saluda, Newberry, McCormick, and Fairfield, according to biologists with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources Small Game Project.
           
Through intensive field observations, South Carolina quail and rabbit hunters maintained detailed records of their hunting excursions throughout the year and provided the data to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Small Game Project for analysis. Hunting data compiled included the number of quail coveys flushed, covey size, number of rabbits jumped, the dates and counties where hunts occurred, and the amount of time expended in pursuit of these species. The S.C. State Council of Quail Unlimited assists with funding for the supplies necessary to conduct the surveys.
           
Complete results of the Quail Hunter Survey and the Rabbit Hunter Survey are available on the DNR Web site at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/hunting/smallgamesurvey.html. To receive a copy of the Quail Hunter Survey report or the Rabbit Hunter Survey report or to have your name added to the list of potential cooperators, contact the DNR Small Game Project at (803) 734-3609 in Columbia.
           
Statewide survey results indicate slight decreases in the number of quail coveys flushed per hour the number of rabbits jumped per hour when compared with the previous year. The quail covey flush rate was 0.49 coveys/hour during the 2005-06 season, down from 0.54 coveys/hour the previous year. Quail hunters in the top five counties reported flushing an average of 0.53 to 1.30 coveys per hour. The rabbit-jumping rate decreased from 1.57 to 1.39 rabbits/hour during the 2005-06 season.
           
The Northern Coastal Plain, defined as a seven-county area from the Charleston-Georgetown county line north to the North Carolina line and inland to Dillon, Florence, and Clarendon counties, claimed the highest rates of quail finds. Piedmont quail hunters had significantly less success than those hunting in other regions of the state, said Billy Dukes, DNR Small Game Project supervisor.
           
The Rabbit Hunter Survey has shown stable populations and hunting success during the past four years. A majority of rabbit hunting (74 percent) by survey cooperators occurred in the Piedmont. The Midlands exhibited the highest rate of rabbits jumped per hour (1.54), among regions with a minimum of 25 hunts, said Judy Barnes, wildlife biologist with the DNR Small Game Project.
           
Written comments from hunters in the surveys provided some excellent field observations, particularly on food items of quail. The preferred foods reported for quail were soybeans and lespedeza. Other food items such as green vegetation, acorns and sumac were also reported. Many cooperators also noted that a lack of prescribed burning on public and private lands has resulted in impaired habitat quality and hunting success.

“To ensure continued accuracy and usefulness of future small game surveys, the Small Game Project would like to increase the number of hunters participating this coming season,” Dukes said. Avid quail and rabbit hunters across the state who are willing to assist by taking careful notes on their hunts should write to DNR Small Game Project, PO Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202 or send an e-mail to DukesB@dnr.sc.gov. Indicate whether you are interested in participating in the Quail Hunter Survey, the Rabbit Hunter Survey, or both. Survey materials will be mailed to cooperators in mid-November, just prior to the opening of statewide quail and rabbit seasons.
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