General Information

Quail Populations in Mississippi

Bobwhite quail populations have declined substantially in Mississippi during the last 50 years. These declines have been due to changes in land use and management.

Despite the loss of habitat and declining quail populations, local populations can be increased with planned habitat management at proper scales. Abundant quail populations were once a byproduct of agriculture. Today, habitat management practices that produce the proper cover resources required by quail are essential to increase local populations.

The MDWFP does not have a quail stocking program. Information on managing habitat for quail can be found under the Habitat and Population Management section below. Technical assistance is also available for managing land for quail habitat.

Quail Management Resources

The links below provide information about practices or programs that may be used to enhance quail and other wildlife habitat. Technical guidance from wildlife biologists is also available to provide advice on managing land for quail habitat. The MDWFP does not have a program to restock quail. Select the publication title to view material. Some of the links provided may direct you to web pages outside of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks website.


Ecology and Management of the Northern Bobwhite: A guide to life history and habitat management of bobwhite quail. Published by the Mississippi State University Extension Service (P2179).

Strip Disking and Other Valuable Bobwhite Quail Management Techniques: A guide to strip-disking for quail habitat management. Published by the Mississippi State University Extension Service (P2032).

Prescribed Burning in Southern Pine Forests: Fire Ecology, Techniques, and Uses for Wildlife Management: A guide to using prescribed fire for wildlife management. Published by the Mississippi State University Extension Service (P2283).

Legal Environment for Forestry Prescribed Burning in Mississippi: A guide to laws and legal considerations pertaining to prescribed burning in Mississippi. Published by the Mississippi State University Forest and Wildlife Research Center.

Supplemental Wildlife Food Planting Manual for the Southeast: A guide to plant materials and food planting strategies for bobwhite quail and other game. Published by the Mississippi State University Extension Service (P2111).

Native Warm-season Grass Restoration in Mississippi: A guide to releasing or establishing native warm-season grasses for wildlife habitat and livestock forage. Published by the Mississippi State University Extension Service (P2435).


Conservation Reserve Program, CP33 - Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds Video: This video explains the wildlife habitat and economic benefits of CP33 buffers for bobwhite quail and other wildlife. By clicking on the link, a new window will be opened to the College of Forest Resources at Mississippi State University. Select the "CP33 - Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds" video. This video was produced by the Mississippi State University Office of Agricultural Communications.

Information Sheets

A How-To Guide to Hardwood Stem Injection: Hack and Squirt: 2-page guide to basic principles of using selective herbicide to kill undesirable hardwood trees.

Managing Old Field Habitats for Wildlife: 2-page guide to managing old fields for wildlife habitat.

Controlling Non-Native Grasses to Enhance Wildlife Habitat: 2-page guide to controlling non-native grasses with herbicides to enhance wildlife habitat.

Quality Vegetation Management: A How-To Guide for Managing Mid-Rotation Pine Stands: 2-page guide to basic principles of using selective herbicides and prescribed fire to manage pine stands for wildlife habitat and timber.

Raising Quail for Commercial or Personal Use

Note: A commercial quail breeder's license is not required for persons that raise no more than 100 quail per year for their own use.

A number of people are interested in raising bobwhite quail or other gamebirds for commercial sale or for personal use. Raising quail can be a rewarding experience like many other agricultural pursuits, but those planning to raise quail commercially should be aware that a license issued by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) is required except when persons raise 100 or fewer quail for their own use (does not include sale to others). A link to permit applications is provided below.

This information is not intended to be a guide to raising quail. For more information on techniques for raising quail, refer to the Department of Poultry Science at Mississippi State University. The Department of Poultry Science has Extension resources that can be accessed from their website. County Extension Service offices ( also may have or can help access information on raising quail.

Breeder's License

Any person, firm, or corporation may raise and/or sell either live or processed pen-raised quail within or without Mississippi provided provisions of the Mississippi Commercial Quail Law are met (Title 49, Chapter 13, Sections 1 through 25 of Mississippi Code of 1972; to review the law in its entirety follow the link Mississippi Law to the Mississippi Code). A commercial quail breeder's license issued by the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (hereafter, Commission) is required of anyone raising quail for sale and more than 100 quail per year for any reason. A commercial quail breeder's license is not required for persons that raise no more than 100 quail per year for their own use and consumption. Anyone that raises quail for use on their own shooting preserves must purchase a breeder's license in addition to the shooting preserve operating license (see Shooting Preserve License).

The breeder's license must be renewed annually at a cost of $25 per year and is valid from April 1 to March 31 the following year. The breeder's license must bear a number as designated by the Commission and must be openly displayed at all times at the place where quail are bred. For more information on obtaining a commercial quail breeder's license, contact the appropriate MDWFP Regional Office (see below). For those considering raising quail commercially, the following requirements should be considered. Complete regulations should be provided with breeder's license purchase or upon request.

Sale or Transfer and Record Keeping

Licensed quail producers must keep permanent records of each sale or gift in a suitable, permanently bound book. The record of bird transfer should include the following entries:

  •  kind and number of quail;
  •  to whom sold or given;
  •  the date of the sale or gift; and
  •  the name and address of the purchaser or recipient.

These records, as well as the premises of the licensed breeder, are subject to examination and inspection for violations of the Commercial Quail Law by any agent of the MDWFP or peace officer without warrant upon displaying credentials of authority.

The record of the transfer of ownership must be kept current and available at all times for inspection. Record discrepancies may cause the licensed quail producer to be charged with a misdemeanor. Any individual or owner of a business establishment possessing quail from a licensed producer shall be subject to having quail confiscated and may be charged with a misdemeanor if a record of transfer of ownership does not appear on the record book of the licensed producer from whom the person in question states that birds were purchased or received from.

Packaging, Labeling, and Storage

When sold or given as a gift (including shipment by any means), carcasses of dressed, pen-raised quail must be contained in a package or wrapper that has the licensed seller/donor's name, business name (if used), and address legibly printed on the packaging. The package or wrapper may contain one or more birds.

If a package or shipment of quail carcasses is kept in storage in any hotel, restaurant, or elsewhere, the carcasses must remain in the packages or wrappers used by the licensed quail producer until the quail are being prepared for consumption.

Resale or Change of Ownership

In case of the resale or disposition of quail carcasses originally purchased or received from a licensed quail producer and in turn sold or donated by another person, a record of each subsequent change of ownership must be made. The following information must be recorded by the present owner about the owner who receives the quail:

  •  name and address of the person or business to which the quail carcasses were transferred;
  •  the date of the transfer; and
  •  the kind and number of quail transferred.

The record of the quail transfer of ownership must be kept by the person or business selling or donating the quail for a period of one year following the ownership transfer and shall, upon request, be available for inspection by a representative of the MDWFP.

Considerations for Releasing Pen-Raised Quail

Some landowners attempt to use pen-raised birds to rebuild a wild population. However, research indicates that releasing pen-raised quail is not a viable solution to restoring wild quail populations. Research has found chicks learn behaviors from wild-quail parents that increase chances of survival. Therefore, typical pen-raised quail generally behave differently than wild birds. Many strains of quail raised in captivity have also been selected for meat production traits that may not be optimal for survival in the wild. Most often wild birds are absent because there is a habitat deficiency. If habitat cannot support wild birds, there is little reason to believe it would support pen-raised birds. If your land management goal is increasing wild quail populations, the resources that would be invested in releasing pen-raised quail would be better spent on habitat management (realizing that some areas have a higher probability of success than others).

The effects that releasing large numbers of pen-reared birds might have on wild quail populations (mainly from a population genetics and fitness standpoint) are not fully understood. For example, how the crossing of wild and captive strains might affect subsequent generations' survival abilities is unknown. Although survival of pen-raised quail after release is very low, some do survive and reproduce with wild birds (this has been verified in several studies). Perhaps there are no adverse effects, but genetic differences have been detected in pen-raised and wild birds (and subsequent offspring produced by interbreeding of pen-raised and wild birds). Finally, there is always the possibility that releasing birds raised in captivity may introduce diseases and parasites into wild populations of quail, turkeys, and other birds. When using pen-raised quail, every effort to minimize disease problems should be taken when releasing pen-raised quail (primarily obtaining birds from a facility that practices disease prevention and good sanitation).

Using pen-raised quail to train dogs, supplement wild populations subjected to intensive harvest, or practice put-and-take hunting are more valid uses of pen-raised birds. However, anyone considering use of pen-raised quail should follow the general guidelines in this document for implementing a release program legally and to reduce potential negative effects on wild bird populations.

Legal Requirements

Shooting Preserves and Dog Training with Pen-raised Quail

Pen-raised quail may be released and hunted on private land during the statewide quail season. However, state bag limits must be observed, and a hunting license is required. To harvest more released birds than bag limits dictate or to hunt released birds outside of the statewide quail hunting season, a shooting preserve license or dog training permit is required. However, shooting preserves must meet and follow some specific requirements. Follow this link, Shooting Preserve Licenses and Bird Dog Training Permits, for more information.

Raising Quail

A commercial quail breeder's license issued by the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks is required of anyone raising quail for sale. A commercial quail breeder's license is not required for persons that raise no more than 100 quail per year for personal consumption. Anyone that raises quail for use on their own shooting preserves must purchase a breeder's license in addition to the shooting preserve license. Follow this link, Raising Quail for Commercial or Personal Use, for more information.

Suggested Guidelines for Releasing Pen-raised Quail for Hunting

Release Methods

Once you determine if releasing pen-raised quail is right for your given hunting objectives and have secured any necessary permits, there are some general procedures you should consider for the release operation. Place metal leg bands on all pen-raised quail over 4 weeks of age that are being released. Although marking released quail is not required, except for the requirements established for use with dog training permits, banding will help differentiate pen-raised birds from wild birds. Remember: wild birds cannot be legally taken outside of the state quail season. Contact a commercial supplier of tags and bands for more information on sizes and types available. Local farm supply stores may be able to obtain bands or tags. An internet search can quickly yield sources.

For pre-season releases a month or two before the hunting season, release 1 to 2 birds per acre of suitable habitat (grassland, open woodland, and shrubby cover). Birds should be released in coveys of about 20 birds and distributed around the area in suitable cover. The best time of year to release birds is September to November.

Traditional release methods involve bringing coveys of pen-raised birds to release sites in boxes in the early morning and opening the boxes to allow birds to exit on their own. Release boxes should be picked up the afternoon of or the day following release. Minimize disturbing released birds as much as possible during the first few days after release. Releasing additional birds may be needed periodically to maintain covey finds in intensive commercial hunting operations. Some operations practice "day of the hunt" releases, in which birds are released just before or on the day of a scheduled hunt.

Several commercial gamebird release units are also available. Some of these commercial units are brooder-type systems in which chicks are raised for several weeks prior to release. Others are sheltered feeder systems designed to hold released birds close to the release site. The manufacturers of some of these units may claim that these units will restore wild quail populations on a given property. These units may increase early-season survival and produce birds that behave more like wild birds and have good flight characteristics, but do not assume that these units will restore self-sustaining, wild populations any more effectively than traditional releases.

These units may indeed provide a huntable quail population during the year of release, but new birds will likely have to be supplied each year to maintain huntable numbers. If wild quail populations are low in or absent from a given area, it is likely that the necessary habitat components required by quail are deficient either in quality and/or quantity. This being said, it is perfectly acceptable to use these units for your release operation if you are willing to purchase them. They may indeed produce superior hunting experiences compared to traditional releases, but do not rely on these units to restore self-sustaining, wild populations in the absence of comprehensive habitat management.

Whatever release method is used, birds should be released into areas of good concealing cover, such as standing broomsedge fields, woodlands with suitable, concealing ground cover, and shrub thickets (such as plum, blackberry, or sumac). Food should be provided for 3 to 5 weeks after release. Broadcast untreated milo or other sorghum grain into cover near release sites once a week. Cracked corn might also be used. Be sure that you do not put yourself or clients in a position where wild game hunting over bait could be an issue. Water may also be provided during the feeding period with a poultry watering system or simply in a shallow bowl.

Purchasing Pen-raised Gamebirds

Perhaps the easiest way to locate sources of pen-raised gamebirds (quail, pheasants, etc.) in your area is to inquire with others who have purchased birds for release. The North American Gamebird Association ( may also be able to provide contact information for gamebird breeders in your area.

Persons with prior experience obtaining birds may be able to provide some insight on quality of birds produced by gamebird sellers. No bird breeding operation is without some disease problems, but look for reputable gamebird breeders that practice strict disease prevention methods. Disease prevention methods include frequent cleaning and sanitizing of the breeding facility and proper vaccination (vaccines are typically applied with feed) of birds. This should at least minimize potential disease problems. Some breeders may raise quail primarily for meat production, while others may raise "flight-conditioned" birds for hunting. You might ask the breeder if they can provide references. Customers that have done business with the breeder before might be able to provide more information on characteristics of their birds.

Quail Recovery Plans

National Bobwhite and Grassland Initiative

As a result of bobwhite population declines, an ambitious, range-wide population and habitat restoration plan called the National Bobwhite and Grassland Initiative (NBGI) was developed by the National Bobwhite and Grassland Initiative Technical Committee. The NBGI was developed to provide a quantitative, habitat-oriented plan for bobwhite population restoration throughout the species range.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, along with other cooperating agencies and organizations, is actively implementing habitat management activities as part of the NBGI. These activities range from providing technical guidance to private landowners to implementing habitat management practices on public lands. In some cases, focal areas are chosen to direct limited resources in an effort to develop larger-scale quail habitat areas.

Quail population monitoring has been conducted to evaluate population response to habitat enhancements. The quail restoration plan is a multi-year effort to enhance and connect habitat for quail and other wildlife that are dependent on large amounts of native grass, wildflower, and shrub cover.

For more information on the NBGI, visit National Bobwhite and Grassland Initiative.

Learn more about Quail Conservation in Mississippi.