Several readers commented on the rainfall graphs discussed last month; here are their comments (sometimes abridged for brevity).
JO (reporting from eastern panhandle): I recognized your charts and results except 2010. The fall of 2010 was warm and I thought the crop was a bust and we gave up hunting. In late December it turned cold. A friend of mine from Oklahoma called and wanted to hunt even if it was bad. Reluctantly, I met him at the ranch and we had a good hunt. I hunted through February of 2011 with very acceptable results. My take was that all of the birds were up high and that they had not really coveyed up until late.
RH (reporting from near Van Horn): I’ve kept rain records here since 1977. We’ve had WAY more years BELOW our quoted “12 inch rainfall area” than average above. From 1992 to 2004, we did not have any one of those years above 3 1/2 ” anywhere on this ranch. Most of those years were below 2″ for THE YEAR. Far worse than the drought of the 50’s and even the old timers (that were still alive) finally admitted that it was worse and longer. Nuf said there…….. 2011-12 were the worst two back to back years I have ever recorded out here. We went 460 days without a measurable drop. During that time we had a week long cold spell that went down to -3 and did not come out of the single digits for 5 days. THEN the serious dry spell came AFTER that….. Cattle died. Big oak, cedar, and piñon pine trees died. CHOLLA cactus died! When 2013 came around and we started finally getting a little rain, it was as if an atomic bomb had gone off out here. No dove, no quail, no deer, dead vegetation. Javelinas fared well because they just kept scarfing down the prickly pear and lechuguilla. 2014-2017 may have been the best back to back three years I have ever seen out here. Not necessarily A LOT of rain, but you could not have ordered it much better for our country. Early half inches and inch rains about once a week or two. Grew more grass than I even knew this country COULD grow. As this was happening, the blue quail population kept getting bigger and bigger. 2015 was the biggest quail population I have ever seen out here in my life. Hundreds of birds to the coveys and birds in the grass flats all the way up into the roughest boulder/mountain country. 2016-2017 were still banner quail years, but not quite as big as 2015. Then came 2018….. We had LOTS of carryover birds from 2017, but we did not get any rain until the latter part of August 2018. Sept.-Oct. were good rain months, but I was still not seeing very many quail. Covey of 6-8 birds was a rare sight. On Oct. 31, 2018 we had the most horrific hail storm I have ever seen out here. Almost tornado like system that slammed down 4 inches of hail covering 3/4 of this entire ranch. Shredded prickly pear, lechuguilla, greasewood, and stripped the bark off of mesquite. Totally denuded the country to the point it looked like a fire had gutted this ranch, without the black. I found dead jack rabbits. Since then, I have seen very few quail at all. Less even than after the 1992-2004 drought, but NOT as few as after the 2011-12 atomic bomb. My point of all this…. Early and subsequent timely rains seem to be THE huge factor associated with our blue quail population out here. People feed them, water them, etc. etc. but if it doesn’t rain early and keep raining through the growing season, we will not have quail. I’ve shot/trapped/poisoned every kind of nest/bird predator that we have, and if it doesn’t rain, we STILL won’t have many birds. Still as of old, mankind owes his very existence to 6 inches of topsoil and the fact that the Lord allows it to rain.