This is the first day that Missouri hunters can take to the fields and woods in quest of the cunning quail. But the Conservation Department says the sport is in decline. The department says quail hunting should be improved this year—that quail have made a significant recovery from last year although the bird count is only about half of the long-term average. Last year’s census was the lowest ever recorded. The department expects about 33-thousand hunters in the field this fall and winter. But the department’s Tom Dailey says that’s down about 70 percent from the 40-year average. He says there deer, turkey, and duck hunting are serious competition for quail hunting. In fact, he says deer hunting seems to be the entry level for many hunters because it’s an easier sport and doesn’t require a dog. But Dailey says quail hunters usually do well although they get only about half of the birds available. The season lasts until January 15th. Hunters can kill eight birds a day…but cannot have more than 16 at any one time.