Archive for the ‘Habitat’ Category
Sunday, April 6th, 2014
Do you want to be the last bird hunter?
I love pulling up to a promising covert and finding nobody else parked there. So do you. To know with confidence that you’ll be the first – possibly only – one to hunt a field that week, immeasurable.
We all long for untrammeled ground … “first tracks” to use a ski analogy, when we open the tailgate and let the dogs out. Who doesn’t want to believe the birds are plentiful and naïve, will hold for our dogs, fly high and slow when we walk them up?
But what if that was always the case? What if you never saw another soul in the woods or on the prairie, because you were the last bird hunter?
Someone is fervently hoping it will come true, that they’ll be the last to inhabit this “ideal” world and be the only ones, getting all the shots, finding no footprints.
I wouldn’t want to hunt with him.
But we may all see a situation almost this dire in our lifetime, if you believe the pessimists in our midst. If you read the magazines or are a member of an upland conservation group, you know our fraternity is at risk of extinction. There are fewer new hunters coming on and more going out, usually by dying. We are an aging population, we bird hunters. And too many of us are a tad too selfish – relishing the situation described above – to bring on the next generation of uplanders.
Okay, maybe not selfish, but defeated, discouraged, disillusioned. I can’t blame them.
The almighty dollar usually trumps CRP payments and conservation easements. Ethanol is a wicked competitor, fueling the plowing of marginal ground for a few more bushels of corn. Deer hunters waving dollar bills will keep grouse hunters off a lease; the price of ammo will stop a 16-year-old from picking up a shotgun, as will a PETA lecture in kindergarten. The pressure of peers who don’t hunt, lack of a father figure, onerous regulation of gun ownership and even ammo restrictions have thinned our ranks. Bird populations are devastated by blizzard or drought, or nesting habitat is mowed early for another cutting of alfalfa.
The “barriers to entry” as statisticians call them, are numerous. But none are insurmountable. Unless you’re selfish. Or a quitter. Or brain-dead.
Why bother taking a friend, kid, spouse hunting? What do you get in return? Here’s my list … you can probably come up with more reasons:
New hunters’ license dollars fund management of habitat and game populations. Your neighbors, PETA members, and the Defenders of Wildlife might talk a good game, but only hunters put their money where their mouths are. When license money evaporates, don’t look to taxpayers to pick up the slack. So unless you plan to quit hunting the very day your state outlaws it, every new recruit ensures access and a modicum of managed game to chase.
New hunters are fresh and energetic, ready to pick up the banner and fight for conservation. We all burn out, and without new troops joining the battle against habitat destruction, the front lines will collapse. Oil companies and wind energy syndicates will claim victory.
New shotgunners who understand scientific game management can advocate for it among their non-hunting, anti-gun peers. Sensational claims by the anti-hunting cabal are best countered with cold, hard facts related by knowledgeable outdoors enthusiasts.
Those who ignore history are destined to repeat it. That includes gun control. The anti-gun crowd pooh-poohs the fundamental reason for a Second Amendment, but you shouldn’t laugh. You don’t have to pick up a textbook to learn that many tyrants modern and ancient started their reign of terror by disarming their citizenry. The death of gun rights starts with excessive government meddling in your personal life, an “imperial presidency” ruling by fiat not representation, marginalizing those with unpopular views. It is fueled by a sheep-like tolerance of more and more unreasonable encroachment on our rights. Whether it’s Big Gulps or Obamacare, a slippery slope might be around the next bend in the road.
We should fear any president’s desire to take away the last resort we have available for opposing a corrupt regime. Ask the Syrians fighting for freedom right now, or the Jews of 1930’s Germany, if you think that notion is silly and antiquated. Unarmed citizens become subjects. New hunters become Second Amendment advocates.
A kid who knows and understands guns is a safer kid. He handles one with respect in the field and knows what to do when a gun is found where it shouldn’t be. That kid is less likely to be a danger to himself or others. When the bad guy does break down his front door, that kid – or adult – might just stop a rape or murder. If some nut job is drawing a bead on your daughter at the mall, a fellow shopper (and hunter) shooting back might save her life.
Hunters are part of the circle of life. They have a realistic view of where food comes from and what is involved in making meat. Shotgunners take personal responsibility for some of their sustenance, and in this cynical world that makes for a more authentic life.
Shooting straight, find your way back to camp, starting a fire, cleaning a bird, training a dog are all skills that teach important character traits: overcoming hardship, accomplishing something tangible, self reliance, accountability. You won’t find those on the agenda at a public school. “Manliness” is scorned these days, but when the dam breaks or the woods catch fire, I hope there are hunters (and Boy Scouts) around to help.
Hunting is a direct link to our shared history. It has a body of literature that is beautiful. It is our connection to grandparents and our distant ancestors. Hunting is part of our DNA, and ignoring that suppresses a visceral element of our personhood. A new hunter becomes part of the chain, a standard-bearer for all things worth remembering including our hunting heritage.
Finally, a new hunter might take you hunting when you’re too old to venture out alone. Recruits will listen to our stories around the campfire, and pass them on. They will be our legacy, just as are pristine streams, wild places and thriving game populations
Now, go make a new hunter.
Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
After being passed by the House last week, today the Senate approved the Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the farm bill. The legislation is now headed to President Obama’s desk.
If signed into law by the president, the bill would:
- Reauthorize the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), including a change to the program that will allow for the enrollment of up to 2 million grassland acres with no cropping history that have never been eligible for CRP enrollment historically.
- Re-link conservation compliance to crop insurance, deterring wetland drainage.
- Create a regional “Sodsaver” to protect our country’s last remaining native prairies where it is most threatened – South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska.
- Approve $40 million in funding for Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Programs (VPA-HIP). Commonly referred to as “Open Fields,” this funding would improve sportsmen’s access while helping improve wildlife conservation efforts.
- Allocate more than $1 billion allocated for a new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, including provisions targeting wetlands and grasslands.
- Consolidate U.S. Department of Agriculture programs from 23 to 13, improving delivery of these programs to interested landowners.
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever urge the president to sign the bill, and look forward to using these new tools to create wildlife habitat.
The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.
Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
A few minutes ago, by a vote of 251 to 166 the United States House of Representatives passed the Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the farm bill. The bill now awaits Senate action. All indications are the Senate will act on the bill shortly.
The farm bill, if signed into law, will make substantial changes to conservation policies and programs. Included are needed policy changes to conservation compliance and provisions to protect native prairies from conversion in six states (N.D., S.D., Minn., Iowa, Neb., Mont.). U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs are consolidated from 23 to 13. Included is re-authorization of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) at 24 million acres, a new agricultural conservation easement program, and working lands conservation programs. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are in support of the passage of this farm bill and look forward to using these new tools to create wildlife habitat.
The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.
Monday, January 20th, 2014
Buster, Mike Simberg’s German shorthaired pointer, is no buster when it comes to quail hunting in Southern Illinois. Out with two of Mike’s friend, the trio managed to scratch out 17 quail and one rabbit – just one bird shy of a three man limit.
“Buster the Bird Dog hunted long and hard today,” said Simberg, “It was our best hunt of the year.”
Have a bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Rehan Nana, Quail Forever’s public relations specialist, at RNana@quailforever.org.
Thursday, October 31st, 2013
Yesterday, Farm Bill conferees met for the first time to craft the final version of the Farm Bill that will go before the full Congress for a vote. This has been a process that has taken more than two years, so it’s critical all bird hunters contact the conferees listed below urging final passage of a Farm Bill immediately. Failure to pass a Farm Bill by year’s end would be devastating to wildlife and hunter access.
“If a Farm Bill doesn’t pass by year’s end critical programs like CRP and WRP will remain unavailable,” explained Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s vice president of government affairs.
Nomsen continued, “we saw the power of our collective voice as hunters earlier this month when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service re-opened Waterfowl Production Areas during the government shutdown. Today, it’s even more critical for all of us to raise those voices. The future of our hunting heritage hangs in the balance. It may seem like I’m over-stating the severity of the situation, but I am not. This is zero-hour for pheasants, quail, ducks, deer, turkeys, America’s water quality and hunter access.”
The following components are critical to Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s support of a new Farm Bill:
- Conservation Compliance connected to crop insurance
- National Sodsaver to protect our country’s last remaining native prairies
- A Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) with a minimum 25 million acre baseline
- A 5-year Farm Bill
The list below is the full roster of Farm Bill conferees. If you live within the districts of these individuals, it’s imperative they hear your voice as a hunter and conservationist urging for strong conservation policy in a new Farm Bill. Follow this link to Contact your elected officials. Thank you for standing up for America’s sportsmen and women!
Farm Bill Conferees
Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013
Go Celtic Cascade, “Dot”, is Dr. Gavin O’Connor’s 1 year 7 month-old German wirehaired pointer that calls Springfield, Missouri home.
“She has really impressed me with her keen nose,” says O’Connor. “(Dot) has been on point in places I would have argued there was absolutely no way there was a bird there, only to have one flush right where she told me it was. I have learned not to question her too much.”
WIRED TO HUNT: German wirehaired pointers trace their origins back to the late 19th century. They originated in Germany, where breeders wanted to develop a rugged, versatile hunting dog that would work closely with either one person or a small party of persons hunting on foot in varied terrain; from the mountainous regions of the Alps, to dense forests, to more open areas with farms and small towns.
The breed the Germans desired had to have a coat that would protect the dogs when working in heavy cover or in cold water, yet be easy to maintain. Sources differ on the exact lineage, though the German shorthaired pointer, wirehaired pointing griffon, pudelpointer, stichelhaar, and Deutscher-kurzhaar are commonly accepted as the most likely contributors.
Have a bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Rehan Nana, Quail Forever public relations specialist, at RNana@quailforever.org.
Tuesday, September 24th, 2013
“Today, Shooting Starr Venus de Milo enjoyed finding a quail,” said Amy Musia. “She is 12 weeks and is on her path to be great……I hope……She definitely has the natural ability!!”
Amy will be NAVHDA testing Venus this spring for NA. Good luck to both of you!
Have a bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Rehan Nana, Quail Forever public relations specialist, at RNana@quailforever.org.
Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
DOG OF THE DAY: Wyatt, Charles Kennett’s GSP, looking forward to the upcoming season.
GSP History: Although having appeared in paintings dating back to the late-mid 1700′s, the precise origin of the German Shorthaired Pointer is unclear. It is likely that the GSP is descended from a breed known as the German Bird Dog, which is related to the old Spanish pointer introduced to Germany in the 17th century. It is also likely that various German hound and tracking dogs, as well as the English Pointer and the Arkwright Pointer, also contributed to the development of the breed.
Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Rehan Nana, Pheasants Forever public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, August 26th, 2013
Spring and summer brought welcomed change in quail nesting conditions throughout much of the country. As the saying goes; when it rains, it pours. The rains have fallen in overabundance for some, but many states have found refuge from drought stricken habitat in the form of these rain clouds.
A significant amount of upland habitat continues to be lost countrywide, and the bleeding has not stopped. The Conservation Reserve Program enrolled only 1.7 million acres in most recent general sign-up, bringing this critical wildlife habitat program down to a 26-year low.
However, in the face of this habitat loss, literally thousands of concerned hunter-conservationists have picked up the upland conservation banner and joined Quail Forever as new members and volunteers. This year, Quail Forever reached an all-time “covey” record of more than 11,000 members with new chapters forming from California to Florida.
Enjoy these habitat reports and as hunting season approaches, consider lending a hand with your local Quail Forever chapter.
Mild winter a boon for bobs
Alabama has had an abnormally wet spring/summer, with only a handful of central and southeastern counties experiencing an abnormally dry season – a drastic change from the recent severe summer droughts. Across the state, there’s been anywhere from 17-40” of rainfall reported for the year (as of the end of July) with temperatures remaining relatively low all the way through the summer months.
“On our public lands that are managed for quail we have seen more birds this spring/summer than in past years and heard from several hunters who were pleased with bird numbers,” says Carrie Threadgill, wildlife biologist for Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. “Also, I have had reports from landowners who say they have been hearing birds on their property for the first time in 10-15 years.”
This past winter Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries acquired new acreages on several management areas including Lauderdale, Lowndes, Barbour, and James D. Martin Wildlife Management Areas. Additionally, the Forever Wild program bought property that ties into James D. Martin WMA and Lauderdale WMA.
A season worth gearing up for
It can be said even mediocre quail hunting years in Arizona are better than the best years in other areas of the country. “This year will be one worth getting out and hunting quail, but not one to write the relatives about,” says Johnathan O’Dell, small game biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
According to O’Dell, the state received better amounts of winter rains this year, but it has been a particularly dry spring that started early. However, the summer monsoons did make a timely return. O’Dell also noted quail in southern Arizona started hatching on time, but birds in central Arizona were late.
The big three in Arizona (Gambel’s, scaled, and Mearns’ quail) all require precipitation at different times for nesting success. Gambel’s need winter precipitation, scaled spring precipitation, and Mearns’ the summer monsoonal rains.
O’Dell also noted spring call counts came in at 20% below last year’s numbers and below the 10-year average. The early, dry spring didn’t help scaled quail due to their typical nesting 2 to 3 weeks behind Gambel’s; however, on the upside, lots of habitat improvements have been made in southeastern Arizona to restore the native grasslands which are important to the scaled quail. Expect to see more Gambel’s quail than scaled quail in those areas this year for a below average season. Mearns’, hunters should be cautiously optimistic. It will take more than 2 good years in a row to bring numbers up, but the state is headed in the right directions. Expect a slightly below average season for Mearns’.
Read the full survey here: http://www.azgfd.gov/h_f/small_game.shtml
Two thousand acres of habitat added
Heading into the spring/summer breeding season, Arkansas quail populations were suppressed given the record drought and stifling heat of summer 2012. However, the birds that made it through were likely content with a spring and summer which was reasonably conducive for nesting and brood rearing. Summer rain totals well above the recent 10-year average, according to Clifton Jackson of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
While there was a record amount of corn planted, the state added almost 2,000 acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands this year. Quail are being seen and heard in the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests areas which are making significant strides at pine-bluestem restoration.
Generally poor, look for spring moisture
Generally, the spring and summer of 2013 was a very dry across one of the largest states in the Union, and as you would expect, quail production was lower than average due to suppressed habitat conditions. For the second year in a row, California was significantly drier than normal with negative weather effects more pronounced in the southern region of the state.
The further north hunters move, the better. The Sierra and northern regions of the state typically have better quail production due to typically higher moisture and rainfall events, and this year follows suit with better production expected than in the southern region.
Production in California is based on the locale one is trying to hunt, so it is recommended that hunters look for positive weather patterns through April/May, which can be a good indicator of quail nesting and production success.
Nesting/brood habitat non-existent to below-average across range
Quail populations in Colorado were impacted by drought during the summer of 2012, some severely, some moderately, notes Ed Gorman, small game manager with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. This drought affected quail breeding populations, which were significantly lower than normal in the southeastern part of the state. In northeast Colorado, breeding populations were slightly lower than normal. Conditions have improved marginally across the range in 2013, but many areas are still severely dry.
Due to the drought, nesting and brooding habitat was non-existent to below-average across much of the quail range this spring. However, conditions have moderately improved as the nesting season has progressed.
Range-wide quail habitat has remained relatively stable because only minimal amounts of CRP habitat were located in places where they were valuable to bobwhites, so recent losses of CRP acres do not have as much impact to quail.
Excellent spring/summer production of food and nesting cover
Georgia received above average rainfall during late spring and early summer. This has resulted in excellent production of food and nesting cover on most quail managed landscapes. This rainfall doesn’t appear to have resulted in significant reductions in nesting success and brood production, particularly on the more well-drained sandy or loamy soils, says Reggie Thackston, program manager for Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Through the Farm Bill, Georgia has about 200,000 acres in CRP CP3A & CP 36 longleaf pine practices; 2,200 acres in CRP CP 33native field buffers; and 8,000 acres in the CP 38 SAFE Pine Savanna practice. Bobwhites and other grassland species benefit where these practices are appropriately maintained through mid-contract management, such as frequent prescribed fire or rotational winter disking.
Additionally, Georgia landowners may be eligible for practice cost share to enhance bobwhite habitat through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Working Lands for Wildlife, Environmental Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program. Within all of these programs, landowners may receive funding for practices that can be value added for quail if appropriately applied and maintained in the proper landscape context. Through the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division Private Lands Program, which includes the Bobwhite Quail Initiative, wildlife biologists are available to assist landowners with development of bobwhite management plans and details on habitat practice cost share availability.
In recent years in southwest Georgia, approximately 35,000 acres of new and intensively managed wild quail lands have been successfully established on private property through the technical guidance efforts of Tall Timbers Research Station.
Georgia WRD is in the process of finalizing the revision of the state’s Bobwhite Quail Initiative under the umbrella of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. This plan targets bobwhite restoration into strategic focal landscapes that often include a mix of both private and public lands.
Georgia’s BQI is funded primarily through the sale of a vehicle license plate along with direct donations and grants.
Quail population strong heading into breeding season
Idaho experienced a very mild winter that was drier than average, so overwinter survival is expected to be high, reports Jeff Knetter, upland game and waterfowl staff biologist for Idaho Fish and Game.
While overwinter survival may be high, much of southern Idaho has been very dry during the spring/summer nesting season, so there are some concerns regarding brood survival. Unofficial reports have broods being observed thus far, so state biologists remain cautiously optimistic about another good year.
In terms of habitat, Idaho has been holding steady at approximately 670,000 acres enrolled in CRP/SAFE and has not seen a significant decline of acres like many other states.
Through state and local efforts, Idaho continues to promote the CP-33 buffers practice, as well as a new CRP SAFE practice in western Idaho focused on upland game birds. USDA and the Department of Wildlife are putting effort into promoting mid-contract management which will result in better game bird habitat on these acres.
Healthy brood sightings
Thankfully, Illinois is out of the severe drought conditions that plagued the state in 2012. Overwinter conditions were average in the state’s historical quail strongholds, with one significant winter weather event in the extreme southern edge of the state that possibly affected area upland wildlife.
During the spring and summer of 2013, central and south-central Illinois experienced some heavy rainfalls which were not friendly for nesting conditions; however, these were localized events, and as summer progressed, fairly cool temperatures offered a reprieve for wildlife. Anecdotal reports are showing healthy brood sightings and an average year of production is expected.
The state saw decline in total Conservation Reserve Program acreage in the most recent sign-up, but Quail Forever’s five Illinois farm bill biologists are working to enroll landowners in CRP Continuous Programs, such as CP38 and CP33, in an effort to bring conservation acres back to more viable levels.
Whistle Counts up 16.7 percent
Budd Veverka, Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife farmland game research biologist, reports a 16.7 percent increase in the state’s spring bobwhite whistle count index, likely due to the dry spring and summer last year which was favorable to bobwhite nesting in Indiana. Nesting conditions for the state should be good due to the increased moisture that has created lush habitat.
“This past winter was again on the milder side, at least compared to 2010 and 2011. While there were some significant snow events, they did not remain on the ground for long,” noted Veverka, “Indiana has been making up for last year’s drought with an abundance of rainfall. April was the 7th wettest month and June was the 11th wettest month since 1895. At our bobwhite study site in southern Indiana, we had a couple nests flood-out in June.”
In 2012, Indiana lost 16,680 acres of General CRP; however, the state did add 1,821 acres of Continuous CRP, 284 acres of CP 33 (upland bird buffers), and 706 acres of bobwhite-specific CRP SAFE. Additionally, Indiana added 445 acres of new quail habitat and improved another 3,080 acres on eight Fish and Wildlife areas.
Wettest spring in 141 years
Iowa’s winter was generally mild thru about mid February, but the state saw significant snowfall thru the end of March with a final snowstorm the first week of May – a difficult test for upland wildlife.
“Our southern quail range was likely not as impacted by these late snows as the northern two-thirds of Iowa,” says Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
While bobwhites may have escaped the snow, they didn’t miss the rain. Iowa’s spring was the wettest in 141 years of state records and the 5th coldest in state history thru May according to Bogenschutz’s reports. Weather seemed to warm up and dry off by mid-June. Quail are persistent re-nesters and will double brood, so Iowa’s spring weather might not have as great an impact on our quail nesting as pheasants.
Iowa is part of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative national quail plan and is working to improve habitat throughout the state. The state’s fledgling Walk-In Program includes funding dedicated to improving habitat with many of the enrolled properties located in the quail range. To find out more about the Habitat Access Program, click here.
Bogenschutz also noted, “Our small game harvest survey showed hunters harvested more quail than the year before (2011), verifying what we’d seen on our roadside counts last year. Call counts conducted in south central Iowa this year report a good number of calling males and anecdotal reports suggest decent winter carryover.”
This information shows the potential for counts to increase again in 2013. Iowa conducts roadside survey in early August and post the results usually in early September. Check the Iowa DNR website for more information.
Quail benefiting from drier weather in central/eastern Kansas
The statewide pheasant, quail, and prairie chicken populations were all at record or near record lows going into the breeding season. The declines are due to severe drought the western half of Kansas has experienced over the last couple of years, says Jim Pitman, small game coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism.
The drought has led to poor vegetation growth and low insect abundance, which have severely curtailed nest and brood production for all of Kansas’ primary upland bird species. The western part of the state has received a bit better moisture this spring, but it is generally still below the average annual rainfall to this point. Additionally, there was very little residual cover available for nesting this spring due to last summer’s drought. Based on those conditions, Kansas is, at best, expecting average production which won’t improve conditions over what was experienced last fall – one of the toughest seasons seen in western Kansas in a very long time.
Researchers suspect that the best bird numbers in western Kansas will still be in the Northwest because that region hasn’t suffered as much from the drought as areas further to the south. However, upland bird populations are still going to be far below what was seen just a few years prior in that region, when numbers were very good.
The silver lining to the drought has been that the dry conditions have been experienced in eastern Kansas, too, where they have actually been beneficial to quail and prairie chickens. This part of the state typically gets too much rain, and the dry weather has improved conditions for productivity of quail and chickens.
Last fall was one of the best quail and prairie chicken years eastern Kansas experienced in quite some time. This eastern third used to be the “stronghold” for both of those species 25-plus years ago. The bird numbers in eastern Kansas are nowhere near those “good ole days” but they were pretty darn good last fall, according to reports. Spring counts for chickens and quail were both good again this spring in that part of the state and conditions this summer appear to have been conducive for production again too. Thus, the state is expecting some pretty good chicken and quail populations again this year in that part of the state and probably even a little bit better than last year. The best hunting for those species will likely be in the central and northern Flint Hills extending northwest into the eastern portion of the Smoky Hills region.
Kansas’ brood survey report will be available in early September. Please check Kansas’ website for further information at that time.
Nesting conditions excellent
This year, “The Bluegrass State” made it through its second successive mild winter, leading Ben Robinson, wildlife biologist-small game program for the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, to expect a good carry-over of birds during the breeding season.
“Quality of existing habitat should be excellent due to timely rainfall. With the exception of a couple large rain events, Kentucky’s spring/summer nesting weather has been phenomenal. The early spring started out wet, but birds likely hadn’t begun to nest, yet,” said Robinson. “Timely rainfall has occurred throughout the entire summer, creating lush vegetation for nesting and brood rearing.”
Some parts of the state did, however, experience extended heavy rainfall around the July 4th holiday, which is not the best news for young chicks. Robinson is not too concerned with this isolated event and reports receiving of quail chicks on the ground in several parts of the state.
Extensive habitat management continues on several Quail Focus Areas with the Peabody WMA and Clay WMA leading the way for public grounds.
Numbers still low
Quail numbers continue to be low in Louisiana with 2012 Fall Whistle Surveys indicating no increase in populations. There were no weather events during the winter of 2012/13 that would adversely affect quail in Louisiana, and spring and summer weather conditions have been generally good for nesting and brood rearing.
In the state’s most recent hunter survey, 1,100 wild quail hunters were estimated to have harvested 8,200 wild quail, according to Jimmy Stafford, small game and turkey program leader for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
No major winter weather events of concerns
Where habitat is suitable in Mississippi, quail populations should have entered into the 2013 breeding season in relatively good shape. Warmer spring temperatures arrived much later this year compared to last year, but this probably did not have any significant impact on breeding other than to maybe delay some of the earliest breeding activity.
“In our region of the country, there were not any major winter weather events of concern. There was above normal rainfall in the spring, although this likely was not a major event other than for very early nesting birds,” says Rick Hammrick, small game biologist for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks. “Rainfall has been moderate in most areas during peak nesting periods, other than some areas in extreme south and north Mississippi, which have had significant rain events that might have negative effects on nesting and brood-rearing. However, due to the propensity of quail to re-nest, any negative effects might be mitigated later in the season with a second nesting attempt.”
Hammrick also noted that recent commodity prices have resulted in a slow-down of new enrollments in CRP. However, some existing CRP acreage has been converted to more quail-friendly cover practices. “Although nesting cover can be improved in many areas, brood-rearing cover is frequently our most limiting breeding season habitat factor,” Hammrick says, “More intentional habitat management is needed to create the habitat structure (open ground covered by broadleaf plants) needed for successful brood-rearing.”
Reports of increased calling and broods observed
According to Beth Emmerich, agricultural wildlife ecologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, it appears quail came through the drought of 2012 and the lingering winter of 2012-13 in good shape. “Initial nesting ran a bit later than normal this year due to an extremely cool, wet spring, but early indications are that we are seeing an increase over previous years,” Emmerich says.
Nesting and brood-rearing habitat should be in good shape this year after being knocked back by last year’s drought. Quail numbers on the state’s larger grasslands in western and southwest Missouri seem especially good this year. In addition, staff members and cooperators north of the Missouri River also report an increase in calling males and brood observations.
Losses expected to continue
The majority of the three quail species in Nevada (California, Gambel’s and mountain quail) were adult birds going into nesting season, making the spring of 2013 important in terms of stabilizing populations.
Unfortunately, conditions throughout much of Nevada remained dry-to-extremely-dry throughout the spring, and production looks to have been below average. Quail populations may continue to decline in Nevada, and it will likely take a couple of good production years to bring the overall quail population back to normal.
Storms in December brought much needed snow accumulations to much of northern Nevada; however, that was followed by some very cold temperatures where daytime highs rarely got into the teens and nighttime lows were often below zero. This impacted quail populations in some areas of the state; particularly in portions of Humboldt, Elko and Pershing Counties, notes Shawn Espinosa, upland game staff biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
Some mountain quail and California quail habitat was recently affected by the Bison Fire in the Pine Nut Mountains. This fire was approximately 25,000 acres in size and burned mainly in the pinyon pine and juniper tree communities with some impacts to riparian aspen and willow communities. It is expected to create some short-term negative impacts to quail populations within this mountain range, which was popular for quail hunters in western Nevada.
The extremely dry conditions across the state have placed a strain on water sources and habitat conditions. Timely, but localized, precipitation events may have encouraged production in some areas.
Enough land, not enough moisture
New Mexico has been locked in extreme-to-exceptional drought across two-thirds of the state with moderate-to-severe drought conditions extending across nearly all of the remaining areas. Because of the current drought, which has been in effect for two years, quail production has been very low. Anecdotal reports show populations down significantly across all species.
Like many western states, the habitat for quail is there once the rains return. “We have so much public land in the form of BLM lands, so there is plenty of quail cover out there if moisture comes,” says Barry Hales with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
New Mexico quail populations are heavily based on climate driven fluctuations: when conditions are good and in sequential years, the state seems to have good populations.
Addition of 21K acres of upland SAFE acres
Overall, quail should benefit from a relatively mild winter with very little heavy snow and ice accumulation, notes Charlie Payne, regional wildlife biologist for Quail Forever.
“While Ohio is facing the loss of approximately 54,000 acres of grass, we have been able to combat this with the additional allocation of 21,000 acres of Pheasant SAFE, as well as the expansion of the SAFE eligible counties to include more of the quail counties,” continued Payne.
Spring surveys by the Ohio Division of Wildlife are initialing showing no change or slight decline in population, but with the wet/cool spring, fall sightings and hunter reports may be more indicative of breeding success.
Go east, young man
Oklahoma’s quail population is unfortunately still feeling the effects from the severe droughts of 2011 and 2012. Some areas of the state have received spring rainfalls, which have equated to a slight recovery in crucial vegetative quality, notes Jena Donnell, quail habitat restoration biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife.
While the early winter of 2012/13 appeared to be fairly mild, a late April freeze may have delayed nesting season in the northwest corner of the state. Oklahoma’s Mesonet, a network of environmental monitoring stations, also reports that as of May 2013, central Oklahoma had its 15th wettest spring ever, while the panhandle had its 4th driest.
Go west, young man
Initial reports suggest California quail production in eastern Oregon is going to be down as compared to 2012 and the 10-year average. David Budeau, upland game coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, is optimistic that both California and mountain quail will do a little better in western Oregon where water is not a limiting factor, and the warm, relatively dry spring could be a positive.
Nesting and brood-rearing cover is excellent
Luckily for South Carolina quail hunters there were no 2012/13 winter weather events of any consequence. Spring and summer has been exceedingly wet across much of the state, with some areas experiencing torrential downpours and twice normal rainfall amounts. Billy Dukes, assistant chief of wildlife for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, says some nests were undoubtedly lost to wet conditions and flooding. As a result, the hatch will be more protracted this year, but there is still opportunity for a good late hatch resulting from improved cover conditions.
The statewide quail population in South Carolina is well below the long-term average for the last 35 years, but quail are still widely distributed throughout the state and respond well to improvements in habitat conditions. Privately-owned plantations under intensive quail management had great carryover of birds due to modest harvest rates and a virtual lack of winter weather.
Recent rains have benefited cover significantly in most of the state. Nesting and brood-rearing cover is excellent. In the past year, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has thinned over 2,900 acres and applied prescribed fire to over 31,000 acres of public lands, improving habitat for bobwhites and other species dependent upon early successional upland habitat.
Population increase expected compared to 2012
Although more rainfall is definitely needed across the core bobwhite range in Texas, enough rainfall events occurred over a large enough area to produce conditions favorable for reproductive efforts. Spring and summer rains occurred in almost every region offering some relief from drought and the following green-up provided bugs and limited nesting cover. “We expect populations to increase compared to last year but remain below the long-term average,” states Robert Perez, upland game bird program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Winter conditions in north Texas did not present any challenges for quail. The region was, however, very dry up until spring and summer when many areas received enough rain to spur male bobwhite calling activity and subsequent nesting activity.
Most of the state has experienced long-term drought (2-3 years) and populations have been declining each year of drought; although, there have been some areas of the state that have fared better than others.
Texas’ quail roadside surveys are ongoing and preliminary information suggests production is up in many areas of the state.
Nesting and brood success high
“Utah is home to California and Gambel’s quail populations. Gambel’s quail were in fair condition heading into the breeding season; however, California quail were below average ,” says Jason Robinson, upland game coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “Early indications are that nesting and brood success have been high,” Robinson says.
The winter in Utah was cold and longer than average with snow and cold temps persisting longer than expected, which likely affected California quail populations, but had limited effects on Gambel’s quail. Early spring precipitation was good, especially in May, with June extremely hot and dry, near record dry and hot. July precipitation was higher than average, with average temperatures.
Best nesting habitat conditions in 10 years
Virginia’s bobwhite population should have been in good condition heading into the breeding season, notes Marc Puckett, small game project leader for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The state had a relatively mild winter with some snowfall, but no prolonged icing or heavy snow cover, and temperatures were not unusually cold. Reports from landowners and staff indicate people are hearing more quail than at any time in recent history.
“Virginia did have a cool spring which was prolonged more than usual, so based solely on ancillary observations and landowner reports, the breeding season was a bit delayed. I do not feel peak activity occurred until about two weeks later than usual,” continued Puckett.
It has been unusually wet this early summer, and many areas of the east have experienced wetter than normal conditions. Parts of Virginia were running 10” to 15” inches above normal for rainfall. This has been welcome relief to the drought, but in some cases has gone too far in the other direction; however, Puckett does not believe this adversely affected nesting other than in areas where early nesting quail may have occupied flood plains.
What the rain has done is provide perhaps the best habitat conditions seen by quail during a nesting season in 10 years. When plants do well, insects do well, soft mast does well, etc. – so there is ample food and cover for adults and chicks alike.
“If Virginia returns to a more normal rainfall pattern soon, this could prove to be one of the best nesting seasons we have had in years,” said Puckett.
Approximately 3,500 acres of new habitat have been added during the past year through various state and federal cost-share programs. Perhaps more importantly, the rainfall has helped previously sparse covers to grow faster and healthier than they have in years.
If current conditions persist, habitat should remain in excellent condition into fall.
The 2013 Quail Habitat Conditions Report was complied by Rehan Nana, Quail Forever public relations specialist, with special thanks given to participating state agencies.
Wednesday, July 17th, 2013
“Nothing very bad can happen if your shoes are well-polished,” my grandfather always said to me.
Two years ago, I packed up my bags, ate my last decent slab of Kansas City-style ribs, polished my boots and left quail country to start with Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever as the organization’s public relations specialist (the conservation organization is headquartered in Saint Paul, Minn.).
Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to meet, hunt and work with Quail Forever volunteers and members involved with our quail conservation mission; frankly, I couldn’t be more impressed. From Oregon to Florida, I hear stories and reports of quail continuing to give quail hunters a run for their money. I’d like to share these stories and highlight the people, places and upland habitat work with fellow Quail Forever members and quail enthusiasts. Perhaps you’ll find out there are conservation efforts taking place near you and you can get involved. Even if they’re not right next door, we’re all neighbors in the conservation community, and it’s nice to know about the good work while you dream about those distant coveys.
Our volunteer – your – efforts are what keep Quail Forever’s conservation machine running. We are all in this together, working to make sure the birds we love – and occasionally love to hunt – continue to dot the landscape and our minds. And while it’s our work – our mission – it can also be a lot of fun.
While I now live in pheasant, grouse and woodcock (timber quail) country, I migrate south every autumn to chase bobs whenever I can, often getting back to Missouri and the family’s land (which is going through a quail habitat transformation – keep an eye out for the “putting lipstick on a former pig farm” series), so I hope to keep you entertained.
On behalf of my one-year old red setter, “Annie,” (aka Wretched Queen Anne), I invite you to join us on our hunts and happenstances in and out of the field. “Annie’s” passion for bobwhites exceeds even my own, and if my blog ends up anything like my office, also anticipate gear and shotguns (particularly older collectibles) being covered territory. If you have any ideas or topics you’d like discussed, drop me an email at RNana@quailforever.org.
Grandpa’s advice is as good today as it was when he first proclaimed it years ago. Bobwhite habitat and bobwhite quail won’t come back without a well-polished effort. Quail Forever is on this leading edge, and I’m proud to be putting on the shine for this organization. Talk to you soon.