Posts Tagged ‘bobwhite quail’
Friday, March 21st, 2014
“Thanks for a great conservation group!” said Fleischacker. “The boys down in the Franklin County chapter know what they’re doing!”
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.
Monday, March 10th, 2014
Dog of the Day: “Windy” with a chance of quail. Owned by Scott Cormier, a hunting guide at Pine Creek Sporting club in Okeechobee, Florida.
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.
Tuesday, March 4th, 2014
Quinn, the English pointer, was 15 months-old in this photo (showing his first point on quail), but by the looks of it, Quinn was already a pro.
“(Quinn is) one of the best dogs I’ve ever owned, and I’ve had some good ones,” says Quail Forever life-member Wayne Kinzel of Missouri. “He is 11 years-old now, but still has great intensity on point and has always been very biddable.”
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.
Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
Pictured here is Bradeigh, “an extremely fast and agile three-year-old English Springer Spaniel from the Bricksclose Matchwood lineage from the Mark Hairfield Kennels in northern Mississippi, retreieving a quail after hunting hard in some heavy Georgia briars,” says Brian Bolton. Bradeigh is owned by Bolton’s son, Kevin Bolton, of Orlando, Florida.
Springer Facts: Springer Spaniels are closely related to the Welsh Springer Spaniel and very closely with the English Cocker Spaniel; less than a century ago, springers and cockers would come from the same litter. The smaller “cockers” hunted woodcock while the larger littermates were used to flush, or “spring,” game. In 1902, the Kennel Club of England recognized the English Springer Spaniel as a distinct breed.They are used as sniffer dogs on a widespread basis. The term springer comes from the historic hunting role, where the dog would “spring” (flush) birds into the air.
Thursday, January 9th, 2014
Twist, the English setter, is seen here hunting quail with owner Stephen Caldwell in New Jersey. “He’s my pride and joy,” said Cadwell.
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, March 13th, 2013
Virginia is stepping up its part in the overall national wild bobwhite quail restoration effort with an agreement between two state agencies to target pine forests in the state’s six “bobwhite focus areas” to create habitat for bobwhites and other wildlife, while improving commercial timber value.
The Virginia Department of Forestry, an original member of the Virginia Quail Council, is assisting the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, a member of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), to identify interested private, non-industrial forest landowners in the 15 counties that comprise the state’s six quail focus areas to embrace forestry best management practices conducive to bobwhites. The practices include both pre-commercial and commercial thinning of pine stands, planting of shortleaf pine seedlings and the use of an approved herbicide in controlling hardwood undergrowth. Approved landowners can earn up to $10,000 in cost sharing for their participation.
While many think of bobwhite quail in an “agricultural” setting, open pine stands, or “savannahs,” have historically been productive locations for bobwhites — as well as rabbits, turkeys, deer and numerous other bird species. Thinning pine stands allows sunlight to reach the ground, which stimulates the growth of native vegetation quail need for food, raising their young and protection from predators. Shortleaf pine is a slow-growing species, so planting it helps keep the pine stand open longer, requiring less maintenance to preserve it as wildlife habitat.
Most farms in Virginia have more timberland than open farmland,” explained Marc Puckett, the state’s quail coordinator and chair of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee. “With commodity crop prices at all-time highs, landowners are now even less likely to devote that agricultural space to bobwhites. But their woodlands do provide a management option.
“In addition, the management practices we’re supporting for quail in this project are actually good for timber health. So it’s a win for the landowner, a win for the timber and a win for wildlife. We’re fortunate to have a state forestry agency that recognizes and promotes these ideas. We hope the program will prove successful and develop long term support.”
Mike Black, forestry coordinator for the NBCI, enthusiastically endorses the Virginia effort, saying “There is no greater opportunity in the historic range of bobwhite quail for habitat restoration than the forested landscape, and reconnecting forests with quail is one of NBCI’s top priorities. We encourage state forestry entities in all 25 NBCI states to join in examining opportunities for wildlife habitat creation on both public and private forestlands in their respective states.”
Virginia’s bobwhite focus area counties where the landowner offer is valid include Bland, Wythe, Greensville, Southampton, Sussex, Culpeper, Greene, Madison, Orange, Rappahannock, Essex, King and Queen, King William, Halifax and Augusta.
The Virginia wildlife agency provides additional information about managing forests for wildlife:
Quail Forever is a conservation partner in the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI). Read more NBCI blog posts here.
Monday, March 11th, 2013
While attending a media gathering at Honey Lake Plantation in Greenville, Florida, a few weeks ago, I had one of those light bulb-going-off moments. Super specialists in brand management and marketing, The Keer Group had brought together several outdoor writers and publishers for a little hunting and fishing and a lot of brainstorming about conservation, wingshooting and the outdoor industry.
I was watching John Thames, publisher of the elegant new Covey Rise magazine, walking in towards two muscle-rippling English pointers frozen just off the tangled edge of who know what kind of nasty brambles. John’s eyes were glued to the English cocker who’d been sent in for the flush (well, as “glued” as you can be to a furry rocket zipping around no more than a foot off the ground). Within seconds, seven bob whites ripped into the sky in seven different directions. Picking one, John swung on it and down it came.
Walking back to the trail, I pinched some tiny but infinitely annoying thorns off my brush pants. Tom Keer and I talked about how miserable and annoying those brambles are to move through. Covey Rise associate publisher Kelly Waldrop joined us, and the conversation then turned to longleaf pines. Kelly has some longleafs at home, and he filled me in on how they spend a few years looking like nothing more than a clump, low to the ground, before shooting up like a proper tree. I asked some questions about the live oaks, then tripped over a vine that snagged my left boot.
That’s when I had the “ah-ha” moment. This was the normal chit-chat and familiar rhythm of a plantation hunt. But so much of what we were doing and saying was all about the habitat. Those ankle grabbing vines and thick thorny tangles provide safe cover for the birds. Those longleafs flourish with regular burning, and many wildlife species – including bobwhite quail – thrive in the high diversity of plants characteristic to the ground layer of the open pine forest. (Check out “Longleaf Revival” in the premier issue of Covey Rise.)
Our experience of the moment, walking and talking, and the simple fact of being there was rooted in the landscape around us. We didn’t need to intentionally focus our discussion on the declining quail population and challenges of improving habitat; we were inside the issue right then and there.
That made me even more eager than ever for Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic. Sure enough, at the habitat seminars and meetings in Minneapolis, I found myself doing a little mental time travel. Instead of listening with my peripheral vision taking in the meeting room or conference hall, I transported my mind’s eye to the Honey Lake woods, seeing the light filtering in through the longleafs, feeling the broomstraw against my legs and thinking really hard about those bobwhite quail and the habitat they need to succeed.
Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.
Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
I undertake this topic with some trepidation. We discussed quail population management two blog posts ago and I hope I gave everyone a basic understanding of the dynamics involved within different levels of quail populations.
Of course, it’s hard to know how to manage a quail population without some knowledge of just how many coveys you have, or to carry it even further – what your quail density in birds per acre is. This discussion can quickly devolve into one that’s like trying to talk about tree density versus trees per acre versus basal area with a forester – none of it means anything to a landowner unless they can visualize what is being said. I struggle with how to best convey a practical method of quail population estimation suitable for the average landowner.
Several levels of population estimation need to be addressed:
1) You simply want to know if you have quail at all
2) You don’t plan to hunt your quail, but you would like to know if the habitat work you are doing is leading to a trend of increasing quail numbers and quail use of your land
3) You own a relatively small property (250 acres or less) and you would like to hunt it occasionally
4) You own a larger property and want to have an idea how many coveys you have and how many quail to can harvest annually
5) You manage a large quail plantation and it is critical to have a pre-hunt fall density estimate for your population.
We could come up with many more variations of these scenarios, but these will address most of your needs.
Case 1 – You simply want to know if you have quail
For the complete bobwhite quail novice, you first have to become familiar with their songs and calls. Go to the Cornell University Ornithology Lab’s website. Familiarize yourself with each of their calls. They’ll come in handy regardless of how intensely you want to get into population estimation. In case 1, you can determine if you have quail by listening for singing male bobwhites during June. They call well between sunrise and about 9:00 a.m. typically. Listening on days with nice, clear, still mornings is best.
Case 2 – Is your quail population trending in the right direction?
First, face some cold hard facts. If you own a small piece of land, perhaps less than 50 acres, maybe even 100 acres, there are only so many quail coveys you can pack into that area. It can vary based on what type of landscape your property exists in, but by-and-large once you reach a covey per 25 to 50 acres, you’ve done about as good as you are going to do. So if you started off with no quail, and you now have 2 coveys on 50 acres, you’ve done well. Your goal now is to manage and maintain the coveys you’ve developed.
The “June Call Count” is one way state wildlife agencies keep track of quail population trends over large areas (such as entire states). A “trend” gives no true estimate of quail density (coveys per unit of area, or quail per acre, etc.). A trend is an indicator of whether a population is increasing, decreasing or stable. For example, you purchase 1,000 acres of land and want to manage it for quail and other early-succession species. You’d like to track the population trend through time. This is relatively easy to do by setting up a June whistling male bobwhite call count. Get a good aerial photo of your property and set up listening points periodically in easily accessible areas. Try to keep the points at least 600 yards apart to avoid double counting (generally during summer a bobwhite song can be heard up to 250 – 300 yards).
Begin your count at sunrise on a good, still, clear morning. Listen for 5 minutes at each stop. Record the number of different males heard making the “bob, bob, white” call at each stop. It is best to run the route several times each year and get an average of the number of bobwhite males heard at each stop. The first year serves as your baseline. It will take several years to establish a trend. Through time you will be able to tell if your population is increasing, decreasing or stable. Do not let one “bad” year throw you. Anomalies occur in nature. Plot your numbers through time and focus on the overall trend.
Case 3 – The owner of a small property who would like to hunt it occasionally
Some consider “small” properties for quail those being less than 2,000 acres. That is not practical for many. I use 250 acres as my criteria. On properties of this size, and maybe even up to 500 acres, I believe landowner “familiarity” is a relatively reliable way to track the number of quail coveys each year. By this I assume you are a landowner who spends a great deal of time on your land. You manage it, you know the cover, you develop a feel for what quail need and where they are and during any given year you have a good feel for productivity.
Was it a good hatching year? Did you receive good rainfall during June, July and August? Or did you suffer extreme drought? Did you experience any heavy flooding events during peak times when young broods would abound (late June, July and into August)?
By early fall, you probably have an idea about how many coveys are on your property and perhaps even have a feel for the size of those coveys. The one thing you have to use care to avoid is double counting coveys. Coveys do move around, so when you see coveys on different days in different locations that are relatively close to one another, you can’t be sure they are not the same covey. In your case, though, as long as you do not want to hunt frequently you can safely take some quail off your land during all but the worst years.
Estimate the number of coveys and use an average size for each, generally 12 to 15 birds, calculate the total and use 20% as a general guide on the number that can be safely harvested during all but the worst years. And by “worst years” I mean those summers during which you believe reproduction was slim to none.
Recent research suggests that harvest of adult bobwhites during seasons following years of poor productivity could slow population recovery (Miller et al. 2012). If you want to get any more precise than this, you might consider using the fall covey count method I will describe for Cases 4 and 5.
Cases 4 and 5 – Larger properties that will be hunted moderately or frequently
I lumped these two categories because they involve either large properties where intense familiarity with the entire property is unlikely, or larger properties which will be hunted moderately to frequently.
For my purposes I consider 1,000 – 3,000 acre properties as “large” relative to most others in the mid-South. But the fall covey count method I refer to can be applied to larger properties up to 15,000 or 20,000 acres if resources and time are available.
The fall covey count method was tested and perfected by researchers at Tall Timbers Research Station in Florida (Wellendorf et al. 2004). I will not try to describe it in detail here. But it basically involves assessing your property, developing a series of listening stations designed to cover as much of the property as possible without too much overlap, and then using them to listen for morning covey calls in early fall (mid to late October usually).
As with many surveys, it is best to run the survey at least 2 times and preferably more if resources allow it. In my opinion, the fall covey call count is the most reliable way to accurately assess fall pre-hunt quail populations on larger land holdings. If properly applied, it can allow a property owner to practice “adaptive harvest management,” meaning that harvest rates can be modified annually based on pre-hunt fall population levels. It is applied extensively on some of the premier quail plantations in the Deep South, and has been used to assess the effects of large scale government habitat cost-share programs across multiple states. The method is described in great detail on the Tall Timbers website.
I’ll wrap up by saying the more you know about the quail population on your land, the better you’ll be able to manage habitat and harvest. I hope this has at least provided you a place to start.
-Marc Puckett is the Small Game Project Co-Leader with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
Quail Forever is a conservation partner in the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI). Read more NBCI blog posts here.
Monday, October 8th, 2012
I recently had the distinct pleasure of hunting prairie birds in Montana. I was there with a group of fellow writers (including PF Online Editor Anthony Hauck and his awesome, bird-crazy and insanely adorable English cocker, “Sprig”) as part of a press hunt put on by the good folks at Garmin, which just introduced its new Alpha combination GPS/E-collar.
I was excited about the trip for a number of reasons: I always enjoy hunting with Anthony and was looking forward to finally seeing Sprig in action. Plus, I have to admit, I’ve often dreamed about it, but I’ve never hunted Montana, even though my father lives there. In addition, the trip would hopefully give me the opportunity to hunt (or at least see) my first sage grouse, a species that, much like the lesser prairie chicken, is experiencing some alarming range-wide declines.
But I had an ulterior reason for looking forward to Montana: I wanted to see this notorious, elusive, and maddening “Hun” that I’ve always read about, and see for myself how it compares to my beloved bobwhite quail.
This quail-like (but bigger) import has always fascinated me, but other than preserve birds (which never, ever count) I’ve never hunted the Hungarian partridge, despite growing up on Hun-hunting stories from the likes of Ben O. Williams and Charley Waterman. The first morning there, “Jenny,” my little English setter, bumped a covey of Huns out of a stubble field that looked as if it couldn’t conceal a grasshopper, much less a group of almost one-pound birds. And that sort of set the tone for the trip, Hun-wise. They hide in places you don’t think it’s possible to hide, they flush at ranges from which you think it’s patently unfair to flush, and they taunt you with hideous bird insults as they leave you, cursing and bewildered, in their dust. Yep, on this trip I quickly learned that Huns aren’t quail, not by a long shot (pun intended).
For starters, Huns seem to take the binary, either/or approach to flushing. Either it’s a wild flush, way out of range, or right at your feet. I certainly experienced no comforting, quail-like middle ground.
For that matter, I never experienced the right-at-your-feet part, either. And then there’s the sound. When they flush, Huns make the most grating, gawd-awful screeching sound I’ve ever heard, sort of like Freddy Krueger dragging his razor-festooned glove across a chalkboard.
But the most interesting thing I observed about Huns is the flush itself. Where a covey of quail will explode upward with individual birds skyrocketing this way and that, Huns, for lack of a better term, seem to flush in formation. They rise together, veer off together and fly way, way away from you, together. There doesn’t seem to be much hunting up singles with Huns. Perhaps it’s their lockstep European heritage, as opposed to the more free-wheeling, individualistic American nature of a bobwhite covey flush.
Whatever the cause, after the sixth or seventh covey (delirious and suffering from dehydration and fatigue, I lost count) toyed with us, then apparated, Harry Potter-like, to somewhere else, I began to think these Huns were devil-birds, Karmic winged wraiths sent to punish me for the transgressions of some ill-spent former life. We walked, and walked, and walked some more, the Huns always dancing just outside range like a cool drink of water shimmering on the horizon.
Which made it all the more weird when, after deciding that I had finally figured out Huns (or more specifically, had finally figured out that they were too darn smart for me) I actually shot my first Hun, a hunted-up single, at a completely normal range, just like a bobwhite. Go figure. Huns are, if nothing else, unpredictable. But what a handsome bird they are! Not quite as handsome as a bobwhite, at least to this admittedly provincial and biased Okie, but beautiful nonetheless, and I now see what all the fuss is about them.
I’d be curious to hear anyone else’s experiences and opinions on the differences (and similarities) between hunting bobwhites and Huns…
Chad Love writes for Quail Forever from Woodward, Oklahoma. He is a lifelong quail hunter and “bird dog guy” who also writes for Field & Stream, including the magazine’s “Man’s Best Friend” gundog blog.