Our final stop was Robert E. Talbot CA, a 4,361-acre area in north-central Lawrence County. Talbot is one of Wildlife Management Biologist Frank Loncarich’s areas. It’s about one-third grassland/savanna/prairie and one-third old fields. The remainder is a mix of woodland and cropland. A permanent stream, Spring River, traverses the southern part of the CA, and there are a couple of small lakes and 50 or so acres of wetland.
Frank says the smart hunting strategy for mid-season hunts at Talbot CA is to focus on shrubby thickets scattered through the extensive grasslands. Later in the year, after rain and wind have broken down some of the grassy cover, birds have fewer options and gradually become easier to hunt. And when the first snow falls, you can once again find quail in the brushy draws where they were early in the season.
“Some guys who come out on opening day and don’t find much get frustrated and never come back,” said Frank. “They don’t know what they are missing. The best hunting on these areas doesn’t happen until later in the season, but the areas really get more attention from rabbit hunters than from bird hunters.”
The morning’s bag – one quail and one woodcock – wasn’t impressive. However, the knowledge I took home was well worth the trip. I came away with a greater appreciation for the quail-producing capacity of prairie and practical strategies for hunting such areas at various times during the course of quail season.
From now on, whenever I hear hunters lament not being able to find any quail in central Missouri, I will tell them about the 25-bird covey rise and suggest that they visit southwest Missouri’s prairie CAs on a snow-covered day in December or January.
I also will suggest that they approach any coveys they locate from UP wind.