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Ask the Quail Guy - Larry from Michigan

Published on: Jul. 17, 2009

might want to use strip-disking to set back the vegetation. Take a look at your other fields. You might be able to divide the field into several small blocks which then can be burned safely. Alternate with burned and unburned blocks to maximize edge. Wait until the evening to burn when the humidity is higher. You'll find it easier to burn at this time of the day. I also noticed in the pictures that you have a nice road system through the farm. Use the roads for your fire lines. No need to disk in firelines if you have a nice road system.

Cool-season grasses and old fields

Managing cool-season grasses requires constant disturbance. I recommend disturbing a third to half of the field each year. You might consider spraying fields that have a mix of broomsedge and cool-season grasses with glyphosate after a hard freeze. The glyphosate will not hurt the broomsedge or most other native plants since they are already dormant. Eradicating the cool-season grass will provide more bare ground and promote desirable forbs and legumes. I do not recommend digging up the desmodium. If you have some, you likely have more elsewhere. Eradicating the cool-season grasses and prescribed burning should promote more desmodium. I wouldn't worry about transplanting desmodium.

To transplant or not to transplant

I have transplanted blackberry runners with mixed results, but not wild plum or dogwood. Why not let the runners grow into a larger covey headquarter? If you want a plum or dogwood thicket somewhere else, consider cutting and dragging several trees into a loose pile where you want the shrubs. You will need to make piles larger than the ones in the picture above. Try for a 30-by-50-foot pile. Then scatter some ripe wild plum and dogwood fruits over the top of the pile. It will take several years for the shrubs to mature, but they will eventually take over the pile.

What's up with sumac?

Sumac provides some summer loafing cover for quail. During the winter sumac thickets are often too thin to provide much cover. Cutting sumac will only temporarily set back the plant. If you cut it, treat the stump with a herbicide. Burning only seems to encourage more growth. Its a good shrub to have around, but it can get rather aggressive in old fields. Strip-disking and burning will help keep it in check.

Too much dewberry and black locust

Most brush control herbicides should control dewberry, but the herbicide will also kill your food plot if you plant soybeans, cowpeas or clovers. You could try glyphosate-resistant soybeans. Glyphosate will suppress dewberry but not for very long. Instead of working on the dewberry I'd focus my efforts on the autumn olive. I would eradicate as much of the autumn olive as possible. Nasty stuff.

I do not recommend planting black locust for quail. However, black locust makes fine edge feathering and material for downed tree structures. Make sure you treat the cut stumps. Otherwise you will have a million runners (you'll probably have some anyway). I'm a big fan of dewberry since it provides good nesting cover for quail. In the edge feathering picture it looks like you cut a very small area. Consider enlarging these areas by cutting down the trees in the background. Yep, even the walnuts. They will eventually grow into trees and provide no habitat for quail. You'll have to decide if you want quail/rabbit habitat or walnuts.

Other comments on habitat.

The landscape shot of your farm and the brushpiles is rather telling. The brushpiles are too small to provide good quail habitat. Research in Missouri found quail preferred covey headquarters or brushpiles that were around 1,200 square feet. We generally recommend 1,500 square feet (30'x50'). In the landscape picture of your farm I don't see a lot of low-growing woody cover. The small trees can be cut down and the stumps treated to provide suitable shrubby cover. Even in the picture with the brushpile, cut down the trees behind the pile. Consider edge feathering next to your food plots. You have very little shrubby cover next to your food plots. Do one side one year and the other side a few years later.

Your food plots are very clean. Consider idling half of the plot and plant the other half. The weeds that grow back are excellent cover for quail and other wildlife. Overall, it looks like you have a good start. You just need to fine-tune your management.

So, let's hear some of your stories. Send your questions and a couple pictures to Aaron.Jeffries@mdc.mo.gov. I have a feeling some of the other quail fanatics out there have the same questions.

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