The results are in for the what's your favorite shrubby cover poll. I received a total of 36 votes, and the clear winner was wild plum thickets with 36 percent of the vote. Downed tree structures (loose brush piles) were a solid second with edge feathering and blackberry thickets tied for third. Dogwoods and other shrub thickets rounded out the bottom. All are winners in my eyes, and we need a lot more of them on the landscape for better quail habitat.
Many landowners overlook the importance of shrubby cover. This is hard to believe since research shows that 20 percent of a covey's home range should be low-growing woody and shrubby cover. Research in Missouri found that quail rarely venture more than 70 feet from woody cover, especially during the winter. A study in southeast Iowa found that quail often nest in close proximity to woody cover, and a telemetry study in north Missouri found that quail nest close to edge feathering or shrub thickets (some type of woody structure).
I wasn't surprised to see wild plum (above) as the winner. Wild plums provide excellent protective cover during the summer and winter. Plum is easy to establish from seed or bare root seedlings. Blackberries also provide good shrubby cover (below) and are easy to establish from bare root seedlings. I manage existing blackberry briars by disking around them to protect them from prescribed fire. Once the briar reaches the right size, I will let a prescribed fire run through the bramble to control small trees and keep the patch in check.
If you want to do something for quail, make some more shrubby cover. You can create instant shrubby cover by creating downed tree structures, which is nothing more than a fancy name for a brush pile. Instead of stacking the trees together in a pile, just leave them in a loose pile next to each other. Protect the downed tree structure from prescribed fire. You can also plant shrub seedlings around the downed tree structure. Below is a good picture of a downed tree structure.
Edge feathering is another great way to create instant shrubby cover. I like to edge feather along fence rows and narrow woody draws (picture below). We often recommend edge feathering at least a 30'x50' section I usually edge feather 200'x50' sections. Make sure you eradicate any grass in the area before edge feathering. Try to leave the trees where they fall. If you need to, you can directionally drop the trees along the edge of the field.
I die laughing every time I watch that video. It has nothing to do with edge feathering or bobwhite quail, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone has tried this while edge feathering.
Now that I'm completely off the subject, I better quit typing. In summary, wild plum thickets was the big winner, but all types of shrubby cover are winners to a covey of quail. Go out and plant some shrubs or edge feathering.
Aaron P. Jeffries
Habitat is the Key!