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Heading For High Ground

Published on: Jun. 26, 2009

for bobwhites. That's the most he's heard since 2001. I also received a good report from the Sweet Springs Quail Focus Area in southwest Saline County. There's a lot of good habitat in this intensively farmed landscape but several landowners there are doing something for quail. Maybe good habitat and lots of good habitat close by has something to do with it????

Luckily there's some good habitat out there, and if we have a relatively dry July and August we should pull off a decent hatch. With all the recent rain, landowners and biologists will need to adapt their management and disturb more acres next year. Remember, plants grow more when it rains and it has rained a lot. More plant growth means less bare ground for quail. Grass fields you disturbed last winter will be too dense and rank for quail by this fall. Over the next year consider strip disking or prescribed burning a few more acres to keep up with the extreme weather. For example, we normally burn a third of our farm each year. However, last year we burned over half of the farm because of the excessive plant growth. It looks like we'll do the same this coming winter and spring.

The excess rain has been great for trees and shrubs. On the plus side, new shrub plantings have had ideal growing conditions. On the down side, trees have literally shot out of the ground. Take a look at your edge feathering, covey headquarters or low-growing woody cover. Cut down any trees that have grown taller than 12 feet. I bet the small saplings you had three years ago are already small trees (over 12 feet tall). Cut them down if you want the area to remain good for quail.

Below is a before and after picture of a covey headquarter on my farm. I edge feathered this site five years ago. You can hardly tell because most of the trees are 15 to 20 feet tall. Not any more.

The picture below is the same covey headquarter after 10 minutes of saw work and one week of poison ivy. Oh well. Notice how much of the oak tree you can now see in the background.

So despite the weather, quail always seem to find a way. Help make it easier for them by maintaining good quality quail habitat and adapting your habitat management to these extreme weather patterns.

Aaron P. Jeffries

Habitat is the Key!

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