Thrifty Quail Habitat Management

Published on: Aug. 20, 2009

Idle areas were periodically disturbed with grazing or rotational crops--ideal quail habitat. Today, those brushy draws have grown into trees. We have larger, cleaner crop fields, and most pastures are intensively grazed or are too short to provide nesting cover. Idle areas are constantly mowed or have grown up in trees. Progress has been good for the farmer but not for Mr. Bobwhite.

Today if you want quail, you must create and manage quail habitat. We can recreate brushy draws and weedy fields, but it takes work, time and money. Creating and managing quail habitat is already challenging and high fuel, fertilizer, herbicide, seed and equipment costs have created another obstacle for those interested in quail. However, with every challenge there is an opportunity or an innovative way to work around the issue. Here are a few ideas on how you can save money and still create quality quail habitat on your property.

Follow the Plan and Think Ahead.

Rushing your work or not following a biologist’s wildlife plan may mean a failed project or higher costs. Not spraying invasive grasses at the right time of the year or the prescribed number of treatments, for example, can result in having to re-spray the field one or two years later. You should also plan ahead. Like a construction contractor, a private landowner or biologists creating quail habitat must think of everything they will need for the project and what can go wrong. Trust me, something always happens. Follow the plan and think ahead.

Skimp on Food Plots.

Planting food plots is fun and provides good brooding habitat for young quail. Establishing food plots requires equipment and can be expensive because of seed, fertilizer and herbicides. To save money, plant only half of the plot and leave the other half idle. Don’t disk or mow the idle half. In the fall, don’t plant it to winter wheat either. On small plots (less than 1/4 acre), idle the entire plot and disk every other year. The idle area will grow up in annual seed-producing plants, which will provide food and cover for quail and other wildlife. Also consider reducing your seeding rate by a third or half. The lighter seeding rate will provide more room for desirable seed-producing plants, which are just as good for quail. Forget spraying herbicides if there isn’t a bad weed problem in the food plot. In many cases the “weeds” are just as good as

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