Thrifty Quail Habitat Management

Published on: Aug. 20, 2009

the wrong time of the year, mowing and haying will destroy quail nests and young. If possible, limit mowing to fire lines and trails or for preparing an area for another management practice. You should especially avoid mowing or haying entire fields. If you must, try to leave at least a third or half of the field unmowed for nesting cover. Remember, prescribed burning and light disking are better habitat management tools.

Grow Native Shrubs.

Instead of buying and planting shrubs, work with what’s already there. With a little work and patience, you can grow a small thicket of wild plum, dogwood or blackberry into a perfect covey headquarter for quail. If the shrub thicket is infested with sod-forming grasses like fescue or brome simply spray with glyphosate in late October. If the shrub patch has an overstory canopy of trees, simply cut down the trees and leave them where they fall. If the shrub thicket is too small (less than 1,500 square feet), disk around a 30-by-50-foot area (encircling the small shrub thicket) and protect it from prescribed fire for a couple years. In a couple years you will have a wonderful covey headquarter at little or no cost.

Managing existing shrubs is cheaper than planting. Protect small covey headquarters from fire to let them grow. Let the fire run through shrub thickets once they reach a good size.

Expand Your Quail Management.

Way too often, we turn our back on managing woody draws and woodlots for quail. Instead of burning up to the edge of a small woodlot or woody draw, consider burning through it. Burning these areas will help control taller woody vegetation and expose bare ground. I even burn through areas I’ve edge feathered so I don’t have to recut the same areas again. Not to worry, there will be plenty of small trees, shrubs and tall weeds that provide adequate escape cover for quail in the feathered edge. Not all woody draws and woodlots are the same, so check with your local biologists first to see if prescribed fire is feasible for your woods.

In the picture above we burn the warm-season grass field, edge feathering and woodlands in one big burn. Fire helps maintain the edge feathering and improves the woodlands for quail.

Double Stack Treatments.

Most of Missouri is blessed with fertile soils and adequate rain during the growing season. The end result is thick grass and very little bare

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