How to Hunt Quail
the ground and lets native plants come up on their own. These annual weeds provide quail with seeds and bare ground they use to dust themselves. Vance also promotes the growth of woodland legumes through prescribed burns.
"As a result of our management practices, we've seen a slow increase in the number of quail," Vance says. Last year, the number increased 20 percent. "We hope to see that again. The habitat is here, but we have no control over the weather." Cool, rainy spells in June when the birds hatch could cause the young to die from hypothermia. Also, heavy rains often destroy nests before the birds hatch.
One thing the Whetstone staff can control is the hunting pressure. The shortened 30-day season closes at 1 p.m. each day to allow the birds plenty of time to feed in the afternoon and to roost together at night to conserve body heat. Although the time to hunt is short, the harvest is good--400 to 500 birds are taken annually.
With good management and hunting regulations, low populations of quail can be hunted without adversely affecting the overall health of the species. A study of the effects of hunting at Blind Pony Conservation Area showed that when over half the quail on an area were harvested, it had little effect on the overall population, Dailey says. "A lot of the quail you save by overly restricting hunting die anyway due to severe weather and predation," he says. "The hunting season takes place before most of the quail die naturally, so it doesn't have a long-term population effect."
Because most of the land in Missouri is privately owned, the task of increasing quail populations rests in the hands of private landowners. Jeff Churan, a former commissioner with the Conservation Department, is managing a 320-acre farm in Livingston County for quail. He bought the farm in 1991 with the following goal in mind: "To attain maximum bobwhite quail density on the farm through intensive habitat management in combination with viable agricultural practices resulting in enjoyable hunting opportunities providing an annual harvest of birds consistent with a sustained population."
So far he is meeting his goals. The number of coveys has increased from 14 in 1997 to 22 this year, and he is enjoying several good hunts a year. His farming practices provide income, as well as improve quail habitat. Some of his quail management practices include planting trees and