How to Hunt Quail
shrubs for cover, relocating food plots and using prescribed burns.
In the same county, John Martin, president of the local Quail Unlimited chapter, is increasing quail habitat on 320 acres. His goal is to set up a hunting farm, which will bring him income and provide him a nice place to hunt. When he bought the land two years ago, it had mediocre quail habitat, Martin says. He has been improving it with prescribed burns, food plots and native-grass plantings. The first year, he had two coveys, the next he had four. Right now, he is offering hunting by releasing pen-raised birds, but eventually he would like to have only wild quail hunting on this area.
Further south in Ozark County, Danny Billings has 115 acres where he has a 40-head cow/calf operation. Billings, who is a regional private land program leader for the Conservation Department, practices what he preaches to area farmers. "Not everyone can afford or wants to get rid of fescue," Billings says, "but you can use cattle and an intensive grazing system to benefit quail and other wildlife."
In the Ozarks the most critical need for quail is brood-rearing habitat. To improve chances of quail raising a family on his farm, Billings places round bales and feeding troughs next to fenced nesting habitat. Then he moves the cattle away from these areas when grass begins growing in the spring, which is about a month before quail hatch.
As vegetation comes back in the bare soil created by the cows loitering and feeding, small insects come into feed on the tender young plants. "The bumblebee sized quail must have these small insects to survive the first few weeks of their life," Billings says.
In the spring, he also uses rotational grazing and electric fencing to force the cows to graze fescue paddocks. These paddocks are adjacent to old fence rows that have good edge cover and fenced off woodlands. This allows clover and lespedeza, which are good for quail, to grow, especially when the fescue goes dormant in the summer. These simple, passive techniques are just a few of the farming practices Billings uses to increase quail survival on his farm.
People like Churan, Martin and Billings understand the importance of using sound agricultural practices to improve quail numbers across the state for themselves and for other hunters. "There's something about quail," Billings says. "If a farm has quail and you can hear them calling and see them in the fields, it's an indication that it's a healthy farm.