Bringing Back Quail

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Published on: Mar. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 8, 2010

managers, fescue is extremely detrimental to quail.

Meanwhile, some crop fields that are now in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) used to be provide good wildlife habitat though two years of corn followed by three to five years of brome, orchard grass, timothy, red clover, and lespedeza. In the absence of periodic prescribed burning or light discing, CRP fields become so dense that quail cannot move through them at ground level.

One quick way to see if the grass in your fields is too thick for quail is to try to shuffle through it without lifting your feet. If it's hard for you, then it's almost impossible for a quail. If this is the case, then your fields don't provide good quail habitat.

You can start to improve quail conditions on your land by reducing the density of your sod or other vegetation. This is possible with contour light discing. Go two- to four-inches deep, leaving 50 percent residue on the ground surface. Between early October and late March, disc 25- to 75-foot wide strips through your fields. Leave undisturbed areas of vegetation twice as wide as the strips.

The following year, disc a new strip of similar width in the adjacent undisced area. This will leave one last undisced strip of equal width which you can disc the year after. With this method, you are developing adjacent strips of vegetation of three different ages. The disced areas will produce succulent broadleaf plants and legumes that will attract insects and produce abundant seed. The adjacent undisturbed areas will provide nesting and roosting cover. Contour discing is an excellent way to enhance CRP habitat for bobwhite quail and other wildlife.

When light discing isn't possible, you can achieve desired results by applying herbicide with custom applicators. This technique involves spraying strips through a CRP field during the actual growing season. By plugging nozzles on a broadcast sprayer, you create strips, which will enhance quail habitats. You can plug the spray nozzles to create the width of strips you desire, but the most effective method is to plug every other nozzle. In switchgrass or other tall grasses, plug every third nozzle. You don't want to completely kill the grass, you just want to severely stunt it.

Any contact herbicides labeled for perennial grass control will work. Broad spectrum contact herbicides are also effective. Avoid pre-emergent herbicides because they prevent legumes and other seeds from germinating. Costs of herbicide

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