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Bringing Back Quail

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Published on: Mar. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 8, 2010

start at $10 per acre treated. Contact your local herbicide dealer for the most economical option.

Before discing or spraying, study the configuration of the area in question. Both discing and spraying should follow land contours to guard against erosion.

After the grass in the sprayed strips is stunted, either interseed legumes or allow natural vegetation to fill in the gaps. Disturbing thick grass will usually stimulate germination from dormant legume seeds.

Depending on the type of grass in the field, the effects of spraying can last as long as four years. Smooth brome and fescue will reinvade the bare areas faster than timothy and orchard grass.

Prescribed burning is one of the most effective tools land managers can use to enhance quail habitat. On farms with small fields, consider burning one third to one-half of the fields each year on a rotating basis to inhibit grassy growth. This will remove dead grass and litter and stimulate legume germination.

Deciding when to burn depends on your goals. For example, it's best to burn in February or March to prepare for the interseeding of legumes or wildflowers. Burning in April or May stimulates legume germination. Spring burning can improve a poor stand of native warm-season grasses or inhibit thick stands of cool-season grasses. An April or May burn also encourages weed growth, which is good for quail.

Burning from August through November will stimulate native wildflower growth or germination. It will also knock back native warm-season grasses. An August burn will prepare fescue for fall herbicide application when converting to wildlife-friendly mixes.

The Conservation Department and the Natural Resources Conservation Service can help you plan your prescribed burns. Workshops and training manuals are available to provide information on weather, equipment, firebreak construction and burning techniques. Many county soil and water conservation districts loan equipment helpful in prescribed burns, such as torches, backpack blowers, rakes and sprayers.

Abundant cover is an important component of quail habitat. Legumes are necessary to provide brood-rearing habitat for quail, as well as forage for rabbits. Recommended legumes include annual lespedeza, alfalfa, clovers and native legumes, such as partridge pea. You can drill legume seeds into an existing stand of grass without tilling, but don't broadcast unless you've removed the surface layer of dead grass by discing or burning.

To keep grass from crowding out your legumes, you'll need to treat affected areas with prescribed burning or discing. If your CRP seeding originally contained a legume,

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