The Cedar Solution
The older we become the more we reflect back to what seemed to be the "good old days." Those days began for me in 1954. I was eleven years old, and my father had rented some creek bottom crop land to raise supplemental feed for the family dairy farm and farrow-to-finish hog operation.
I still remember our first drive to the rented land. We followed a dirt road, which resembled an open ditch more than a road, down steep river hills until we descended to the bottom fields.
That farm, as well as neighboring farms, had been more or less abandoned during the late 1930s and into the 1940s. The former river hill pastureland was still semi-open, but was rapidly being invaded by brush and small eastern red cedars. Some locals had told us that a severe, wind-driven wildfire in 1950 had burned over the entire farm, as well as several neighboring farms. In 1954, scorched trees and blackened stumps were still visible.
As I became more familiar with the farm, I was especially impressed with its abundance of rabbits and its tremendous quail population. I enjoyed many exciting hunts with a terrific old neighbor and friend who would become my life-long outdoors mentor.
I grew up farming with my father and hunting on this land until I left for military service in 1960. Quail were still plentiful in 1960, but eastern red cedar had invaded the steeper hill land to the extent that they impeded visibility for wing-shooting.
My father continued to rent the creek bottom land, but by the time I returned from military service in late 1963, most of the former open hill land had evolved into dense thickets of eastern red cedar with some diversified areas of hardwood brush. The quail population was still reasonably good, thanks to brushy crop field borders and a few semi-open ridge fields. When hunting, you couldn't follow a covey because it invariably ended up in the dense cedar growth.
By the mid-1970s, I had purchased several of the farms formerly rented by my father. Quail numbers on the property had declined considerably, as they had in many other areas of the state.
At first, I wouldn't agree with the concept that my reduced quail population was a result of marginal habitat. After all, the property had about the same amount of cedar-infested areas and intermittent areas of hardwood brush as it had in the 1950s, when we had