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Why Food Plots Fail

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

must have nesting, feeding, loafing, roosting, dusting and escape cover close together. Nesting cover consists of introduced cool-season grasses, such as timothy and orchard grass, and native warm-season grasses, such as little bluestem, big bluestem and switchgrass. Nesting cover must have an accumulation of dead grass from the previous growing season. It must be open at ground level to allow free movement by adults and newly hatched chicks, and it must provide overhead protection from predators.

Bobwhite quail are not strong scratchers and cannot reach food that is buried in the soil or in heavy accumulation of litter. The first eight weeks of a young quail's life are critically important. Quail chicks must have access to cover with little residual vegetation, an abundance of bare ground--between 25 and 50 percent--and a canopy dominated by broadleaved plants. Such cover provides an abundance of insects for brood rearing during the summer months, and weed seeds for fall and winter feeding. Because quality feeding areas have high levels of bare ground and overhead protection, they also serve as ideal places for dusting and roosting.

Escape cover consists of dense woody cover from ground level to a height of about 10 feet, yet is open enough to allow quail to move freely underneath. Quality escape cover is the foundation of the "covey headquarters." These areas are occupied during midday for loafing and dusting, and for protection and roosting during severe weather.

Property without well distributed escape cover will harbor few if any quail. Thick hedgerows, brushy draws, plum thickets and blackberry patches are examples of quality escape cover.

Across the bobwhite's range, food is not a major limiting factor except, possibly, during times of extreme winter weather in northern portions of their range. Studies have shown, however, that quail near food plots have higher body fat content than quail far from food plots. Although quail existed for eons without food plots containing corn, soybeans and milo, it's likely that well placed food plots may promote better body condition in spring and improve reproductive success if there is good roosting and nesting cover nearby.

To realize all the potential advantages yielded by food plots, you have to have other critical habitat components present. Quail populations can remain stable, and even increase, given favorable weather conditions when quality habitat and an abundant native food supply are available. Also, quality habitat over a large enough area can reduce a quail population's susceptibility

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