Quail Hunter for Life
your tomatoes or whatever your crop was, and it was just quail heaven.”
While it’s not practical to return to the farming methods of 60 years ago, willing landowners can replicate some of the habitat found back then. Cutting timber, disturbing soil occasionally and renewing vegetative succession are the activities that quail responded to favorably in the past. Producing quail habitat today demands the same approaches.
The benefits of this type of management extend far beyond helping quail hunters. It also benefits people who enjoy seeing the vibrant courtship colors of the eastern bluebird or the American goldfinch. It helps individuals (or families) who love to sit in their yards in the early spring and listen to the trill of spring peepers or other types of chorus frogs. It helps curious children who love watching box turtles work their way methodically over the landscape.
The wildlife benefits of quail management are so diverse because management for quail is management for all grassland species. The bobwhite quail is just one creature in a rich mosaic of birds, reptiles, mammals and amphibians that make up a grassland ecosystem. This type of management is an ongoing process.
“Quail habitat management is continuous,” Gallagher said. “Disturbance of grasslands and shrubby areas is necessary to produce quality habitat. Annual disturbance on about one third of your ‘quail acres’ is about right for creating good habitat on our farm.”
Management for grassland species may help domestic,
as well as wild creatures. Using native warm-season grasses as part of a rotational grazing system provides forage that is higher in nutrition during summer than cool-season grasses such as fescue. If it’s cut and baled at the proper time, it can also provide high-quality hay without doing much damage to the habitat needs of the wildlife.
Information about managing for grassland species can be found in two free Missouri Department of Conservation publications: “Wildlife Management for Missouri Landowners” and “On the Edge: A Guide to anaging Land for Bobwhite Quail.” Both books are available at many Department of Conservation offices across the state. Land management information is also available at www.missouriconservation.org.
“The goal of the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative is to restore quail to 1980s density levels on improvable acres,” Gallagher said. “In Missouri, we have already shown that this can be accomplished both on private and public land. Quail populations respond readily to habitat improvements.
“However,” Gallagher continued, “the battle for bobwhite will be won—or lost—on private land. We [the Missouri Department of Conservation] do not manage enough land to restore quail to the entire state. This must be done on private land, in addition to public land.”
Unfortunately, it’s a battle that will not be won immediately. While it’s true localized quail populations can rebound quickly if weather and habitat conditions cooperate, it’s going to take time for statewide quail numbers to grow and stabilize at higher levels than they are now.
In the meantime, Walker will continue to hunt and hope for better days ahead.
“Oh, he’ll be there on opening day,” said his son,Terry. “If he’s alive and can go—even if he has to get around in a wheelchair—he’ll be there. He lives and breathes quail hunting.”
Walker agrees that he has no plans to end his hunts, despite a recent stroke. Come the opening day of quail season, he’ll be on the edge of a field somewhere in southern Missouri, cradling the Model 11 Remington 12-gauge he’s hunted with since he was 13 as he watches his dogs maneuver over the landscape.