timber stand improvement (TSI) and a 4-acre forest opening, additional accomplishments were achieved utilizing NGO funds.
The River Hills Forest Habitat Project, a cooperative partnership between the Ruffed Grouse Society, the Audubon Society of Missouri, the National Wild Turkey Federation and MDC, provides matching funds. The group helped Horstman complete a 37-acre timber stand improvement and three 1-acre forest openings. The forest openings helped regenerate low-quality timber and provided early successional habitat for deer, turkey and ruffed grouse, which have been found on the property for the last several years.
In the adjoining openland habitat, funds from Quail Unlimited and MDC’s Quail Habitat Incentive (QHI) partnership program were used to convert a 9-acre fescue field to native grasses and forbs. The glades and savanna on the property offered an opportunity to manage for native plant species.
As is often the case on Missouri glades, the area was overgrown with cedar and other woody plants. Three areas totaling 10 acres were cleared, and a prescribed burn was conducted using MDC’s conservation practice funds. The results were as immediate as the next growing season. Little bluestem, pale purple coneflower, butterfly weed and numerous other native forb species appeared. Turkey broods, deer and other wildlife are often seen in the burn area.
Completing this work has led to improved timber quality, increased plant diversity and increased wildlife populations. Deer and turkey responded quickly, as should quail. It takes ruffed grouse at least four–five years to respond after completion of the timber work.
Of crops and quail
In eastern Saline County near Hardeman, David Cramer and Mike Gremaud have taken a 58-acre tract and converted it from almost exclusively row crop production to a paradise for quail. As with many recreational landowners, they wanted to create high-quality habitat on their property and to enjoy quail hunting in the fall.
The land is gently rolling with a wooded riparian corridor near the western border of the property and a small stream with no riparian corridor on the east side. Like much of the county, the property had been terraced to shed excess water and control soil erosion.
Since most of the property has a crop history, Cramer and Gremaud looked into Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) practices that could improve the farm from a wildlife standpoint. Eligible crop ground can be enrolled into a variety of conservation practices (CPs), many with ample wildlife benefits, as well as the soil conservation benefits that are a main focus of the program.
CP21 provided for filter strips that were installed on the riparian corridors and seeded to warm season grass to provide nesting cover for quail. CP14 provided for planting grass on terraces to provide a mosaic of nesting and brood rearing cover throughout crop fields. These grass-backed terraces were seeded to timothy, orchard grass, wheat and lespedeza.
Prior to 2003, Cramer and Gremaud agreed that there was one covey on the farm and another covey that spent at least some time on the property. Last year, after only one year of habitat development, they had four large coveys.
Thrilled with the improvement, they took another step to improve their property by enrolling the north side in the CP33 field border practice (also known as bobwhite buffers). A 30-foot warm-season grass field border was installed, as well as three covey headquarter shrub plantings to provide heavier protective cover. The landowners also requested a burn plan to manage the CP33, CP14 and CP21 practices in future years when the grass stands become too thick to provide optimum quail habitat.
On another 92-acre tract (half general CRP and half wooded) Cramer and Gremaud installed several areas of edge feathering (a practice that changes older forest cover to the younger forest regeneration phase of saplings and annual herbaceous plants) and food plots for wildlife with QHI cost share. Annual disking, prescribed burning and overseeding legumes occur on various portions of the general CRP, all of which is planted to warm season grass or an orchard grass/timothy mix.
By leveraging cost-share opportunities and managing their property intensively, Cramer and Gremaud have seen some great results in a short time. No one knows what this year will hold for sure, but “the quail have been carrying on all spring!” says Cramer.
Small-acreage farmers and recreational landowners do even more to increase wildlife numbers on their properties when they work in unison—intentionally or not.
When landowners in proximity to one another use similar management practices to increase habitat on their land, they have created a landowner cooperative that is targeting a substantial portion of the local landscape. These Missouri farmers have greatly increased their odds of having sustainable quail and other game populations for the future.