Building a Bobwhite Factory

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2008

Last revision: Dec. 9, 2010

Jeff Churan didn’t know everything about quail management when he set out to turn his Livingston County farm into a quail factory. He still doesn’t. But he is accumulating enough knowledge to draw up a pretty good blueprint for bobwhite success.

Churan is passionate about conservation. He served on the citizens’ committee that secured voter approval of Missouri’s one-eighth of 1 percent Design for Conservation sales tax in 1976. He was a Conservation Commissioner from 1983 through 1989.

Two trips to a Southern quail plantation launched his quest for bobwhite restoration. In 1988 he traveled to the Talokas Plantation near Thomasville, Ga., where he and his companions were thrilled to flush 10 coveys of quail in a day of hunting. A decade later, he returned and flushed 25 coveys.

Talokas had switched from stocking pen-reared birds to managing land exclusively for wild bobwhites. That got Churan wondering if he could achieve similar results on The Cedars Plantation, his family’s farm near Avalon, Mo.

An engineer by profession, Churan is nothing if not methodical. His approach to quail management might be described as tenacious or even obsessive. He set out to turn his 320 acres, plus 40 adjacent acres “borrowed” from neighbors, into ideal quail habitat. The only constraint on his ambitious goal of producing one quail per acre was the same one facing most landowners.

“I have to make the mortgage payment,” says Churan. “Income from the land does that and more. I take what is left and put as much as possible back into management.”

The first thing Churan did was draw a grid over an aerial photo of his farm, dividing it into 10-acre plots. Then he set out to ensure that everything quail need to thrive was available in every plot.

Creating 36 self-sufficient quail mini-habitats took extremely careful planning and lots of labor. Churan and his family have done much of the work themselves. For other tasks, they have relied on a contract farmer.

To ensure that he could show the contract farmer exactly what he had in mind, Churan went back to his aerial map. He created overlays illustrating every management variable—the land’s physical contours and soil types, field boundaries, crop rotations, grass fields and burn plans, food plots, woody cover and more.

Churan used several techniques to break large crop fields and pastures into smaller units and create mini-habitats. He embedded food plots within grassland on the flat upper parts of rolling hills. He

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