Building a Bobwhite Factory

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2008

Last revision: Dec. 9, 2010

reduced the browsing problem by scaling back slightly on brush pile size. They also have discovered that fragrant sumac, rough-leafed and silky dogwood and false indigo are less attractive to nibblers.

Edge Feathering—Covey Headquarters in 40 minutes!

After years of building brush piles and planting shrubs in pursuit of creating the perfect conditions for covey headquarters, Churan discovered the magic of edge feathering.

Edge feathering is widening the sharp edge between forests and fields by felling a few medium-sized trees along the border and leaving them where they fall. Feathered edges are most beneficial to quail when the ground beneath felled trees is open. Churan kills ground-level vegetation with herbicide before starting his chain saw. Edge feathering produced a dramatic jump in covey numbers on Churan’s property.

“You can create covey headquarters-quality habitat with a chain saw in 40 minutes,” he says. “I wish we had started years sooner.”

How to Spell Quail Success

State and federal programs help make quail management at The Cedars affordable. Churan relies on an alphabet soup of incentive programs to get the job done. These include CRP, which provides income for taking highly erodible land out of crop production, and the Wildlife Habit Incentives Program (WHIP), which helps with quail management on acres not eligible for CRP.

The Proof is in the Hunting

To accurately measure hunting success, Churan divided The Cedars into three hunting “courses” of 120 acres each. He records the number of hunts made on each course each year, along with the number of hunters, the number of hours hunted and the number of quail killed. Hunting success climbed as management practices took hold.

In 1998, hunters were finding a covey every 40 to 60 minutes. During the 2005–2006 season, they averaged one covey every 24 minutes. On one hunt, they moved nine coveys in 3.5 hours.

Theoretically, hunters should be able to harvest 55 percent of The Cedars’ estimated quail population—more than 200 birds—each year without depleting the quail population. But Churan says he is less interested in the number of birds bagged than in the quality of the hunt.

“A great quail hunt is one where you find lots of coveys and get to see lots of dog work,” says Churan. “Right now, I can almost guarantee moving six coveys in a two- or three-hour hunt on at least two of our courses. That is a quality quail hunt.”

To maintain this quality hunting throughout the season, he tries to limit the harvest to 30 percent of the area’s estimated quail population annually.

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