Sainte Genevieve and Saint Francois counties are not the first places in Missouri that come to mind when talking about quail country. Most of the terrain is rugged wooded hills, and the type of open land related to quail habitat is limited to relatively small, narrow bottomland and ridgetop fields scattered across the forested landscape. It is not a landscape typically associated with abundant quail populations. But talk to anyone more than 40 years old who hunts, and they will tell you how good the quail hunting used to be.
So where have the quail gone? Talks with landowners and hunters bring up the usual suspects—predators. But we have proof that in spite of whatever influence predators may have, if you create the right habitat, quail will thrive, even in this less-than-perfect landscape. It can happen on private land, even on small acreages, and there are programs that can help.
Bringing Back Buffers
Ashley Williams manages three parcels of land in these counties, and he has successfully restored quail on each. One of them is a 400-acre family farm in southern Ste. Genevieve County along Saline Creek.
The landscape breaks sharply from narrow bottomland fields to steep, wooded hillsides with only 81 acres of fields. The farm has been in his family for more than 100 years, and he gladly recalls stories of hunts when multiple coveys would be flushed in a day. But the farm was different then; it was made up of multiple small fields with brushy/weedy hedgerows and drainages between them, other odd areas that weren’t regularly cropped, some hillside pasture and open woodlands.
When Williams took over as the manager of the land, the small fields had been merged into one 70-acre field that was all in crops. There was one 11-acre hillside pasture, and the wooded areas had filled in with maple and cedar. The few odd areas remaining on the farm were in fescue. The only sign of quail was one meager covey that migrated between the farm and the neighbors’ lands on each side. Williams’ interest in restoring the hunting he enjoyed in years past sent him to the Missouri Department of Conservation for advice.
Larry Heggeman, private land conservationist, laid out a plan to restore the edges of the fields to quail habitat. During the planning, a new program called CP33, the Quail Buffer Practice, became available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This program fit perfectly for the