quail hunting as a regular activity. Williams feels a great sense of accomplishment knowing that his efforts paid off and he has achieved his goal of restoring small game habitat to his farm.
From a financial perspective, Williams reports that farm income is higher with the CRP payments than with farming alone, and his farm has not missed the retired acres. The edges were low in productivity, which is typical, and they did not yield well compared to the inputs required, such as seed, fertilizer, planting, herbicide, and fuel costs. His only regret is that he doesn’t have more edges to enroll.
Williams hopes to start work soon on some of the wooded areas to remove cedars and maples, and restore some of the glade and woodlandsavannah communities that will help even more quail flourish in the uplands. And, of course, there will definitely be more edge feathering.
Experience Means Success
A similar plan was laid out by Roger Frazier, private land conservationist, for another of Williams’ properties, a farm in St. Francois County. Consisting of 130 acres at the very edge of Farmington’s city limits and adjacent urban developments, the farm has gone from no quail to two coveys.
Williams’ other Ste. Genevieve property of only 30 acres (in a rural housing subdivision of 20-acre lots with some adjacent pastures) now also harbors a resident covey of quail. This one he handled largely on his own. With just a small amount of assistance from MDC, he applied the same practices he learned from the other farms.
Using the knowledge he gained by working on his land, Williams is now an active member of his local Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation, and he helps other landowners improve quail habitat on their property.
Due to owning land in two counties, and staffing changes that occurred within MDC, Williams has worked with three different MDC private land conservationists, along with the equally helpful USDA staff in both county offices.
Williams advises other landowners who miss hearing bobwhite on their land to get advice from a professional, and to have patience with the process. “It works, whether it’s in a program or not, and these people know what they’re talking about. Give the quail a chance, and they will come.”
Others who have seen the results of Williams’ work have taken his advice and headed to their nearest USDA office to ask about the CRP buffer program. There are several buffer practices besides the CP33, and all can be modified to create suitable quail habitat if you emphasize that interest when talking to your planner. A new program called CP38 allows enrollment of entire fields.
If your fields do not qualify for CRP, remember— it is the habitat that brings the quail, not the program. If your real goal is to return quail to your property, then practices and habitat improvements are what matters. Conservation staff can assist you in planning that habitat, and like Williams says, the quail will come.