Quail use escape cover throughout the year. It shelters them from predators and protects them from the elements. Also known as covey headquarters, escape cover is often identified as a limiting factor on many farms in Missouri. Covey headquarters consist of woody shrubs, low-growing trees (3 to 12 feet tall), downed tree structures and feathered edges. Quail will spend a large part of their day loafing in covey headquarter type habitat.
Now is the time to create next year’s quail covey headquarters. Plan to locate your covey headquarters next to weedy, nonwoody cover with plenty of bare ground and distribute them across the entire farm. Research conducted during the winter months in Missouri found that the average distance between known quail locations and woody cover was only 70 feet. A great reference to assist you in choosing and planting your shrubs is the NRCS Quail Covey Headquarter Job Sheet, listed under “External Links” below
To complete your plan, choose three or four of the following species to plant: wild plum, blackberry, shrub dogwood, aromatic sumac, hazelnut, elderberry and false indigo bush. Or you can just order the state nursery’s Quail Cover Bundle, which includes most of the species I just mentioned. Plant shrubs on a 3-by-3-foot spacing, covering a 30-by-50-foot area. It takes 167 shrubs to fill these dimensions.
You can’t beat the state nursery for affordable conservation seedlings. The Quail Cover Bundle gives you 15 each of five preferred species for $35. Or you can put together your own mix of seedlings. You can get a seedling order form from your local USDA Service Center, MDC office, or order directly online. Orders are filled on a "first-come, first-served" basis, so it is a good idea to order early for the best selection of species. As of this writing, there are already a couple of tree species sold out.
You can plant conservation seedlings as long as the soil is warm enough to work. If you can’t get your seedlings in the ground due to rain or snow, DO NOT store them in a bucket of water. Check to make sure their roots are damp and store in the package in a cool location out of the sun.