Bringing Back Quail

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Published on: Mar. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 8, 2010

you can use burning and discing to promote germination of dormant legume seeds.

Shrub cover is essential for attracting quail to your land. It is also valuable for most other species of edge-dwelling wildlife. If your goal is one covey for every 40 acres, then plan for at least one-tenth of an acre of shrubs on each 40 acres. If your goal is at least one covey of quail per 10 acres, then provide one-tenth of an acre of shrubs for every 10 acres.

Shrubs can border the perimeter of your Conservation Reserver Program fields. However, if the field edges are dominated by tall, mature trees, then you should clear openings in these wooded areas in 30-by-50-foot blocks to promote regrowth of shrubs. Make sure you have at least one of these clearings in every 10 to 40 acres of land you manage for quail.

Another option is to plant shrubs in blocks or strips in your open fields. Place the shrubs in odd corners, or plant them in strips on the contour lines. For best results, plant only native shrubs such as shrub dogwoods, American plum, ninebark, hazelnut and fragrant sumac.

If properly placed, food plots can provide emergency winter food, brood rearing cover and dusting or resting cover for many wildlife species. However, they should be considered only a part of a total wildlife management plan. The best food plots for quail contain milo, but taller forage sorghums may be best in areas where deer are numerous. That's because deer normally cannot reach forage sorghum heads. In the fall, the stalks break or bend over, putting the seed heads on or near the ground. In years of heavy snowfall, forage sorghum plots are favorite hangouts of rabbits and game birds.

Some fields require light herbicide and nitrogen fertilizer to produce enough food to last through the winter. At least half of each food plot should be left fallow each year to encourage legumes and weedy growth, both of which are necessary for quail survival.

To attract coveys of quail to your land, you should have food, nesting or brood-rearing cover within 100 yards of each other. At a minimum, this combination of features should occur on at least every 40 acres of land you are managing. With good habitat management practices, it really is possible to support a covey of quail on every 10 acres. Omit any one of the parts, however, and quail production will suffer.

For more information on how to improve your CRP land for quail, rabbits or other wildlife, contact your nearest Conservation Department office or a Natural Resource Conservation Service office.

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