Most Aptly Described As Quail Population Improvement, Protective Cover and Food Source Enhancement

quail habitat project on the Association partner John Wenzel's farm.

These rooster pictures comes from a spring land run to scout potential new land lease for the Association hunters. Just fun, opportunistic, pictures and for those of you that have tried to take such pictures many will quickly recognize the amount of field time that is required to get such a picture. That time on the land translates into knowing what is where and getting our hunters where they need to be.

When it comes to upland bird hunting both Jon Nee and John Wenzel have decades of pointing dogs and upland bird hunting experience

The Why

This section developed over the years into a quail habitat project on the Association partner John Wenzel's farm. Its posting to the web site came about from feedback it was of interest.

Quail Not Pheasant

This farm is well within a good to very good Kansas quail hunting region. It is one the boundary of natural pheasant distribution. Covey counts from season to season range from one to five. Pheasant counts have never been more than three mixed hen and roosters. The farm itself due to its broken drainage terrain is suited for quail.

About Jon Nee and John Wenzel

We have found through the years that Association hunters have an interest in the backgrounds of the Association staff. Most feel that the staff have the ideal job combining a recreational interest and income source into one. The reality is much different.

Jon Nee the Association owner is as busy as any small business, self employed person is with having his hand into every facet of MAHA to run the organization and support his family of four. John Wenzel freely admits that if it was not for his retired military pension it would be financially infeasible to rely on MAHA for his livelihood. Together they cover the bulk of the land and membership work while the Association secretary handles the routine day to day office work.

When it comes to upland bird hunting both Jon Nee and John Wenzel have decades of pointing dogs and upland bird hunting experience behind them. They have the calibrated eye for habitat combined with regional knowledge to get the Association member where he needs to be for a good hunt.

The Association upland hunter can have confidence as MAHA is a business and to that end it is the returning member that makes the bottom line. To get that bird hunter to renew his membership requires each and every upland bird hunting trip for every member to be as good as it can be. To that end the central mid-west is the right location within the country with good upland bird populations and within Kansas, Missouri and Iowa your two Association land staff cover the ground both during land contracting as well as behind their own bird dogs. They have the first hand experience with the upland birds, dogs and habitat to ensure all will be in the right spot.

Jon Nee is the Association owner and operator in terms of contracting land, supervising reservations and in general responsible for every member's hunt experience.

John's Quail Habitat Development

When calling most will talk to John Wenzel who as a hobby develops Bobwhite Quail nesting, feed and year round loafing/protective cover habitat on his farm with his own farm equipment to include a no-till drill. That kind of dedication means a great understanding of habitat, the core product on this Association. Having the right habitat in the right region of the state means the difference between nature walking and good hunts.

Little Bluestem shown in early spring as the forbs began to sprout, quail nesting cover.A Good Thing

Some habitat pictures from John Wenzel's own farm. Little Bluestem shown in early spring as the forbs began to sprout, quail nesting cover.

Pictures are always limited in what they show and this one is a case in point. The missing parts is that this grass field is one on many small ones separated by varying size of brush areas and tree lines. Much of these fields have been cleared with chain saw and tractor to create as much edge or transitory habitat as possible. The cedar trees left standing in the far ground open to another small field directly across and to the left connect to a hardwood tree covered creek bottom and to the the right to a fence line let to grow and onto another field where one of the wildlife windbreaks of a 1/4 mile long, 6 rows wide was planted to break a large field into two making more edge habitat.

What we have discovered over time is that quail will use a variety of cover types through the year and having a multitude of variety within a relatively small area allows for more quail density.A Mistake

Part of a 5,000+ tree wildlife wind break composed of Ponderosa (shown) and Red Cedars to provide more edge habitat along with other plantings. The idea is a mixture of dense and open trees with the cedars providing much ground level branch contact for thick cover and the ponderosa with less branch to ground contact cover. What we have discovered over time is that quail will use a variety of cover types through the year and having a multitude of variety within a relatively small area allows for more quail density.

Quail Jumpstart

This brooder comes from Quail Restoration Inc., and does work exactly as advertised.Pictured is an outdoor chick brooder, with day old quail chicks in this case (inset), being setup on a recent habitat enhanced farm by John Wenzel. This brooder comes from Quail Restoration Inc., and does work exactly as advertised.

The outdoor brooder is a means by which to quickly establish a covey rather than wait on the happenstance of nature delivering a covey through natural expansion.

These are not pen raised release quail with no survival instincts. These quail from being one day old to the release point at 5 weeks have been isolated from human contact and subjected to weather and nature to include predators visiting the brooder. When released at 5 weeks they have sufficient flight feathers and flight/fear response to any threat to ensure their survival at near the same rate as those chicks with a brood hen.

First the nesting habitat and winter food source is developed and the following summer 100 day old chicks will be brooded to 5 weeks of age and released in that habitat.

Typically a great effort results in 30 should survive to that spring's breeding season and of that 30 there may be 8-10 pairs that hopefully will produce 60 - 80 chicks that will in turn survive down to 10 nesting pairs the subsequent spring and so forth sustaining the covey for as long as the nesting and food cover remains. To date, nesting cover has an excepted useful life of not more than 10 years before being overcome by invasive plants.

While 30 may be the optimum to expect that 30 is possible only on the best habitat. Weaker habitat as shown 10+ birds to survive through to March break up and breeding start.

Quail are residential birds that will live or die within 10 acres of where brooded. They like turkeys, pigeons and any migratory bird have a "homing" instinct that keeps them anchored to specific locations. Developing first the nesting habitat that will best enhance their reproduction success in the future, the covey is then established with the brooder. By this process sustainable quail coveys are established in areas that previously could not support any.

On that same idea if the brooder successfully releases 80, 5 week old juveniles it would not be reasonable to expect all to survive within 10 acres as that 10 acres would have to be of the most exceptional habitat combination to support such a density.

This covey effort, just as in the case of habitat development, is a hobby for John's own farm and that of his neighbors that allow him dog training land use. The cost in terms of time, sunk asset costs and expendable material money to perform such work on the Association land leases is simply prohibitive in comparison to annual dues.

Take as example the cost to develop one acre of land in terms of chemical spray down, tractor (10,000 hour life expectancy before major rebuild), drill (1,500 acre life span until major parts replacement), soil test and seed is $54.41 (2005 dollars). Add to that the cost of any fertilizer requirements, fuel, follow up spray and forbs/legumes planting, transport time and hourly wage and the cost is much greater. It is far more economically feasible simply to lease the right habitat within the right region of the state than attempt to build it. That lease is then retained until the habitat changes as it always does and better land replaces it. Those that prefer the same land for decades will not find the same hunting quality on that land for decades.

John's efforts are driven by enjoyment, not financial reasons. Even as a hobby, 8 to 10 acres a year is just about all he is willing to accomplish. Anyone that has planted a 1 acre deer food plot would have experienced almost half of what it takes in time and effort to establish an equal area of exceptional ground nesting bird cover.

Shown here is my lovely partner, Marcie, having the honor of releasing the quail.Released at 5 weeks they will fly from the brooder for short 5 to 10 yard hops and quickly go about covey calling to regroup. It will take them 3 days to move away from the immediate area they could see from where they were brooded and that spot will be the center of their home range.

Shown here is my lovely partner, Marcie, having the honor of releasing the quail. As a veterinarian she shares a respect and love for animals.

Some of the released quail probably 20 minutes after release Some of the released quail probably 20 minutes after release and an instant before flushing away - we were lucky to get this picture. And, an interesting point.

The released quail that were singles were approachable. Those that grouped up in as small of numbers as these four would quickly flush. Once in a larger covey they were inapproachable under any condition.

Take note of their feathering being complete, un-pecked and with good tails after 5 weeks of outdoor brooding that started with 100, one day old chicks and releasing 87 in this example all within a 4x8 brooder. Well feathered quail to this degree are hard to come by from a game bird breeder.

Even with the near ideal conditions of artificial heat source, dry cover, raised wire floor, readily available food and water as well as predator protection there still was a 13 chick loss. Compare that to what a hen brood of 10 chicks must face to survive.

Small GainsWatching this "new" covey of 87 quail from day one of release

While all this work may seem a bit much it should be remembered that success is measured in matters of degrees not quantum leaps. The goal is at lease 8 to 10 nesting pairs the next spring. To further facilitate that goal is the spreading of milo in the release area for easy to find food to cover the gap from the brooder feed trough to finding the quail feeding stations planted around the brood area.

Accepting there is a benefit and consequence to every action all the work up to this point has been to place a lot of quail in a small area. These quail also have unrefined foraging skills. Instinct will quickly overcome these two issues by expanding the covey's home range and trial and success learning of what is editable. The spreading of grain is a gap filler until instinct fully drives the covey's behavior.

Watching this "new" covey of 87 quail from day one of release through the summer is where this effort really became interesting.

On days one and two of release the quail remained very close to the brooding site. By day 3 a noticeable departure was observed with less than half of the quail observed in the area around the brood site. By day 4 no quail would be found within sight of the brood area.

From day 4 to about 10 we made random searches around the 40 acres or so around the original brood site. What we found had an immediate effect on us. The 87, 5 week old quail had broken up into 10+ to 20 (+>5-8) bird coveys and separated like spokes on a wagon wheel in random directions away from the original brood site.

This brood separation appeared to be random and regardless of the cover type. The result was those quail coveys that went to the better habitat survived longer than those that went out of the recent habitat development area and were preyed upon until extinguished before the end of summer.

Learning Through Experience At Cost Of Time, money and Effort

What we learned in this one instance is the 8 acres of field habitat spread over 16+ gross acres developed by clearing brush across four separate small fields separated by a intermittent stream and its tributaries timbered with hardwoods was not sufficient in size to "capture" within it the 87 quail.

One covey of around 20 quail flew out into and occupied a field we had cleared of brush and small trees that once opened to the sun allowed the tall fescue (planted by the previous owner for cattle forage) to flourish and make its well know thick and homogenous carpet of leaf and stem. This field was scheduled for the following year to be sprayed and planted with quail supporting grass mixture. The covey simply beats us to that field before we had time to develop it. This covey lasted for as long as it took a hawk, believed to be a coopers hawk, to feed on it to extinction. This hawk took perch in a single tree left standing near the barn at the edge of the field where the covey anchored itself.

Another covey crossed the property line onto the neighbor's cattle pasture and headquartered on a drainage with thin hardwood tree cover. That covey too lasted until prayed upon and extinguished presumably due to the limited ground level protective cover.

A third covey and one surviving until the following March breeding season covey break up traveled down the length of the larger stream bed to an area of marginal quail ground cover composed of various grasses, brush, hardwood and cedar trees.

Interesting and disappointing at the same time of the 8 acres in developed quail ground level habitat not one covey selected any of those four fields for their home center or headquarters although most were close enough to to one or more to have included it in their daily maneuvers. Most of the coveys that is except for the one observed to survive until the following March covey break up.

The remaining coveys or quail seemed to dissipate without any reliable or repetitive observation of their survival or extinction.

Our lesson from this one habitat development and brood experience is to greatly increase the size of the habitat development somewhere in excess of 16 acres and less than 40 before brooding another covey jump start in this locality.

Feeders

Supplemental Feeding

aid in the quail's transition to the wild

Each quail feeding station has a milo hopper and nipple waterer.

feeder offered by Quail Restoration

Each feeding station is placed in a covered area allowing protected ingress/regress from the feeder to the surrounding cover.

recognize that good quail nutrition is reliant on multiple food sources

At each feeding station rat bait is placed in dog proof containers to control mice and rats from over populating the immediate area and drawing predators.

In every case of all information and pictures shown none are an endorsement for that product. The only intent of this section is information.

The feeder stations are another means to aid in the quail's transition to the wild. The feeders will be maintained until the following springs nesting period of May and June. At that time the surviving brooder quail raising their own chicks will have fully transitioned to wild feed in all of its forms. The first of which we see immediately on the juvenile quail release from the brooder as they set about grazing on green matter.

The supplemental feeding equipment used in this effort was that supplied at our cost (we take no sponsorship for our efforts) by Quality Wildlife Covey base Camp. While the picture we used is one shoeing both waterer and feeder it was used as it was the picture we had on file. We have since stopped using the waterer as unnecessary for our part of the country and are doubling up the feeders at each station using a second feeder to replace the waterer.

We do not plan any further purchases of the Covey Base camp system until we try the feeder offered by Quail Restoration as it is larger and allows for multiple feeds from the same container.

Drawing from our experience and that of research such as the Effects Of Supplemental Feeding on Northern Bobwhite Populations In South Texas, by Ted B Doerr and Nova J Silvy, Texas A&M University, College Station Texas, we recognize that good quail nutrition is reliant on multiple food sources year round to enhance the likelihood of year round survival and chick reproduction strength.

While it is easy to provide corn, wheat and milo to our local quail populations through supplemental feeding those same food sources even collectively do not provide the balanced nutritional requirements of protein, minerals and chemicals required by quail to ensure survival of coveys over the years. Phosphorus in the study noted above is one example of a quail requirement we do not have the means to measure or supply to our habitat development efforts just yet.

What these efforts tell us is that many hunters want that one or easy fix to quail population development and that one easy fix is a fallacy. A larger encompassing effort is required to make a difference and that larger effort certainly costs a lot more money, time and effort than simply planting native grass or posting feeders.

Perhaps the point to be taken away from this one piece of the conservation effort John puts into wildlife is that such a concern does translate into how we screen our hunters at time of application and monitor them during the season.

5 week old quailAll this effort to give the 5 week old quail a chance to breed next spring.

Another picture of the good tail and body feathers from outdoor brooded quail. This picture was taken just before the release. Give these birds another 4 - 5 weeks in the wild and they will be as ready for dog training as any wild quail.

A value of this series of text and pictures on upland bird habitat development is that it is direct research from a long time point bird dog trainer and wild quail and pheasant hunter. Compare that experience base to university research centers that once an article is researched an written with a possible peer review and oversight from others then its is onto the next research project. Or, compare this material to a magazine article where the author most likely is offering second hand information at what may work. The worst comparison would be to seed, equipment or bird supply companies that will always say their product is the best as they too are after a sale. In the case of this material we seek to provide that only which photographic and direct experience can illustrate.

The Next Year's Brooder Effort

Subsequent years of brooded quail is hoped to develop a synergic effect combined with protective cover and food source development.

only self guided hunetrs that train and hunt their own quail dogs would put this level of work at all their personal cost into making quail coveys at homeThis year the quail brooder is placed along a farm lane between two milo fields planted for wildlife. This picture is on August 8 and shows the milo heading out right on schedule as the first average fall frost is in middle October. Having another 7 weeks or more of growing season should make for plenty of mature grain heads.

The quail brooder is center in the far ground.

Between the milo and the wood line the lespedeza was planted and grows well. With woody cover and several small grain fields nearby, the quail when released will have the cover/food habitat necessary to enhance survival.

With an early August start date for brooding day old chicks the milo will we well along to head and the trail of the summer bugs will be present when the quail are released in mid September. This will also be after peak quail predator food search period and offer juvenile quail for the first season pup in training later in October when the weather cools.

Future breeding quail to add diversity to the local genitic poolThis 100 chick quail field brooding is intended to give mother nature a boost and only a part of the total effort required of having quail and sustainable year round cover and food.

The horizontal white pipe with three nipple waterers is quickly adapted to at first sight by the chicks.

The red picnic plate with chick starter food is for the first several days to insure chicks find their food quickly. Located out of picture is a large hopper feeder that will serve long term feeding requirements.

The white round, elevate, disk is the ceramic cap tot he propane burner that supplies heat.

The floor is 1/4 inch metal screen with a smaller opening plastic net on top.

From the box used to deliver the quail chicks through the U.S. Postal Service to the brooder the quail chicks have little difficulty adapting. They quickly huddle under the heat source seen covered at lower left and find the nipple waterier at top of the picture. Warmth, even in August in Kansas, and water were the top priorities. The food seen on the red picnic plate is consumed before the next morning and by then they have found the brooder bulk trough feeder not shown in this picture.

Even though this upland bird article series is focused on pheasant and quail or upland birds centric in terms of those permissible by law to be hunted by dog and gun habitat development the last two year's brooder effort has been singularly for quail. The reality is this farm has ground more suited to quail and not until some more field clearing is concluded will we attempt to brood pheasant chicks in a similar manner. There is only so much time available and we set the priority to quail first and pheasant second.

A second criteria beyond time employed in this quail over pheasant priority included developing the survival strength of the natural or wild quail coveys beyond that of food and protective cover habitat enhancements. That survival enhancement is the diversification of the localized quail population genetic composition.

There is an associated belief and benefit to introducing quail with different genetic background into a localized wild quail population gained from same species breeding of variable genetic averaging resulting in an overall stronger population. The premise is that quail coveys are inherently indiscrete with their breeding, occupy a localized area largely isolated from contact with other coveys and thereby narrow the genetic band through breeding subsequent generations of highly related birds. The more narrow the genetic variables the more likely unfavorable traits are developed leading to a population less enhanced for survival.

On the other hand, created artificially, meaning human intervention into nature in this case, with the introduction of remote brooder raised quail populations derived from genetic stock several hundred miles away are likely to create a heterotic effect and build a quail population of stronger genetic makeup enhancing its likelihood of long term survival.

This is hetrosis, defined as: "...the condition in which the first generation of hybrid [different strains of Bobwhite Quail populations in this case] shows more vigor as measured by growth, survival and fertility, than either of the parent strains; it is believed to be caused by the dominance (or interaction) of favorable alleles not common to both parental populations." Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 27th Edition.

The "favored alleles" is the key as when a population becomes narrow in its genetic make up unfavorable alleles are more likely to be present in each breeding adult and if so far more likely to be passed on as a dominate trait. These unfavorable traits include reduced fertility, poor reproduction success to juvenile chick status and so on. The idea in this case is that if we can introduce surviving populations of genetically diverse quail until the subsequent breeding season the introduced quail are likely to interbreed with existing natural populations as the introduced quail have been brooded within the core range of the natural covey.

Nature in this case is on our sided as incestuous populations eventually breed themselves to extinction while diverse breeding populations become and sustain a genetic strength that given the other prerequisite of life the ability to metabolize energy (food habitat) will dominate and thrive.

Nature and the characteristic of the Bobwhite Quail coveys to break up in March and spread as breeding pairs throughout its home range further is likely to lead to the intermix of the natural and introduced coveys. Add to that a single male may breed multiple females further increases the likelihood the introduced and pre-existing covey will interbreed and create strain hybrid offspring that create further genetic variable breeding adults the subsequent spring.

Sustaining this effort for a number of years should result in a localized and sustainable population of genetically diverse quail well capable of survival. This population would presumably expand its population and range outward through increased reproduction success and eventually mix with other coveys encountered on the fringe of the diverse covey's range. At this point nature would begin to work against diversified genetic makeup through interbreeding bringing again an averaging and later incestuous generation of less genetically diverse quail.

Some survival techniques emplyed earlyFor the last two weeks the quail are in the brooder we add milo to the feed hopper in addition to the process game bird starter they have consumed the earlier three weeks. Grit is also seen to the right of the trough.

The human perspective is introduction to the grain in the brooder, plus using the broadcast spreader of milo around the brooder area immediately before their release and the release area surrounded by milo fields, brush and woody cover should make the transition from brooder readily available food and water to wild scavenger/forager easier. This human perspective while seemingly logical and appropriate to the point of overkill attentiveness is often simply wrong. An example of this kind of wrong human perspective relative to the variables of nature is the brooder itself.

The brooder appears to be the ideal environment to raise ground dwelling birds. The brooder protects from ground and aerial predation, protects from adverse weather, has a constant heat source preventing cold and heat stress, clean water and growth enhancing food in quantity greater than can be consumed. Under these circumstances brooder chick survival from introduction at age of day one to release at five weeks would appear to be highly successful in terms of chick survival. That is not always the case.

Our history with the brooder, 100 chicks at a time and over the course of early springs to late summers has a chick loss rate ranging from 13% to 34%. The brooder environment, food and water has the appearance of being consistent. The variable are the quail chicks and perhaps the missing natural element of an adult hen to shepherd the chicks around. The cause for the variable survival rate remains a mystery beyond our observation capability.

What we have found in our frustration with our in-brooder chick losses is that we want the outcome to be what we believe it should be as humans rather than what nature will direct with infinite variables. This same type of human perspective of trying to make the world what we want it to be rather than seeing the world for what it really is, is the same perspective we deal with in some members, especially first year members. First year upland bird hunter/members frequently have the attitude that since they have paid to hunt birds they should have a higher success rate without corresponding levels of effort. First year upland bird hunter/members actually have the lowest success rate and most of the dissatisfaction with the Association.

That first year dissatisfaction is born through not taking the time to have several hunts throughout the season in different MAHA regions and habitats. The dissatisfied first year member is typically one that did not gain immediate success at first trials typically expressed as lacking birds in the bag.

That same field showed with the quail brooder in the back ground and milo in the foreground was let go to weeds the next year. The picture is shown large for several points.

A field that vnever produced any quail

First was the succession nature of this land being transform one year from clearing scrub trees, to grass/weeds, to milo grain field and then to weeds, no grass. Looking at the foreground portion of the picture shows much ground litter due to our spray down and no-till land use of the upland bird development land. Finally, we used our own walk through and that of a pointing dog very strong on quail to survey quail occupation of the various fields and did not detect any increased quail occupation of this field from the start to the completion of this three year period.

The field pictured above is at the very background of the picture below.

The never to produce a covey being worked

Remembering this is on a working farm the majority of the tilled land is in crop as changing over this pasture illustrates well. The area to be planted in switch crass is a stump filled clearing and the switch grass planting is an attempt to provide year round low to ground level cover.

This field is getting extra attention due to its fescue problem.

Peripheral costs are always present and in the case of upland bird habitat it includes such costs as specialized equipment.

upland bird habitat it includes such costs as specialized equipment

One such example are the tires on the no-till drill. As the drill goes into areas not actively farmed such as the boarders areas between crop fields and creek bottoms and within our region of the country where the Osage Orange and Honey Locust grow tire puncturing thorns the drill's tires are filled with a liquid Kevlar material that seals punctures' up to a 1/4. In this case for $30 per drill tire and $45 and $75 for the small and large tractor tires. Not to use this Kevlar sealant will result in flat tires in the field on nearly any field where an attempt is made to plant.

That was then. After the manufacturer and the dealer stop honoring the warranty for the Kevlar tire sealer we returned to the less expensive, do it yourself tire sealer shown below.

more costly requirements

Tire sealer and an air compressor are every bit as much an upland bird habitat tool as are seeds. Just part of the many sideline costs that will be incurred. We keep a gallon of sealer on hand and have used anywhere from a quart to 2 gallons in a season.

Components

When it comes to habitat development for quail we are working toward a select few components. The first is year round food sources, preferred natural and supplements as insurance with feeders. The next is nesting and brood cover as without reproduction we will not have sustainability. The next is roost cover that provides protection from ground and aerial predation as well as weather protection. The final element is having all of the three previous parts within close proximity and repeated over a wider area as much as possible.

The food part in addition to the supplemental feeding illustrated above also includes lespedeza for perennial seeds planted as boarders between crop fields and pastures parallel to roost cover. This provides winter over food in close energy saving proximity tot he roost. For spring brooding and summer time survival we plant broad leaf insect attracting weeds along side the nesting cover ensuring the primary protein rich food source for chick during brood months. A lot of times these areas are simply chemical burn down areas allowed to grow back with volunteer weeds with occasional no-till of forbs. This method greatly surprises unwanted disturbance weeds and allows for much ground litter and widely spaced weeds for easy chick navigation.

For roost cover we draw primarily upon the "Winter Macro and Micro habitat Use Of Winter Roost Sites In Central Missouri" (Camberlain, Drobney and Dailey) study that provides quail prefer old fields as primary roost locations.

Old fields were described as those with a variance of growth to include much native warm season grasses, much ground level litter (gives value to no-till vice clean tillage and avoidance of burning) in proximity to winter food sources (supplemental and planted lespedeza in our case). The ground litter was cited as a means to provide warmth during the night by raising the covey above the dirt. This appears quite similar to coyote beds and deer beds where they prefer matting down tall grass to that of leaf litter in woods.

The roosts cover was typically higher than surrounding areas and rarely included woody cover. It appears from this study and others that woody edge cover being the primary quail habitat to be a secondary affect of the primary being it is typically along the edge of fields that woody cover prevents efficient agriculture and allows the NWSG and other lower than woody cover to thrive. The true quail habitat is then the brush and weed areas that in the case of the agriculture intensive central mid-west exists primarily parallel to the woody creek bottoms and fence lines. This then leads to the idea that stripes of variance in food, nest/brood and roost cover separate from wood edge to be viable quail habitat.

A field showing a two year effort of light disking, cutting and spraying to develop succession habitat. The desirable effects of intermittent cover with sporadic open ground to allow chick movement, broad leaf weeds to attract insects for chicks and litter material build up at ground level to encourage roosting. And not effective for quail habitat.

not effective for quail habitat

enough height to the overhead cover to protect the quailBoth pictures are from the same field just feet apart.

Lacking was sufficient size of the area, a winter food source and enough height to the overhead cover to protect the quail. This picture was taken in early June well into the brooding period and the re-growth from that spring's cutting was at best mid-calf high. It appears a fertilizing effort and planting of more native grass will be required.

The continued cutting and chemical burn down along with no-till drilling of desired plants will allow for the continuation of the ground litter. The ground litter may then present a problem with choking out any seeds drilled into the dirt. As that is a concern a later winter disking is planned to break up the ground litter. Disking in winter prevents volunteer weed seed germination and allows for sufficient time for the ground to firm up for the no-till drill. Should the winter disking be conducted too late and the surface soil does not firm up we run the risk of the no-till drill planting the small native grass seeds too deep.

Not All Is Uniform

At this point we draw a cautionary statement about reading some quail behavior, habitat and other studies as we have read some that are well outside of our first hand experience such as the "Cyclicity In Northern Bobwhites: A Time-Analytic Review Of The Evidence" (Thorgmartin, Roseberry, Woolf). This research attempted to prove or disprove that Bobwhite Quail are similar or not to Ruff Grouse at having population density cycles based on a time rhythm. Any serious quail hunter that reads this research will quickly recognize the flaws in its logic and place it off to the side. The point to this discussion is that we take the available good ideas from others that correlate to our in the field behind our own bird dog experience and use what is useful and wonder about that which is not. That experience is also limited to the Kansas, Missouri, Iowa region and is not applicable to other areas such as the arid Texas or heavily wooded Alabama regions.

For nesting cover we draw from Jef Hodges, QU and locally recognized quail habitat expert that has planted hundreds (very possibly thousand or more by now) of acres over more years of experience than any other that we have yet met. His mixture is (all in pounds per acre) 2 Little Bluestem, 1 Big Bluestem, 1 Indian Grass, 1 bulk mixed forbs seed.

The system we use is to clear cut a field of brush. Chemical spray down of all vegetation. Plant in parallel rows of repeated small patches food, nesting/brood and roost cover. Repeat as much as space allows for which always seems less than desired and always good enough. Planting is by no-till only and we do not fire burn anything.

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