Minden Press-Herald

Wednesday
Oct 01st

The future of the Bobwhite quail is in our hands

Most of what I learned about quail hunting early on, I learned from UD-BOPP. For the uninformed, that's the Upper Dubach Brotherhood of Partridge Pursuers.

My dad didn't hunt quail when I was growing up so neither did I. However, a group of guys from the Dubach area – Charles Fuller, Lamar Colvin, Pete Smith, Jerry Rogers et al, took me under their wing and took me on hunts around north Louisiana. I actually came close to bagging a quail once with those guys. My problem was I led the bird too far, not realizing how slow it was walking.

I don't hunt quail around here today and sadly, neither do the UD-BOPP fellows. It's not that we grew tired of the sport; there are not enough quail around north Louisiana to hunt.

Over the past few decades the population curve for quail in Louisiana, as well as around the southeast, has continued in a steady downward curve. There aren't enough birds around to justify training and feeding bird dogs all year.

I attended the annual conference of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association last week in Branson, MO and one of the seminar speakers was Don McKenzie, Director of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), an organization with the stated commitment "by the 25-core bobwhite states, private conservation groups and research institutions to work together at regional and national levels to restore viable wild populations of bobwhite quail"

Wow....that's a plate full. How does one organization institute such lofty plans with the population of these birds going in the tank?

What is the actual situation regarding quail? The NCBI listed some chilling truths about what was once America's most beloved game bird.

The steady decline of bobwhites, an estimated 80% over the past 40 years, can be traced to numerous land use practices which have destroyed habitat for bobwhites and other species on a landscape scale.

Living space for bobwhites has been lost to development and to forest management and agricultural practices.

The problem has become so severe that two states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have discontinued quail hunting all together," said McKenzie.

"In Georgia and Maryland, there are about 22,000 quail hunters today, down 85% from 186,000 quail hunters in the 1960s.

"Why has quail hunting gone down the tubes over the past few decades? There is no one reason but some identifiable ones are urban sprawl, intensive agriculture and unmanaged natural plant succession," McKenzie added.

"In Mississippi, for example, some 85% of the land was suitable for quail in the '60s. Today, it's 5%. Back then, half of the land saw regularly scheduled controlled burns. Today, only a token percent is burned every year. Wooded savannahs and grasslands that quail depend on for food and cover are growing increasingly rare."

With this bleak picture, it would seem that quail are destined to go the way of the Edsel. However, the NBCI is a firm believer that all is not lost and with cooperation of groups that can make a difference, quail populations can be restored.

Among the things that can be done, an increased use of prescribed fire is one of the principal needs. There needs to be the conversion of sod-forming exotic grasses to native warm season grasses, according to NBCI data.

"We have determined that there is fragmented coordination between the states which means there is little consistency in planning specifically for quail. Some groups are ready to give up and let quail become 'recreationally extinct'. It's either that or do something boldly different, and that's what our organization is all about," said McKenzie. Let's hope it's the latter. I'd like nothing more than to, one more time, join the UD-BOPP gang for a north Louisiana quail hunt.

Glynn Harris Outdoors is proudly sponsored by DSK, Ltd. of Minden.

 

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