Hazel Brush and a Bevy of Quail
The article explains how to trap wild quail in northwest Missouri in the early 20th century. Here's a quote from the article.
"Years ago when there was lots of hazel brush along the skirts of timber, there were many flocks of quail, sometimes as many as two dozen in a bevy."
I've heard of people trapping quail before, but I've never heard of a "bevy." According to the Webster's Dictionary, a "bevy" is a group of animals and especially quail. In other words, a covey. A covey of two dozen birds. That's a big covey. I wonder why? The answer might be in the quote above.
"Years ago when there was lots of hazel brush along the skirts of timber...."
I highlighted "lots" to make a point.
Even back in 1912 people recognized the importance of shrubby cover and lots of it for bobwhites. Hunters knew this is where the birds would hang out to avoid predators and hunters and to seek shelter from cold weather. So why do we struggle so much today with creating good shrubby cover for bobwhites?
Here's a couple thoughts:
- Can't cut a tree - Many landowners can't bear the thought of cutting down a perfectly good tree. If you want quail you better be prepared to cut and kill some trees, whether it is edge feathering, TSI, savanna or woodland restoration, quail don't grow in trees!
- Shrubs look bad - For years shrubs have gotten a bad rap. They often appear unsightly to many landowners. Look at how many brush-killer herbicides there are on the market. Any connection? I don't know.
- Do the minimum, get the minimum results - Many landowners interested in bobwhite quail are more than willing to plant food plots, plant native warm-season grasses and maybe even conduct a prescribed burn or strip-disk. Unfortunately, when it comes to establishing shrubby cover - by edge feathering, planting shrubs or creating downed tree structures - they only do the minimum amount required. Remember, good bobwhite habitat in Oklahoma and Texas has around 20 percent shrubby cover and is distributed throughout the field. For example, 20 percent shrubby cover in a 40-acre warm-season grass field would be 8 acres of shrubby cover distributed throughout the field. In Missouri, the golden rule is each covey headquarter should be 1,500 square feet in size. That means in the 40-acre field there should be about 240 covey headquarters! I don't see many places with 20 percent shrubby cover. I don't see many with 1 percent shrubby cover.
The best examples of good shrubby occur on Quail Emphasis Areas and places where grassland bird (prairie chicken) management is occurring.
The next time you drive down the road to your farm, take a look at your neighbors' farms. Do you see much shrubby cover? Now take a look at your farm where you are actively managing for bobwhites. See much shrubby cover? Probably not, unless you live in Texas, Oklahoma and parts of Kansas where the climate and native plant community can still provide ideal habitat conditions for bobwhites.
Last week, I spent a couple days in northwest Missouri. On the way home I looked across the landscape. I saw lots of trees, but not many shrub thickets. There's probably not many "bevys" in places that lack shrubby cover. Make some more shrubby cover if you want more bevys of quail.