Quail Habitat Projects for Turkey Hunters
This spring, Department biologists received several phone calls and emails from turkey hunters on what happened to our state's turkey population. Here are a couple points I often highlighted with hunters. First, Missouri still has one of the highest turkey populations in the nation and some of the finest spring turkey hunting (more than 44,000 harvested during the 2009 spring season). Second, the status of the state's turkey population is a high priority for the Department, as are other ground-nesting species like bobwhite quail and songbirds. Third, Department biologists and conservation partners will continue to promote habitat management as an effective way to minimize the impacts of extreme weather and poor nesting success. Fourth, pray for a dry May and June in 2010. The past three years have been tough on ground-nesting birds.
Despite the extreme weather conditions, I'm still receiving success stories from landowners on both quail and wild turkey. Some reported the turkey hunting was incredible in 2009 (me being one of them). Others are reporting several quail broods and lots of whistling bobs. While the stories come from different parts of the state, they all have something in common--the landowners are doing habitat management for bobwhite quail!
Quail habitat management produces excellent habitat for nesting and brooding turkeys. Hard work today will result in heart-pounding experiences two or three years later.
So what can a landowner do to improve habitat conditions for turkey on their farm? Simple, manage for bobwhites. Ten Quail Habitat Projects Turkey Hunters Should Do:
1. Edge Feather
Creating patches of low-growing woody cover along the edges of fields provides excellent habitat for bobwhites and rabbits. Turkeys will also use edge feathering for nesting cover.
2. Woodland Restoration
Work with a resource professional to identify potential woodland sites on your property. Woodland restoration involves thinning out the undesirable and overstocked trees to allow more sunlight on the woodland floor. It also involves reintroducing prescribed fire to the site. It takes several years before bobwhites will start using woodlands for nesting and brooding cover; however, turkeys love these sites. In fact, I've seen turkeys move into burned woodlands before the smoke cleared. With woodland thinning the cut trees provide excellent nesting cover for wild turkey. The combination of woodland thinning and fire stimulates native grasses, sedges, forbs and legumes on the woodland floor--ideal brooding cover for wild turkey and quail too.
Open woodlands provide good nesting