Creating Quality Quail Habitat
If you ever get out to Ed Kiefner's Bollinger County farm, you'd better have a couple hours to spare in case Ed takes you on a tour.
It doesn't matter if it's 10 degrees or 100; if Kiefner thinks you're interested in seeing his place, he'll have you on those hills before you know it. It's a trip worth taking because of all he has done to enhance wildlife on his farm.
You'll see food plots where Kiefner has planted soybeans and milo for deer and other wildlife, and strips of clover and lespedeza for rabbits and quail. He'll show you cracked-corn dispensers tucked in the edges of his fields. These squatty little boxes, about the size of a two-drawer file cabinet, help nourish wild turkeys in the winter. Your eyes won't miss the hundreds of tiny flags that mark where he's planted new trees.
Beyond these obvious enhancements, Kiefner has gone farther than most to provide wildlife with plenty of food and lots of places to hide from predators and raise their young.
Kiefner's 780 acres are actually three smaller farms that he's patched together since buying the first tract in 1981. The terrain is fairly rugged for southeast Missouri, featuring some steep hills divided by a valley holding the Little Whitewater River and its floodplain. Over the years, he's used the valley for crop and pasture land.
Though Kiefner enjoys doing just about anything outdoors, he's really wild about bird hunting, especially for quail. The quail population on Kiefner's farm had been flat for some years, despite various efforts to increase their numbers. When the quail population really plummeted in 1999, Kiefner decided to contact the Conservation Department.
"I was alarmed at the decline in the quail population, so I called to see if they had any kind of help and information they could provide," Kiefner explained.
Kiefner talked with Larry Heggemann, a private lands conservationist serving Cape Girardeau, Perry and Ste. Genevieve counties. Eventually three Conservation Department employees with expertise in forestry, wildlife biology and watershed/ fisheries issues were involved in analyzing the conditions on Kiefner's farm.
Kiefner's goals were clear. He wanted to enhance wildlife habitat while improving timber stands on his property. He said he was willing to supply the time, muscle and expense needed to implement any recommendations for his farm.
Solving the quail question
Heggemann has 20-plus years of wildlife management experience and had a good idea of why quail numbers were down on