Bobwhite Quail Myths
Don Willis of St. Joseph, a landowner in Andrew County, once believed that the major reason quail numbers were declining on his property was predators. He changed his mind when he attended a quail management workshop and learned that others were dramatically improving quail numbers by improving quail habitat on their farms.
Encouraged by their success stories, Willis started burning and light disking and installing food plots.
"I was disking after a burn one evening, and before I left the field, I had pheasants scratching around in the disked area. The next evening I had a covey of quail dusting in the same area. That made a believer out of me," Willis said.
In a few months, Willis increased his quail population from two coveys to five coveys on just 100 acres.
"I had a better hunt on my own farm one day last fall than I did in a three-day Kansas hunt," Willis said.
One of the most common beliefs is that predators are eating all the quail. As Willis discovered, the main reason quail populations have declined is a lack of proper habitat. A survey of landowners at a quail field day showed that 60 percent of the participants were managing their land for quail. Not surprising, those same 60 percent were seeing more quail on their property.
It's hard to convince many landowners that their farms have changed dramatically over the last 20, 30 or even 50 years. They insist their property is the same as it always was and that the quail decline must be due to an increase in predators.
On the farm where I grew up 30 years ago, the fencelines were weedy, and the hedgerows had very little grass growing underneath. When a tree fell, weeds would spring up, and you could count on finding a covey close by while hunting.
Today, those same fencelines and hedgerows are choked with brome and fescue. Weeds don't have a chance in the mat of grass. Of course, you won't find quail there anymore.
To show that things are not the same down on the farm as they were, I examined aerial photos from the 1970s and compared them to present-day photos. Each time saw huge increases in the amount of tree cover in fencelines and drainages. A full canopy of trees now covers canopy of trees now covers areas that once had scattered trees. That's good