Calling All Quail

Ron Graef would like to see some quail on his new farm in Shannon County, but so far the birds have eluded him. “I’ve got lots of deer, and I’ve got some turkey,” he says. “Quail is what I’m after right now.”

The farm has plenty of open space, and the earthbound birds are abundant in southern Missouri. But when he bought the farm, the vegetation wasn’t very accommodating. Brush, trees and invasive weeds had taken over, and the timber stand on the property was overgrown. Graef knew he would have to put in a lot of work if it was going to be inviting to quail and other wildlife. With the help of an enthusiastic Missouri Conservation Department employee, he’s well on his way.

Graef owns land in Howell and Shannon counties, in the heart of southern Missouri’s forested breaks. Now retired, he lives in St. Charles but says he gets away at least once a week to visit his mother in Mountain View.

“I grew up in St. Louis,” Graef says. “My mother was originally from that part of the country. When property became available I bought my first 40 acres. That was 40 years ago.”

Graef bought the 37 acres east of Mountain View last year. He says buying land in the area was a personal investment.

“I guess I looked at it as a good place to retire,” Graef says. “I’ve always liked to work outside. It was priced right. I’ve had ancestors in that area since the turn of the century.”

An earth contact home on the property was a big selling point. He has plans to put solar panels on the roof—one of many projects aimed at creating a sustainable wildlife-friendly retreat. Much of the work, however, would involve improvements to the property itself.

“I have a farm plan that says I want to work on being self-sustainable and environment friendly,” Graef says. “The property had been run down for quite a few years, so I contacted Mike and we set about looking at it. We decided we could do some woodland management and some things for the wildlife habitat.”

Mike is Mike Gaskins, a private land conservationist with the Missouri Department of Conservation who works out of Eminence. Graef asked Gaskins to help him put together a plan to thin the timber stand and fill the pastures with grasses and vegetation that would be inviting to wildlife. Gaskins was more than happy