Saturday, March 8, 2014

2013 GameKeepers / Winter - Lowcountry Quail Comeback

Page 102 is the perfect place to read about Bobwhite recovery

To small private landowners the main challenge for quail management is the lack of a landscape-scale area to work with. That being said, any habitat management done for quail on smaller acreage also tends to benefit a wide range of both game and non-game species. With the potential benefits for all wildlife in mind, I embarked on a path towards upland management on a 250-acre tract in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
Pintails in Flight on the Winter 2013 cover
It doesn’t take a forest filled with longleaf pines to produce a quail in the South. To be sure, the famed quail woods of Northern Florida and Southern Georgia hold on to tradition with their plantation belt of venerable longleaf pines, but most of us have loblolly plantations to work with. Cutover uplands that were replanted grew thick as hairs in the fertile Lowcountry soil, and as a young man I could hardly penetrate or utilize the piney woods.
But over time they thinned themselves a bit, only to reveal a layer of pinestraw covering the ground. During this phase these pinewoods were beneficial to deer, offering them a bedding area and a place to hide fawns from predators. But Bobwhite quail require an open understory with grasses, legumes and access for them to scratch in the soil. All across the Southeast in the late 1980’s when CRP enrollments hit an all-time high, pinelands were converted into similar pine plantations. This landowner action was just one of the factors that helped to hold back any Bobwhite repopulation.
2007 Quail Habitat Award
Working with my consulting forester, we made a first thinning of the loblolly pines that were 18-years of age. His remark after marking the timber was that we would leave the best trees and remove the worst trees; such as crooked or forked pines. Economics are always part of any timber thinning plan, and we left plenty of pines for a further two thinnings, always careful that we were working towards ‘bird woods.’

There is no link available to my feature article in the Winter 2013 issue. To join the Mossy Oak Gamekeeper club and receive a hat, Biologic seed samples and magazine subscription click here.

To view past blog entries about quail hunting click here.

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