Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Forestry Company keeps Quail Initiative in focus



Land managers view the open ground at Whispering Pines
that is managed for quail using prescribed fire

A classroom full of quail enthusiasts 
The restoration of bobwhite quail habitat remains a goal for many who love the outdoors. Hunting for quail, sometimes affectionately known as Gentleman Bob, is a southern pastime that still holds an allure for the wingshooters of today. But a huge decline in the overall population numbers for quail has severely limited or halted altogether the pursuit of quail by many sportsmen. A meeting for wildlife managers in Orangeburg on August 14 continued the recent conversation about quail conservation.
            
While the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is in charge of the game species in the Palmetto State, quail habitat recovery must take place on a landscape scale involving many thousands of acres of land. This is why Milliken Forestry Company helped to organize a meeting at the offices of C.F. Evans Construction for land managers to attend. Travis Sumner with Milliken works with wildlife solutions on the properties that they manage, and he started the meeting with introduction of the day’s speakers.
            
Pointer flushing a few bobwhite quail
The decline in quail numbers does not just affect S.C., but rather it affects the entire Southeast and the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, or NBCI, was set up around 2009 to address long range quail recovery plans. Nat Ruth is the plantation manager from Mount Pleasant Plantation in Georgetown County, where a revival of quail habitat and quail hunting practices is currently underway. Ruth is dedicated to quail recovery and is glad to share his formula for success, although any blueprint for success must often be customized for a specific property.
            
Ten years of predator management is in the books at Mt. Pleasant and Nat Ruth relays that this job is never really done. “Land managers need to complete a predator index for their property to begin with, to document what animals are present,” said Ruth. “Most properties utilize the early release of pen-raised quail to supplement any wild birds present, and something like 40-percent of released birds are predated before hunting season begins.”
            
I was glad to attend and learn more about quail management
The trapping of predators is a time consuming practice that requires know how and cash flow, making it tough for small private landowners to undertake. Still, it is important that everyone understand that trapping is now thought of as part of the equation to bring back bobwhite quail. The public’s appetite to accept trapping is trending upward with the arrival of coyotes and the discovery that they are having a tremendous affect of deer and turkey.
            
Wild hogs are a bigger problem for those managing land along river systems, and nest raiders like raccoons, opossums and armadillos are seemingly everywhere. Different traps are required for different predators, plus the knowledge of how to place them out and what type of bait to use. Serious land managers understand that they must get in the habit of trapping, and that being more sneaky than those critters is a tough assignment.

The landowner meeting concluded with a field trip to the Whispering Pines Plantation near Cameron where landowner Johnny Evans explained what works for him regarding quail management. Having served on the SCDNR Board, Evans is a wildlife enthusiast who shares that he thinned his timber some to provide more habitat for quail. His journey began with an article in Progressive Farmer magazine abut do it yourself quail habitat, and he relays that he has been very pleased with the overall experience of working to return bobwhite quail to the landscape.

To view this article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about quail click NBCI or Fall Field Day or QU or Quail Season Finale.


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