|A covey of quail flushes from their cover to disperse|
Brad Jones is a consultant from Georgia with the Jones and Morris Wildlife Company, and he came to Orangeburg in August to speak at a seminar about early release quail tactics. A lot has changed in the quail woods since Jones began hunting wild quail with his grandfather, a World War II veteran who helped to instill a love of the outdoors. Listening to Jones speak about his trial and error experiences ranging from raising quail to handling the dogs brought a real connection to this audience of land managers.
“The quail hunting tract of land that I manage is about 2000-acres,” said Jones. “This operation is run by a private landowner who budgets about 300K annually to cover all operations, right down to the shotgun shells. For early release success be sure to seek out a strain of quail with good genetics. An experienced manager can spot which birds are superior beginning with the characteristics displayed by day old chics. I prefer to release quail that are only 8 to 10 weeks old, which is before they are full-grown adults.”
“Our hunting season begins at Thanksgiving but we release 5500 quail into the woods from early September through mid-October,” said Jones. “I have tried manufactured quail covey supplemental watering stations, but mostly rely on the scattering of grain sorghum as a way to keep the quail healthy. Our sandy soil in the coastal plain can produce broomsedge and lovegrass in large quantities and we try to use prescribed fire on half of the property each year to maintain that cover.”
“I have found that creating abnormally large coveys with 30 to 35 quail during early release compensates for the hunting pressure that lasts until March 1,” said Jones. “We maintain ten quail courses that are 170-acres each, and guests may hunt half of that course during a three-hour morning hunt. We average 14 coveys per hunt and we try to maintain a ten day rest between hunts on any course.”
Only double guns are allowed for shooting in 20-gauge or lighter, and they keep records on mortality rate and also for crippled birds. “We us the same number of birds each year, and have roughly the same amount of guests, but the harvest rate can still vary,” said Jones. “This tells us that the quality of wingshooter comes into play each year, and that is a factor that cannot be controlled.”
“Also consider that my research indicates that when the humidity drops below 20-percent the pointing dogs cannot scent the quail,” said Jones. “These are all parts of the quail hunting experience though and we embrace our days in the field with Gentleman Bob. In general the early release quail flush wild when we are hunting them.” Put and take of quail is common now at game preserves, and many of those birds need to be kicked up, but Jones says anything that keeps hunters tuned into bobwhites has merit.
Other tips gleaned from the early release seminar include that predators can take out up to 40-percent of quail before hunting season begins, making a trapping program a cost-effective tool for land managers to employ. Also interesting is that fire ants do not seem to be at the top of anyone’s list as a major inhibitor of quail restoration efforts. Hawks will likely always be the number one predator of bobwhites, but quail hunters recognize their place in nature even as they compete for the same resource.
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