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Okla. 89er QF Chapter Donates $20,000 for Quail Habitat Work

Pheasants Forever removed the eastern red cedars off this Nebraska property. Pheasants Forever File Photo

I was walking the dogs the other day out behind my house when I stumbled across it, an ugly, spindly little thing that hadn’t been there before. It looked harmless enough, just a sprig of raggedy evergreen poking out from the leaves covering the ground. It didn’t look evil. In fact, it looked like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. Cute almost in a homely sort of way. I bent over, gently grasped its slender little stem… then ruthlessly yanked it out of the ground and threw it over the fence. Tree homicide never felt so good.

Having struck a blow for quail (at least in my mind), I happily resumed my walk. What was so horrible about this tiny little plant I had just joyously murdered? Oh, just about everything. Given enough time, it would have grown into a giant, sprawling, water-sucking, habitat-stealing eastern red cedar, which I like to call the cockroach of the tree world. Eastern red cedars are a type of juniper that, while native to my area of the southern plains, has historically been confined to deep canyons and other areas relatively immune from fire. But the eastern red cedar’s range has exploded in recent years, forming dense stands of – quite literally – impenetrable, sterile forest where prairie used to be. I’ve watched eastern red cedars slowly choke out some of my favorite hunting spots over the past 15 years or so, and as someone who’s worn out a chainsaw or two trying to beat them back on my in-law’s property, I can attest to both the eastern red cedar’s perniciousness and its profligacy.

This devil tree does absolutely nothing for quail, or virtually any other wildlife for that matter, and it’s quite literally taking over the quail-hunting landscape in my home state of Oklahoma. Which is why it did my eastern red cedar-hating heart good recently to see the good folks of the Central Oklahoma 89er Quail Forever chapter donate $20,000 to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for the purchase of a cedar-cutting machine that will be used on the state’s wildlife management areas. Not only is it a great example of how local QF chapters’ dollars stay local, it’s a great use of those dollars as well. I for one can’t wait to see all those newly-cut cedar trees slowly turning brown as the dogs and I walk past them this fall.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I will stop waging my low-level personal warfare against eastern red cedars. Like some weird, demented anti-Johnny Appleseed, I long ago made it a point to stop and pull every eastern red cedar seedling I came across while out walking or hunting. A largely symbolic gesture, I know, especially compared with the absolutely real difference that my QF chapter’s contribution will be making with this new cedar-cutting machine. But that’s OK, they both still make me feel good…

What little gestures do you make or symbolic blows do you strike for your local quail?

Chad Love writes for Quail Forever (Pheasants Forever’s quail conservation division) from Woodward, Oklahoma. He is a lifelong quail hunter and “bird dog guy” who also writes for Field & Stream, including the magazine’s “Man’s Best Friend” gundog blog.

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One Response to “Okla. 89er QF Chapter Donates $20,000 for Quail Habitat Work”

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  1. Andy says:

    Oklahoma is not the only place with cedar problems, as evidenced by your photo. My sole purpose in life right now (it seems like) is to provide technical assistance and cost share to ranchers that are willing to cut cedar trees and implement prescribed fire in the Loess Canyons in SW Nebraska. Some of these properties are up to 70% canopy cover of cedar trees. I really think that, given enough time without fire, most of the central great plains would succeed to a cedar grove. I think the tree shear will be a wise investment. Even better, ODWC should get involved with a landowner prescribed burn association. Works extremely well here for Game and Parks and local landowners.

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