Posts Tagged ‘quail’

Five Widespread Myths about Pheasant & Quail Populations

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

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Not only are certain myths about pheasant and quail populations prevalent, belief in them takes the focus away from what really has an impact on sustainable bird numbers – the creation and management of upland habitat. Here’s a closer look at five widely-held beliefs about America’s most popular upland gamebirds.

pheasant-stockingMyth: Stocking pheasants and quail works to restore wild populations.

Busted: During the last half century, there has been a colossal amount of money spent on supplemental stocking programs by state and local governments, sportsman’s groups and private individuals. Countless studies have shown that stocked pheasants, no matter when they are released, have great difficulty maintaining self-sustaining populations. Predators take the main toll, accounting for 90 percent of the deaths; at the same time, predators are conditioned to the idea that pheasants are an easy target.

Pen-raised birds do provide shooting opportunities and are a good way to introduce new hunters to hunting in a controlled situation; they’re also handy for training dogs. But the bottom line is stocking pen-raised pheasants and quail will not effectively increase populations. Only by addressing the root problem that is suppressing populations – the availability and quality of upland habitat – can a long-term positive impact be made on upland bird numbers.

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fox&pheasantMyth: Predators are the main reason there are fewer pheasants and quail.

Busted: Yes, coyotes and fox will eat pheasants and quail, and raccoons and skunks are likely culprits when it comes to raided nests. But predators don’t eat habitat, which is far and away the biggest reason why pheasant populations decline. High annual losses to predators should not be misunderstood to mean that predation is responsible for long-term upland population declines. Landscapes with good habitat often have high numbers of pheasant numbers, as well as high numbers of many potential predators.

The impact of predators is magnified and often pinpointed as the primary problem after habitat conditions deteriorate. Confine pheasants and quail to smaller and smaller parcels of habitat, and a predator’s job gets a whole lot easier. Thankfully, well-designed habitat projects can reduce predation by up to 80 percent. Through the addition and management of habitat, not only does there tend to be a decrease in the impact predators make on existing nests, but more habitat is likely to increase the number of nests and the overall gamebird population. And habitat for pheasants and quail comes at a fraction of the cost of other intensive predator reduction methods that are cost-prohibitive across a large area.

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wild_turkey3Myth: Turkeys eat quail chicks.

Busted: A single Florida study from the 1930s noted an instance of turkeys destroying quail eggs. No biological study since has documented turkeys damaging quail nests or feeding on chicks. Turkey researchers have not found a single quail chick or egg fragment while examining thousands of turkey stomachs. In addition, scientists monitoring quail chicks fitted with radio transmitters and watching quail nests via remote cameras have yet to catch a turkey in the act. Given that literally hundreds of studies of wild turkey food habits and predation on quail have been conducted over the past 80 years, the lack of evidence is remarkable. The conclusion is that turkeys have no direct role in the decline of quail.

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Myth: Hunting is hurting pheasant numbers.

HPIM2293Busted: Extensive research has shown hunting has little-to-no effect on pheasant reproduction and populations. Hens and roosters are easily distinguished in wingshooting situations, and because hens are protected through game regulations, pheasants are actually managed much more conservatively than many other gamebirds. And because roosters are polygamous – that is, they will mate with multiple hens – hunting in effect is only removing a “surplus” of males not absolutely necessary for reproduction the following spring.

Most of a pheasant season’s harvest takes place during the opening weekend, sometimes as much as 50 percent. Additionally, the majority of pheasant hunters are most active during the first two weeks of the season. Considering these factors, liberal, lengthy, roosters-only seasons do not harm populations.

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Cover5Myth: Habitat isn’t the biggest key to healthy pheasant and quail populations.

Busted: Two factors affect upland bird populations above all others: habitat and weather. And while we can’t control the weather, we can influence the amount and quality of upland habitat. Habitat is what supports strong and healthy pheasant and quail populations – one need only look at how pheasant populations rose in the late 1980s, 1990s and 2000s coinciding with increases in Conservation Reserve Program upland acreage, and their subsequent decreases as those acres diminished.  Historically, a lot of money has been spent trying to stock pheasants and to battle predators. Had these dollars been invested in habitat restoration, pheasants, quail and other upland wildlife would’ve benefitted.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Pheasants Forever Introduces Two New Signature Series Food and Cover Mixes

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

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Food and cover plots fit into almost any wildlife habitat management plan and, let’s face it, they are also really fun to hunt. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have expanded the line of Signature Series Food and Cover Mixes to 15 options with the 2014 additions of Cane Madness and White Lightning.

“There is a strong relationship between the location of food, thermal cover and winter survival for upland birds – so food plots are a critical factor in effective wildlife management,” says Jim Wooley, Director of Field Operations for Quail Forever, “Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Signature Series Food and Cover Mixes target a host of upland wildlife and big game species, and work all over pheasant and quail country.”

cane_MadnessCane Madness - Cane Madness is a phenomenal mix of high-yielding tall cane sorghums. It creates an abundant food source and cover for birds while also providing “screen habitat” for deer. This blend of the heaviest-seeded forage sorghums is designed to provide what matters most for game birds – cover that stands up to winter, and abundant high energy food. This mix enhances the character of existing winter cover when planted next to it, improves survival rates, and insures peak breeding conditions for birds. It can also provide stand-alone winter habitat and food if established in very large plots. A 25 lb. bag of Cane Madness plants 4-5 acres that can be established with standard planters, grain drills or broadcast seeders. Plant each spring at 5-6 lbs/acre when soil temperatures warm to 60 degrees. Matures in 95-110 days.

white_LightningWhite Lightning - This is a prescription blend of white and cream-seeded sorghum proven to attract both deer and upland birds. Simply put, this special mixture of mild-flavored, light-seeded sorghums will provide great food and safe foraging for game birds, and keep local deer happy as well. Plant this mix next to your existing winter cover to enhance its character and to improve survival by minimizing bird movement. A 25 lb. bag of White Lightning plants 4-5 acres. Establish with standard planters, grain drills or broadcast seeders. Plant each spring at 5-6 lbs/acre when soil temperatures warm to 60 degrees. Matures in 95-110 days.?

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

The Importance of Prescribed Fire in Habitat Management

Friday, April 26th, 2013

This spring, Pheasants Forever and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources teamed up for a 150-acre prescribed burn on the Hull Wildlife Management Area in Mahaska County.

This spring, Pheasants Forever and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources teamed up for a 150-acre prescribed burn on the Hull Wildlife Management Area in Mahaska County.

It’s taken a long time this year, but winter’s icy stranglehold across the upper Midwest has finally begun to relent . . . we hope!  Meteorologists are forecasting a balmy April weekend ahead which should liquefy the last remaining piles of snow throughout most of the pheasant range.  Finally, we’re at spring’s doorstep, which means it’s a perfect time to start thinking about habitat management.

One of the most important tools for improving habitat is prescribed fire.  Controlled burning in early spring accomplishes three main objectives in habitat management.  First, burning limits the growth of woody vegetation helping maintain the prairie as a distinct ecosystem.  Second, the fire burns off the duff layer of built up plant matter that hasn’t fully decayed over the last few years.  Third, prescribed burning releases the nutrients bound in the plant litter stimulating vigorous new growth, which is more attractive nesting covers for ground nesting birds.

Burns can be very dangerous if not done properly.  Grasses produce extremely hot fires and can spread rapidly.  Pheasants Forever’s habitat specialists and chapter volunteer burn crews are trained in completing safe and effective prescribed burns in many of the pheasant range states.

Prescribed fire can be an especially important tool in the mid-contract management of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands, as well as on state and federally managed wildlife lands.

What’s the biggest limitation to utilizing prescribed fire as a habitat management tool?

The answer: the general public does not understand the value of prescribed fire to the prairie ecosystem.  Fire is widely viewed as bad.

Stop and think about it for a moment; what maintained prairies as unique ecosystems prior to urbanization?  The answer: Massive grass fires started by lightning.

A well-planned and safely executed prescribed burn is an incredibly successful way to manage habitat for pheasants and quail.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

The Quail Quest Starts in Nebraska

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Pheasants Forever’s Bob St.Pierre and his German shorthair pup, “Izzy,” with a trio of public land Nebraska bobwhites. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

The opportunity to hunt quail in Nebraska and Kansas has been one of my favorite aspects of the Rooster Road Trip over the last three years.  As I’ve blogged about many times, I grew up hunting ruffed grouse in the “Northwoods,” and when I encounter a covey of bobwhites I can’t help but draw similarities to ruffs.   Both birds only give you a split second opportunity and their flush is often heard before viewed.

There are definitely unique aspects of bobwhites too.  A bobwhite’s covey rise is a whirl of motion challenging the wingshooter to select a single bird without falling into “flock shooting,” in which you simply look at the entire flock without properly aiming at an individual bird.  “Flock shooting” will almost always result in a miss.

However, it’s the sound of a bobwhite’s covey flush I enjoy most about the bird.  Unlike the chainsaw-like explosion of a ruffed grouse or the cackling bad-ass attitude of a ring-neck, a bobwhite covey sounds like twenty throwing stars whirring threw the air if an army of ninja warriors had just entered the scene to fight Chuck Norris.  (Obviously, Chuck Norris could triple on bobs with one shot).

So with each visit to “quail country,” my affinity for bobwhites grows more intense.  As today’s Nebraska hunt produced more coveys than ring-necks, my mind started to wonder about the public land quail hunting version of the Rooster Road Trip.  I can pretty easily come up with Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas as four states on a hypothetical Quail Forever “Quail Quest,” but the fifth state is a bit debatable.  Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas, Arizona, Mississippi and Alabama are all conceivably doable based upon geography, but I have not personally experienced a quail hunt in any of these states.

What do you think the fifth state on a “Quail Quest” would be for the best public lands quail hunt?

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

Field Report: Rebound Iowa

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Spring turkey and mushroom hunters first noticed the change in Iowa’s pheasant population. An open mild winter helped bring plenty of healthy roosters and hens into the spring nesting season. Turkey hunters commented on hearing many more crowing roosters this spring – at least compared to the past couple years.

Caution, this spring’s success is not a return to pheasant or quail glory days. Not even close. It will take two, maybe three more good nesting seasons to get Iowa’s pheasant population back. But spring of 2012 was a start – a much needed start back.

Iowa pheasant hunters are anticipating improved pheasant numbers in 2012. Photo courtesy Diane Peterson

Next came the emails and phone calls about “early broods,” young pheasants hatching as early as April. A very warm and mild March brought on some incredible early nesting and by the end of April we had chicks on the ground. May and June just helped with more good weather for nesting birds.

The word among biologists was simple, “There may not be many hens left in Iowa, but I think every single one is having a successful brood this year.”

One of the best indicators for good nesting years is hearing the general public talk about how the pheasants are having “two or three broods this year”. Pheasants have only one brood. When we see young chicks of different sizes along the road it means that pheasants that have a nest predated or destroyed – they are trying again – and they are successful. That is a great sign of more pheasants in the fall!

August roadside counts brought even better news for pheasant and quail in Iowa. Broods with nearly mature chicks! Hatching year chicks (chicks that hatched this spring) had nearly all their adult colors. This means that first nesting attempts were very successful across Iowa – the best indicator for increased populations of pheasants in the fall.

It has been a tough 7 years. Raise a glass and toast this tough old bird – winters that were “off the charts”, springs that never stopped raining. Yet our pheasants and quail keep coming back. Give them habitat and some decent weather.

This report was written by Matt O’Connor, Pheasants Forever’s Director of Conservation Programs for Iowa. Results from Iowa’s August roadside survey will be included in Pheasants Forever’s annual Pheasant Hunting Forecast, due out in early September. To receive this preseason outlook, sign up here.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Pheasant, Quail Counts Up in Neb. April Survey

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Pheasants Forever File Photo

Results are in from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s 2012 April Rural Mail Carrier Survey, with the statewide pheasant index slightly higher (up 2 percent) compared to 2011, and the bobwhite quail index up 175 percent compared to last year.

Indices were also higher in most pheasant regions, except for the Sandhills (down 41 percent) and the Southwest (down 8 percent). Bobwhite indices continued to improve following the devastating winter of 2009. The statewide bobwhite index was 175 percent higher in 2012 compared to 2011, and regional indices were higher everywhere except for the northeast region.

Jeff Lusk, Program Manager for Upland Game with Nebraska Game and Parks, cautions that percent differences comparatively can be misleading when relative abundance is low – regionally and statewide – as that leads to large percentage changes. Still, good news is good news for upland birds and upland hunters in Nebraska.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Rooster Road Trip 2011 has moved on to Nebraska, but we’re sad to see Kansas go. Eight quail and a couple roosters found their way into our game bags, and what “The Golden Hour” didn’t produce in birds, it more than made up for in scenery:

PF's Andrew Vavra and his Lab, Beau, share a moment at the end of a hard day of hunting walk-in lands in Kansas. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

Follow Pheasants Forever’s Rooster Road Trip 2011 at www.RoosterRoadTrip.org, on Facebook ,YouTube, and Twitter (#rrt11). 

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauck.

Day 6 – End of the Road

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Andrew Vavra, his Lab, Beau, and nothing but blue skies and grass on the Kansas pheasant hunting opener.

While the Rooster Road Trip had fun mingling with fellow pheasant hunters at the Longspur Pheasants Forever chapter banquet last night, we wanted nothing to do with them today. Nothing personal, just trying to avoid the crowds and find a few nice, quiet places on this Kansas pheasant and quail hunting opener.

And crowds there were around the Norton Wildlife Area just west of town – more in a few square miles than we’d seen all week in four previous states. To escape, we pulled out the Kansas Hunting Atlas and zeroed in a cluster of yellow Walk in hunting areas to the north and west. Our primary goal was to escape the hoopla, with the secondary goal of flushing a covey or two of bobwhite quail. I really like how, unlike other states, Kansas lists an index of what species you’re most likely to find on specific pieces of property. Quail were a possibility where we were going.

The first area looked okay, but we weren’t competing for spots and decided to be a little picky. Turned out to be a good call, because the second walk in area we came to had it all – quality cover, a bordering harvested corn field and a few brushy draws that could hold bobs. The dogs were hot right off the bat, and a rooster flushed wild. As we came over the hill on the backside of the piece, about 10 pheasants were out feeding in the field and busted us. One ringneck stayed tight in the grass, and Bob St.Pierre put the Rooster Road Trip on the board in Kansas. Bob also has the distinction of being the only one in our three man crew to bag a rooster in every state. Roosters in 5 states in 6 days? That’s select, if not exclusive, company.

Minutes later, we worked a draw on the edge of the tract. “Is that a quail?” Bob said as a loner buzzed through the brush and landed 15 yards in front of me. Before I could rush up to re-flush it, the covey busted on Bob’s side. Two dozen quail scattered every which way. These were the first quail Andrew had seen in the wild, and he was amazed. A few shots rang out, and I mixed the Rooster Road Trip’s bag for the first time.

As we drove around our next spot, we could hardly believe how hundreds of hunters were pounding an area just 15 miles away, and here sat multiple areas of prime hunting ground with no hunters. The landowner (remember, Walk in hunting areas in Kansas are privately owned, as landowners receive payment to open the land to hunting) had seen us at the banquet and stopped to say hi. As nice a guy as you’ll meet, he said he was happy to open the property for the public to enjoy. There were plenty of pheasants out there, he said, and come back in the spring for turkeys.

A week on the road, hunting and driving hard, has us feeling good about a successful public land tour, but looking forward to returning to our families. There is no place like home. Except maybe Kansas on the pheasant opener.

Where’s this Quail Hunting Area?

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Name this quail habitat. It looks like something from pre-settlement times, it is so wild.

I hunted this area three years ago. It was unlike any place I’ve ever seen. I did not expect to find such a huge, wild, beautiful, wildlife-dense area with so few people in this very populous state.

The area is private land used for cattle grazing, although from the photo you can see it is grazed very little.  There were lots of bobwhite quail and the hunting was great, including a few good snipe shoots. We also saw Osceola turkeys, a shell from an endangered gopher tortoise (they weigh 29 pounds and live 100 years), wood storks and much more.

Of course, on the hunt I was the guest of a very active Quail Forever chapter. The volunteers are working hard on public land to make a home for quail and public hunting. I’ll never forget the camp out they had one night with some 30 people, complete with music, dancing, camp fires, tents, Irish story telling, a hog hunt and local food favorites.

Thank goodness there are people to watch over our dwindling and ever valuable quail and pheasant habitats, both private and public. If you’d like to join this valiant effort, key up www.QuailForever.org or www.PheasantsFoerver.org and join us, please.

The Nation’s CRP Leader for Pheasants and for Quail

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Quail Forever and quail hunters help Pheasants Forever add a national voice to CRP.

Five years ago when Pheasants Forever launched Quail Forever, we envisioned meetings like the ones held earlier this month in Washington, D.C. where our organization proved itself as THE nation’s – not just the pheasant range’s – CRP leader.  While our members outside quail country may never see a quail in their lifetime, they should care about the power our Quail Forever contingent brings to the CRP battle.  In 2010, Pheasants Forever is truly a national organization with a respected voice on conservation policy from coast-to-coast.  This means a lot to the elected officials and policy makers we are working with on a daily basis to create habitat for pheasants and for quail.

Recapping Quail Forever’s Visit to D.C.

Since the Bobwhite Buffers practice of CRP (CP-33) was established in 2004, it’s proven to be the nation’s most successful tool in creating critical habitat for bobwhite quail.  However, these agricultural field buffers are only part of the landscape solution to rebuilding quail populations.  This point was drilled home with the nation’s foremost quail experts in Washington, D.C. 

I was proud to host Dr. Bill Palmer, Tall Timbers Research Station’s gamebird program director and Reggie Thackston, Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ bobwhite quail initiative coordinator, as they presented their quail habitat findings to Congressional staff and Administration officials last June 14-15.

Along with Kim Price, publisher of Covey Rise and member of Pheasants Forever’s national board, and Jen Mock Schaeffer, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Farm Bill coordinator, we outlined the need for additional actions to build upon language in the last Farm Bill encouraging thinning and burning of CRP tree plantings.  Rebuilding the pine-savanna ecosystem is critical to quail recovery.  Initial thinning coupled with burning on a two-year cycle is absolutely critical to supporting viable quail populations and numerous other species of wildlife.  Proper CRP management is one tool we have immediately available as we search for new incentives and technical assistance to make these practices commonplace across the southern U.S. quail range.