Posts Tagged ‘quail’

Five Widespread Myths about Pheasant & Quail Populations

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Pheasants Forever Introduces Two New Signature Series Food and Cover Mixes

Thursday, March 20th, 2014


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 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 and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

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

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

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.

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 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, on Facebook ,YouTube, and Twitter (#rrt11). 

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

A Series of Lovely Paintings

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

“I felt strange and somewhat rude as I walked in behind the point and honor – I was a man walking into what was so much like a famous painting that I almost had to laugh. But, if you’re lucky, that’s what a lot of quail hunting is – a series of lovely paintings that we walk into and out of all day long.”

Gene Hill, from My Respects to Mr. Bob

A classic Lynn Bogue Hunt print.

I believe that is my all-time favorite literary quote about quail hunting. I lifted it from Hill’s contribution to “The Bobwhite Quail Book” by Lamar Underwood. The edition I own was published in 1981 by the Amwell Press to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Grand National Quail Hunt in Enid, Oklahoma. It’s a mint, limited-edition, slipcased copy that I found while perusing a thrift store. I paid a dollar for it. Sometimes even I get lucky.

This particular copy is number 61 of 500 and signed by Underwood, who was the longtime editor of Sports Afield and a die-hard bird hunter. And “The Bobwhite Quail Book”, first published in 1980, is one of the best collections of quail hunting sporting literature ever put together. I think it’s still in print today, but early editions are fairly rare.

And it’s also something of an artifact in that it represents something that is –  for the most part –  long gone, at least outside the rather cloistered world of bird hunters. I’m not even sure you could publish a new book like this today. In today’s slick, frenetic, lifestyle-branded world, words -  thoughtful words -  about hunting sometimes seem a little archaic, a little too 20th-Century parochial. Of course, those very qualities are what draw many of us to quail hunting and dogs in the first place. It doesn’t always have to be “extreme,” right?

So those of us enchanted with such things must seek our literary solace in musty old pages and in what stories we can find among our online kindred. I sometimes find it difficult to convey to even my deer hunting-but-non-bird-hunting friends what it is I find so appealing, so haunting about hunting quail behind dogs.

So I must rely on quotes like Hill’s to paint the picture when my stammering words seem so inadequate, because it so perfectly encapsulates what it is we seek in this obsession with gundogs: those moments of utter perfection and ethereal beauty that flash-burn themselves into our consciousness and leave softly ghosting images that stay with us long after the moment – and the dogs themselves – are gone.

Do you have a favorite quail-hunting quote?

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.

A Little Quail-Themed Flair for Your Ride

Friday, July 8th, 2011

bird-hunting vanity for a good cause...

One of America’s favorite pastimes, it seems, is festooning our vehicles with what Office Spacecreator Mike Judge called “pieces of flair.” Big stickers, little stickers, funny stickers, serious stickers, tacky stickers; no matter your personality or worldview, there’s a decal, sticker or personalized tag with which to proclaim to the world what you’re all about.

Personally, I’m not too big on pieces of vehicle flair (other than group affiliations like Quail Forever) and the ones I do have are generally low-key and understated, but I have to admit I really want this. It’s a special license plate issued by the state of Oklahoma to help fund wildlife programs. The state of Georgia has a similar plate program.

Besides being a darned handsome license plate, the $38 dollar initial cost and $36.50 annual renewal fee goes straight into the state’s wildlife conservation work. You can even customize (within the five-character limit) what you want it to say. It’s the best of both worlds: you get one of those IM2COOL-esque vanity plates, but with a guilt-free social consciousness.

Sounds like a win-win to me. Only problem is, I’m having trouble trying to decide what I want to say in five characters. QUAIL? MRBOB? POINT? WHOA?

Any suggestions?

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.