Fred Brown knows what happened to the northern bobwhite in Arkansas simply by looking across the highway from his home in Corning. Where once were small farms separated by weedy
fencerows, and maybe an untended plot with overgrowth, is a precision-leveled field. “I can look out and I can’t see the fence on the far end, it seems like it goes on forever,” said the
chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Changes in farming happened throughout Arkansas in the latter half of the 20th century, and with them went quail habitat. Farming became heavily mechanized and small holdings became large, manicured spreads. Some of the large plots were turned over to a green ocean of fescue for grazing cattle. Dusty or rocky county roads gave way to asphalt pavement, and the ditches aligning them were mowed regularly. Unkempt grassland outskirts of little towns where young boys like Brown went hunting for quail after school turned into sprawling bigger cities, maybe with a Walmart and its parking lot sitting where those fields of bobwhites once were.
“There’s a whole generation, maybe more, of people, that don’t know what quail is, what it’s like to hunt quail,” Brown said. But in his final year on the Commission, Brown said in July that the building of a conservation education facility in northwestern Arkansas and a full-scale restoration of quail would be “my 1 and 1A priorities as chairman. And I feel certain that the commissioners coming behind me are on board to continue it.”
Read more of Arkansas’ “Quail Quest” in Arkansas Outdoors magazine.