The winter issue of “The Covey Headquarters Newsletter” has just been released. Check it out here. This free publication is published four times a year and is filled with timely habitat management tips, suggestions and success stories from landowners throughout the Midwest. A small group of determined landowners started the newsletter ten years ago at a workshop in northwest Missouri.
Lee and Anne Ballard own 328 acres in Williamsburg County, South Carolina. Historically, the property was farmed for cotton before Mr. Ballard purchased it in1993. After 1989’s Hurricane Hugo the majority of the timber was cut leaving sparse trees throughout the tract. From 1993-1995 there were 12-15 northern bobwhite coveys and then the number of coveys decreased markedly as plant succession progressed. In 2000, Mr. Ballard retired and began managing the property for wildlife, especially quail. After 2001 coveys again began increasing to 12-15 coveys across the property.
Mr. and Mrs. Ballard have been avid hunters and are wildlife enthusiasts so they understand the importance of managing habitat for wildlife. In 2005 they enrolled 33 acres of the property’s cropland into the Conservation Reserve Program’s (CRP) CP33 Upland Quail Buffers. These field borders have provided valuable nesting habitat and cover on field edges. Mr. Ballard has found up to three different brood coveys in one buffer. Only one year after the installation of field borders three times as many quail were reported calling in these areas during the annual quail call counts.
David Sapp moved back to the family farm in Mitchell County, Georgia in the 1990’s and soon found that the quail he enjoyed hunting as a young man had all but moved out.
In 2005, David enrolled portions of the crop fields on the farm in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). He installed field borders and fallowed dry corners of irrigated crop fields through CP33, a program to provide Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds. He enrolled a total of 10.0 acres in the program and immediately began planting native grasses and legumes to bring along the habitat.
In addition to CRP, he applied for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): Sustainable Forest and Wildlife Management. Through this program, David was awarded funds to offset the cost associated with prescribed burning and to serve as an incentive in thinning pine stands found on the farm.
James Hamilton and his stepfather, Harland Cole, own a small, 18-acre farm in the intensively farmed portion of east central Indiana. In recent years, they had noticed a few quail hanging on in small pockets of habitat along a nearby stream corridor, but none seemed to be present on their farm.
James and Harland had always wanted to create wildlife habitat on their farm so they could see more wildlife and have a place to hunt. So, James and Harland contacted their Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife (IDFW) District Wildlife Biologist for advice and guidance on practices and programs that could help make their wildlife goals a reality.
Dr. Alan Maxwell remembers as a young boy hunting with his father and being able to find multiple coveys of bobwhites on his family’s 653-acre farm in Mitchell County Georgia. He sometimes reminisces about the open understory habitat of the longleaf pine forests, which once surrounded his childhood home. Dr. Maxwell noticed a decline in the quail population in the 1960’s coinciding with the conversion of the longleaf forests to row crop agriculture.
Gene Kitchens Jr. is a farmer and dedicated bird hunter who strives to integrate agriculture and silviculture practices within a conservation framework in order to utilize and conserve the natural resources throughout his 1,200 acre of Bleckley County Georgia farm.
One aspect of that conservation framework is Gene’s participation in the Georgia DNR Bobwhite Quail Initiative (BQI), which began in 2001. He has continually re-enrolled multiple fields into the program, which has not only improved wildlife habitat but also maintained those habitat gains for the past eight years.
Through BQI, Gene has implemented 30 and 60-foot field borders around his cropfields, hedgerows, filter strips, Bermuda grass control and fallow patches in various combinations throughout the fields to both benefit quail and eliminate hard-to-farm and less productive farm acres.
Back around 2000, John Sawyers purchased a 625-acre (545 acres crop/pasture) cattle farm in Kentucky that had been severely abused as a back grounding operation. From the beginning his main purpose was to build this “biological desert,” as John often recollects, into a “wildlife promised land.”
Shortly after purchasing the property, John began researching the best way to achieve his monumental goal, but as a retired conservation officer with KY Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) he had a pretty good idea where to start. He began soliciting advice and technical guidance from local biologists while reading all the quail literature, such as that produced by Quail Unlimited, of which he is also a member.
Tom Deaton owns about 300 acres of farmland in Prentiss County, Mississippi, where bobwhite quail were once abundant. However, in the last 25 years, quail numbers have declined drastically due to changes in land use and management. This is not a problem that is unique to Prentiss County or even Mississippi. Quail numbers have plummeted throughout much of the Southeast and many other parts of their range.
Until 2004, about 210 acres of Tom’s farm was dedicated to a soybean/corn farming rotation. In 2005, Tom enrolled part of his agricultural fields in the then new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), CP33 – Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds practice. These native grass and wildflower buffers were created to provide critical nesting and brood-rearing areas for quail and songbirds along field edges. Quail responded almost immediately to this addition of habitat.