Intensive Bobwhite Management
Maximizing quail populations requires intensive management practices. It is important that the practices below be implemented in as short a time frame as possible (1 to 3 years) so as to capture what quail biologists have come to call the “new ground effect”.
This essentially means quickly creating a large block (>1,500 acres) of quality habitat so the quail population can respond rapidly through increased reproduction and survival, and thereby getting ahead of the predator population. Assuming an adequate distribution of summer rainfall, it usually takes 4 to 5 years before the full potential is realized. Certain sites and conditions present special challenges for effective management. Each of the management practices will have to be fine tuned, often through trial and error, to achieve the best results for a particular site.
- Heavy and frequent thinning of all pine and hardwood stands within the area being managed so as to maintain 60% or more of the ground in direct sunlight thereby creating a savanna habitat type or field under the trees
- Judicious prescribed burning of woodlands in small blocks (10 to 50 acres in size on a 2 year rotation – sometimes 3 year burn - depends on soil fertility and annual rainfall)
- Periodic use of herbicides to control hardwoods sprouts and exotic grasses (fescue, Bermuda and Bahia)
- Establishing 20% to 40% (even more would be better) of the area in 2 acre to 5 acre openings or fields that are intensively managed through combinations of winter disking, liming, fertilization, and planting so as to provide a mixture of escape cover (briars and shrub thickets), nesting cover (clumped broomsedge), brood range (erect annual weeds that are canopied above and open below) and food (spring and fall plantings)
- Year-long supplemental feeding (can be accomplished by spreading under protective cover or using feeders – sorghum is recommended)
- Mammalian predator control (especially prior to and during the quail-nesting season (March – October - a permit from WRD is required).