Georgia Wildlife Resources Division
2070 U.S. Hwy. 278, SE, Social Circle, GA 30025
Food Plots for Quail
The bobwhite’s diet consists of a large variety of mast, seeds, greenery and insects. Both seasonal and metabolic changes affect what type of foods quail consume during the year. Insects and fruit are most important and readily available in spring and summer months whereas annual and perennial plant seeds and hard mast are more readily available and used in fall and winter months. Available year-round food resources, both plant and insects, is one of several important components of the total quail management plan.
Openings for quail food plots should range in size from 2–5 ac. The actual planted portion of this plot need not exceed 25% of the total area and is best when distributed across the opening in strips. Rotate the planted portions each year so that only a portion of the opening is disturbed each year. Rotational disking during the winter in addition to the planted portion should increase the quality of the food plot by encouraging “quail friendly” native forbs and grasses.
Annual small grains such as grain sorghum (W.G.F.), field corn and Egyptian wheat are planted in late spring – summer and provide good seed into the fall and late winter. Browntop millet is another small grain that is planted spring – summer and is available late summer and early fall. Millet is easier to grow than other grains, but is usually depleted by late fall. Wheat or oats can be planted during late fall to provide grain and cover for quail into the summer.
Although typically more expensive, reseeding annuals such as kobe lespedeza, partridge pea, beggarweed and ragweed are another option. They are planted late winter – early spring and provide very good brood range during the summer in addition to supplying important seeds later during the fall. These plants’ seeds are often present in the soil and will develop following winter disturbance of the site through disking or burning, and should be encouraged whenever present.
The establishment of shrub thickets such as wild plum or waxmyrtle, or thickets of blackberry, in scattered blocks within the opening is beneficial to quail. It allows quail to remain in openings during the heat of the day by providing thermal cover, and if needed, important escape cover.
All the food in the world does not matter if it is inaccessible for quail. Quail are an edge species, meaning that they typically use areas where two different cover types meet. These areas typically have suitable cover for quail and make good locations to start food plots. Typical recommendations are 1 food plot per every 10-15 acres of woodland habitat, less if native food and cover plants are already in abundance.
Remember that food plots are not the cure-all to quail populations, but are only one tool. As with all crop plantings, best results are obtained when soil tests are performed and adequate lime and fertilizer is applied.