Low Quail Num­bers A Con­cern, But Sit­u­a­tion Isn’t Hope­less

McDonald County Press - - COUNTY - Fran­cis Skalicky

Here’s a bi­ol­o­gist’s re­port of Mis­souri’s quail sit­u­a­tion that’s all too fa­mil­iar for the state’s wing-shoot­ers:

“We must re­call the tough times that our quail ex­pe­ri­enced … and un­der­stand that the pop­u­la­tion suf­fered and the habi­tat re­ally took a beat­ing. An­other very im­por­tant point to re­mem­ber is that quail habi­tat in the state has been grad­u­ally de­clin­ing … A com­bi­na­tion of de­clin­ing habi­tat and ad­verse con­di­tions have hurt the birds.”

Gloomy pre­dic­tions based on de­grad­ing habi­tat have, un­for­tu­nately, be­come a rou­tine part of quail sea­son for to­day’s Mis­souri bob­white hunter to such an ex­tent that the above re­port would draw lit­tle at­ten­tion ex­cept for one de­tail.

It was writ­ten in 1957. The above para­graph, ex­tracted from a longer re­port writ­ten by Mis­souri Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion quail bi­ol­o­gist Jack Stan­ford, shows that quail pop­u­la­tions and the habi­tats as­so­ci­ated with them were as frag­ile 60 years ago as they are to­day. Stan­ford’s less-than-rosy as­sess­ment of Mis­souri’s quail pop­u­la­tion takes on added in­ter­est when you con­sider it was writ­ten a decade prior to what could be con­sid­ered the hey-day of bob­white hunt­ing in Mis­souri; the late 1960s when hunters har­vested nearly four mil­lion birds in a sin­gle sea­son (the 1969 sea­son). It in­di­cates that, even in times of good hunt­ing, Mis­souri’s quail pop­u­la­tion has al­ways had a “boom-or-bust” qual­ity about it.

Mis­souri’s quail sea­son runs from Nov. 1 through Jan. 15. The daily bag limit is eight and the pos­ses­sion limit is 16.

As most cur­rent quail hunters know, Mis­souri’s cur­rent prospects for this year’s quail sea­son aren’t ex­actly boom­ing. Long-time quail hunters don’t need sci­en­tific data and com­puter-gen­er­ated bar graphs to show them the state’s bob­white pop­u­la­tion has de­clined. Their hunt­ing trips in re­cent years when bird dogs did more roam­ing than point­ing has pro­vided them with all the data they need.

How­ever, all is not gloom and doom. Im­proved habi­tat is still the nu­cleus of the so­lu­tion to Mis­souri’s quail prob­lems. It should be pointed out that weather also has an im­pact on sea­sonal nest­ing suc­cess and chick sur­vival of quail, and we hu­mans can’t con­trol the weather. How­ever, we can make changes in land man­age­ment that can have a sig­nif­i­cant pos­i­tive im­pact on quail num­bers.

Cur­rently, the Mis­souri Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion im­ple­ments quail-friendly man­age­ment on 51,000 acres of public land in the state an­nu­ally. MDC staff has pro­vided tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance and/or fund­ing to more than 57,000 acres of pri­vate land. In ad­di­tion, MDC part­ners with non-gov­ern­men­tal con­ser­va­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions to de­liver an­other 80,000 acres of habi­tat on pri­vate land.

Look­ing back to a lessthan-glow­ing quail re­port from 1957 and the boom­ing bob­white years of the 1960s can also pro­vide a mea­sure of hope for quail en­thu­si­asts.


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