Progress for quail hunt­ing stamp

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BASEBALL/OUTDOORS - BRYAN HEN­DRICKS

We’ve been wait­ing for the Arkansas Game and Fish Com­mis­sion to do more than talk about quail restora­tion, and it looks like that time is com­ing.

Over the past two years, the Com­mis­sion has taken en­cour­ag­ing steps to pri­or­i­tize up­land bird habi­tat. The agency has reached out to prom­i­nent bird hunt­ing en­thu­si­asts like Judge Bill Wil­son, former state supreme court jus­tice Jack Holt and Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette colum­nist Rex Nel­son. It also has hired its first ded­i­cated quail bi­ol­o­gist, Mar­cus Asher.

That’s all great, but so far the Com­mis­sion’s ef­forts have been su­per­fi­cial. As is of­ten the case in gov­ern­ment, meet­ings and sym­bols sub­sti­tute for progress.

Ap­par­ently, real progress is com­ing.

In his first meet­ing as Com­mis­sion chair­man, Steve Cook of Malvern di­rected the agency’s ad­min­is­tra­tive staff to es­tab­lish an up­land bird stamp. If adopted, it will be an ad­di­tional, elec­tive cost to hun­ters sim­i­lar to our state duck stamp or trout stamp.

Such a stamp will ac­com­plish sev­eral goals. It will de­clare the agency’s sin­cer­ity about restor­ing and cre­at­ing na­tive up­land habi­tat. It will also sym­bol­ize the bob­white quail’s im­por­tance by giv­ing it equal sta­tus to wa­ter­fowl and trout.

It will also gen­er­ate money nec­es­sary to work with landown­ers to cre­ate, en­hance or pre­serve up­land habi­tat on pri­vate prop­erty. The Game and Fish Com­mis­sion has very lim­ited abil­ity to cre­ate quail habi­tat on pub­lic prop­erty. If quail are go­ing to thrive in this state, it will be on pri­vate prop­erty.

Chris Col­cla­sure, the com­mis­sion’s as­sis­tant di­rec­tor, said the rev­enue gen­er­ated by an up­land bid stamp might pro­vide pro­vide the funds to in­cen­tivize landown­ers.

“If we’re go­ing to work with pri­vate landown­ers, there’s go­ing to be an off­set,” Col­cla­sure said. “There need to be in­cen­tives, and we need ways to gen­er­ate ad­di­tional rev­enue to work with pri­vate landown­ers.”

Of course, there’s no guar­an­tee that peo­ple will buy an up­land bird stamp. At least two gen­er­a­tions of Arkansas hun­ters have no quail hunt­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. If we haven’t al­ready lost that seg­ment of our hunt­ing cul­ture, we’re on the verge of it. Hunter par­tic­i­pa­tion is the key to suc­cess, and that re­quires con­sumer de­mand.

We have that de­mand with ducks, and the duck hunt­ing pop­u­lar­ity is at a peak right now. Older hun­ters com­plain about the ethics, be­hav­ior and meth­ods of young hun­ters, but young hun­ters are driv­ing that mar­ket.

For quail restora­tion to suc­ceed in Arkansas, quail hunt­ing must be seen as cool and ex­cit­ing. You have to sell peo­ple on it. You have to teach them how to do it and per­suade them to in­vest in it, in terms of buy­ing bird dogs and ded­i­cated quail hunt­ing gear. That’s a ground-up, grass­roots propo­si­tion.

Cook men­tioned his own ex­pe­ri­ence as a duck hunter to il­lus­trate how an up­land bird stamp might suc­ceed.

“I can only re­fer to my own prac­tices ev­ery year,” Cook said. “I buy two state duck stamps and two fed­eral duck stamps ev­ery year be­cause that con­ser­va­tion money is go­ing to some­thing I en­joy. I [am] buy­ing that ex­tra stamp to put my own in­vest­ment into what I’m do­ing.”

Cook said his late fa­ther, an avid bird­hunter, would ap­prove of an up­land bird stamp.

“If this op­por­tu­nity had been there, he would have bought it, and so would other avid bird­hunters I know,” Cook said.

Col­cla­sure said 21 states have some vari­a­tion of an up­land bird hunt­ing stamp. They range in cost from $5-$40.

It takes a lot of en­ergy to over­come in­er­tia, es­pe­cially when it comes to a re­source that we take for granted. Ul­ti­mately, the only thing that re­ally mat­ters is cre­at­ing or im­prov­ing quail habi­tat. If you build it, the quail will come.

If quail are abun­dant, they are mar­ketable. Hun­ters will fol­low them, and an in­dus­try will sprout around them.

Cre­at­ing an up­land bird hunt­ing stamp is a big state­ment, but it can­not be a stand­alone deal. It has to be the push that moves the stone, but it takes con­tin­ual ef­fort to roll the stone.

Five years ago, I be­lieved the quail age had ended in Arkansas.

Now, I’m en­cour­aged that a new quail age is be­gin­ning.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.