If you are like me, you are already planning for the upcoming quail season. You have begun mapping out the order of the plum thickets you plan to hunt. In your spare time, you daydream about opening day, walking through knee to waist-high native grass, following an overly energetic shorthair. While you are walking along enjoying the scenery, the dog goes on point. As you ease into position, the covey flies up from in front of the dog. After finally choosing a target and taking aim, the office phone rings and ends your perfect scenario.
Proper landscape management for quail is required to achieve this scenario. The habitat available for this upcoming season is a result of current-year and past-year habitat management. Management practices affecting habitat include grazing, mowing or haying, prescribed fire or wildfire, and brush or weed management. These tools and Mother Nature are the primary methods by which landscape managers manipulate wildlife habitat for the upcoming hunting season. Habitat management is an ongoing practice with tools that must be implemented in the right place and at the right time.
Habitat management, however, should be done in conjunction with population surveys. Having an understanding of what the given population is doing gives land managers the ability to address certain habitat requirements that might otherwise go unnoticed, such as nesting or roosting cover. Understanding the relationship between the seasonal habitat needs of quail or any other animal, for that matter is the cornerstone of any wildlife management program. Without working knowledge of this relationship, land managers may just spin their wheels and spend money on unneeded landuse practices. We all know it is hard to stretch our hard-earned dollars these days, so why do something that is not necessary?
In Oct., 2005, Russell Stevens wrote an Ag News and Views article about the economic compatibility of grazing cattle and quail management. Stevens looked at the economic potential of 1,000 acres with good quality native grass and a carrying capacity of one cow per 10 acres. He found that if 100 acres of brush were added and the cattle herd was decreased by 10 head, the property would have the potential of being leased for $3 to $6 per acre to an avid quail hunter. In this scenario, if the grazing rights were leased out for $150 per animal unit per year, you would lose an estimated $1,500 from the income generated from livestock grazing, but would gain $3,000 to $6,000 in wildlife income. This is just one of many examples where habitat and population management have a significant effect on the ranch's operating budget.
The above issues are important factors facing land managers every day. From Oct. 11 through 13 in Wichita Falls, Texas, the Red River Quail Symposium will be held in an effort to further the knowledge base of quail enthusiasts across the southern Great Plains. This symposium will consist of guided tours on the Birdwell and Clark Ranch and the Harvey Ranch. Topics to be covered on tours include plant identification, supplemental feeding, food plots, habitat management, cost-share practices, hunter-covey interactions, grazing and lease pricing. One day of the symposium will be held in Wichita Falls at the Multi-Purpose Event Center. The scheduled speakers will cover issues such as grazing, brush management, economic impacts of hunting, state regulations and bag limits, incentives and resources for habitat management, and quail cooperatives.
This is an important meeting for current and future quail managers across our region. A modified version of the old saying can even be applied to the dog handler: "A dog is never too old to learn a new trick."
For registration and lodging details, call 1-800-TEX-WILD (1-800-839-9453) or go online to www.texas-wildlife.org.