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www.TallTimbers.org
Spring 2017 | Vol 10 | No 2   

 

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A Chapter and Coalition Devoted to Seeing Wild Quail Back on Public Lands in Georgia

The Florida-Georgia Quail Coalition (Quail Coalition), formed in 2015, provides Florida and Georgia Quail Forever Chapters and members a vehicle to turn dollars into habitat on public lands. The Quail Coalition is comprised of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy, and Quail Forever. While anyone can donate to the Quail Coalition, the Southwest Georgia Quail Forever Chapter has poured the fuel to the fire when it comes to making donations for creating quail habitat on Georgia public lands. As a resounding result of Southwest Georgia Chapter’s donations, the Quail Coalition has smashed through financial barriers and added to the habitat being created on public lands where the objective is to achieve huntable densities of wild quail.  Achieving huntable densities of quail requires intensive management activities and serious habitat renovations in the right landscape over a relatively short period. Having these funds available allows for managers to increase the amount of habitat work accomplished each year.

This year an additional 900 acres have been prescribe burned, and more than 50 acres have been converted to brood range on wildlife management areas in Southwest Georgia, bringing managers closer to meeting their objective. Coupled with frequent burning, this essential habitat component, often referred to as “brood habitat” should generally make up 20 percent of the uplands to contribute noticeable value to local populations. One of the more effective methods to achieve optimum brood habitat on a property is through creating open fields (two to five acres), dedicated to providing natural weedy growth where broods can be raised with plenty of food and cover directly adjacent to nesting habitat. To maximize cover and food (mostly insects), in these open fields, managers plow during the winter months of each year.  Sounds easy enough? Well in Georgia where pine trees reign, you can’t create an opening that can be plowed during the winter without removing the stumps first. This leaves managers with two options after harvesting pines from these newly created two to five-acre openings.

Option #1. Wait several years for the stumps to rot and essentially forgo needed brood temporarily, or, Option #2. Bring in some serious machinery and trained operators to remove the stumps, and expedite brood habitat taking a giant step toward achieving huntable densities of quail on public land. Stump removal at this scale takes time and money neither of which is in surplus at state wildlife agencies. The Quail Coalition, powered by chapters like the Southwest Georgia Quail Forever chapter allowed the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division to go with Option #2 and expedite brood range. 

The Quail Coalition worked with Georgia Wildlife Resources Division Region Staff to contract trained equipment operators, who successfully created more than 50 acres of new, stumped, open fields on Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area. These open fields are now ready to be disked next winter, and many will already add brood habitat this breeding season for quail on Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area, all thanks to the dedicated chapter members of the Southwest Georgia Chapter and functionality of the Quail Coalition.

Stump removal           Stump removal-detail

Stump removal to expedite brood habitat. Photos by Heidi Ferguson, Georgia Department of Natural Resources

But it doesn’t stop there! Good quail habitat in Georgia is always two years away from being lost because of aggressive plant succession. The Southwest Georgia Chapter and other Quail Forever members know this and continue to build on more than $60,000 donated to the Quail Coalition. These additional funds are already being allocated to help achieve necessary prescribed burning activities on multiple public lands managed for quail in Southwest Georgia.  

For more information on how you or your chapter can donate to the Florida-Georgia Quail Coalition, and help break barriers, and make a difference to restore and maintain huntable densities of wild quail on public lands in Florida and Georgia, contact Kenny Barker at (850)251-0638 or kbarker@pheasantsforever.org. For more information on how you can enjoy the fruits of these labors, check out GoHuntGeorgia.com and learn how you can apply for a quota quail hunt this year.

The mission of Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy is to foster exemplary land stewardship through research, conservation and education.