The Bobwhite Quail
When you talk about pressure and what's killing the quail populations, you'll get a lot of opinions. You know what they say about opinions, "They're like blankety blanks, everyone has one."
I am growing so tired and weary of hearing the 'magic bullet' solution to quail management. I'm told in serious tones "It's the fire ants!", "It's the hawks!", "It's the feral house cats!"....why yes, it is all of that but much more than that. It's much deeper than you realize.
I do not profess to be anything close to an expert on quail but I am a self professed student of bobwhite quail. I believe it in my best interest to understand the bird that I pursue so that I can make logical decisions about whether to hunt an area or not, whether to hunt that year or not, etc.
First off, I recommend to anyone that wants to understand wild quail take the time to purchase the book 'On Bobwhites' by Fred S. Guthery. Fred S. Guthery is one of the leading experts on bobwhite quail in the Southwest and southern Midwest (excerpted from 'On Bobwhites' Fred S. Guthery).
This book has helped me to understand bobwhite quail tremendously. It has dispelled myths that are still passed on to this day and cited new evidence from radio telemetry studies about wild quail behavior. Too many of us are guilty of passing on erroneous information that we heard somewhere rather than citing facts.
It's important for us to enjoy bobwhites to pass the facts because you never know who will use your 'facts' to manage quail. If you are going to pass info, start doing some research on your own because there are those who will listen to you, the quail hunter, as if you know some secret about quail populations and possibly take some action based on what you tell them.
According to Fred, here are some "things that kill quail: rattlesnakes, bull snakes, coach whips, Cooper's hawks, red-tailed hawks, grackles, crows, other birds, bobcats, coyotes, striped skunks, gray foxes, house cats, dogs, ground squirrels, other mammals, disease, accidents, blizzards, old age, and humans." (excerpted page 11, 'On Bobwhites').
To quote Guthery, "The effect of any one predator species on bobwhite populations decreases as the diversity of predators increases", page 12, 'On Bobwhites').
My take on it is that if you have a ton of predators, no one predator is the demise of any one thing, however, Fred likens the ecology of bobwhite quail to that of a spider web. No one strand of the web clipped alone makes a significant difference. Fred even discusses total predator control studies that merely produced a 'slight' increase in quail populations. His point, I guess, is that predatory management by itself is not necessarily a cure for the ailing bobwhite. Landscape, encroachment of man, etc. and many other factors affect the bobwhite quail.
Fred goes on to write later in his book about determinate and indeterminate layers of nesting and whether predator control does help quail. He answers this question in the book.
More importantly, Fred speaks of habitat management which is a key tool to managing the bobwhite quail.
Do not read Fred's book and expect to find the one 'Golden Rule' that will help you fix your ailing quail populations. What you will find is a myriad of intertwined and related information that will help to give you an overall picture of quail. THERE IS NOT ONE SINGLE MAGICAL SOLUTION. As soon as you accept that fact, then you can start making progress towards the goal of being a good quail steward.
I strongly recommend everyone join Quail Unlimited, do some credible research, take some action and help contribute to the cure!
(Note: I do not get any commission from QU, however, I do get a small commission if you purchase the book through my Amazon.com link which does not raise the price of the book - You may choose to purchase it elsewhere which is ok with me as I feel it is important that we all understand the very bird we so avidly pursue)
Y'all take care.
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