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Today is June 3, 2020

Outdoors

Hope for the Bobwhite

By Tony Kinton

Hope for the Bobwhite

There is nothing short of magic in the point of a fine bird dog. It is a ballet of wildness.

I am reasonably affectionate toward and tolerably accepting of a great many outdoor items and activities. But my flaming passion is ignited by bird hunting and properly-devised shotguns. Make mine twin-tubed, please.

Twenty-eight gauge.

These elements — game and shotgun — smack solidly of quail hunting.

During those grand years that marked the half-way point of the 20th century, I was one for whom quail hunting was a common occurrence. An after-school hunter could locate quail and bring four or five home for supper if his or her shooting were good. Shooting was good back then because we had all grown up doing it. Sadly, few if any quail are now available.

But wait. That assumption is not absolute truth. For certain there are quail preserves. I have been a practitioner in this arena of quail hunting for a couple decades now and find most venues highly agreeable. But today’s reality mitigates covey rise after covey rise in the wild. Not so with preserves. Quail abound on these. There may, however, be hope on the horizon for enhanced wild hunting.

In early February, I had the distinct pleasure of hunting Prairie Wildlife (prairiewildlife.com) just outside West Point. Along for the experience were Jimmy Bryan, owner of Prairie Wildlife, and Dr. Mark McConnell, assistant professor of Upland Birds at Mississippi State University. McConnell works closely with Jimmy in the management scheme of Prairie Wildlife and hosts seminars there geared to quail management. His work is productive.

That morning found us in an expansive broom sedge field. My comrades were shooting 12s, but I uncased and assembled a Mossberg Silver Reserve II in .410. Eyebrows raised. By the end of that hunt, however, sentiments had morphed into calm acceptance. The .410 worked wonderfully well. I’ll from this point forward divide an equal penchant between the 28 and .410.

We found quail. Everywhere! And we talked management. McConnell highlighted his concept of thirds that satisfy the needs of quail: 1/3 native grasses, 1/3 annual forbs and 1/3 shrub cover, these interspersed throughout a given property. Some 900 acres of the 6,400 making up Prairie Wildlife have been converted into native grasses. And many of these hold coveys of wild birds.

Will practices such as these restore quail to former habitats? Only time — and a great deal of effort — will tell. But given enough acreage and proper management, it could happen. Perhaps quail will never return to the extent they once were, but management could produce benefits, these resulting in boisterous and unnerving covey rises of that grandest bird ever, the Bobwhite.

Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. He lives in Carthage and is a Central Electric member. Visit www.tonykinton.com for more information.

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