How to Get Started
Where to begin in managing for quail, or any wildlife species, has a lot to do with where you are in your level of understanding the species. For landowners familiar with the internet (and since you are here, we know you are), do your homework. There are many links listed on this web site, and an entire world of information is at your fingertips. Remember, the more you know, the better you'll be able to develop questions and further your knowledge.
Some of you will prefer to learn how to manage for quail on your own. Obtaining a good aerial photo of your property, and developing an understating of it, is critical. This is true whether you plan to do it yourself, or incorporate the help of a biologist. There are numerous places from which to get an aerial photo of your land (DigitalGlobe®, Google Maps®, TerraServer®, etc. - note: some may require a subscription or fee). Your local USDA Service Center is a great source for aerial photographs, as well as land management advice and cost-share program information. And there is no substitute for spending time on your land. Walk over your property, develop a feel for the habitat types present and look for habitat management opportunities.
Evaluating quail habitat can be difficult for a beginner. Included on this web site are two habitat evaluation tools that will help you (the Habitat Evaluation Quick Reference, and the Missouri Wildlife Habitat Appraisal Guide for Quail (PDF)). But if you are lost, have questions, or want "on the ground" advice, your best bet is to contact a Department of Game and Inland Fisheries District Wildlife Biologist in your area. They can help you by answering questions over the phone, sending you more information, or by making a site visit if deemed necessary.
Not every property has potential for quail. You must be realistic in your evaluation. Quail generally need from 25 to 50 acres of good habitat to thrive. Quail in Virginia often need as much as 200 acres per covey to find everything they need in abundance. Good quail habitat generally consists of a high percentage of open land, in native shrubs, weeds and grasses. It may also include thinned timber stands particularly loblolly, short-leaf or long-leaf pines, and can include heavily thinned hardwood stands, if properly managed. Further, this habitat should not be isolated. An island of quail habitat, in a sea of poor habitat will not be productive for quail. Large tracts of unbroken, mature hardwood forest provide little if anything for quail and a property owner should not attempt to turn such land into quail habitat. The expense, both monetary, and through reduction of habitat for other species, make it imprudent. Such a property provides for numerous species that benefit from mature forests. In this situation, the landowner should strive to learn about, manage for, and appreciate the species adapted to forest land conditions.
If you have evaluated your land, found ample opportunity to manage for quail and want to take the next step, determine your ability to manage. Do you own a tractor? Do you have attachments for it such as, a disk, herbicide spray rig and seeder? If not, can you buy, rent or borrow such tools? Will you have time to manage for quail? Quail habitat management is an active endeavor. Keeping cover in an early-successional stage for quail usually requires annual work in the form of disking, planting, herbiciding, or burning.
If you have the means, time and money to manage, you may want to inquire about wildlife habitat cost-share programs. There are several programs available through the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), or the USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA). Links to their web sites are available under our Getting Started section. Your land may qualify for: the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, the Conservation Reserve Program (particularly CP-33 - Habitat Buffers for Bobwhite on Cropland), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and others. These programs will help defray the costs for things like converting fescue to more beneficial wildlife cover, establishing field borders around crop fields and conducting under story prescribed burning. They do not pay for annual "food plots." Some of the programs offer signing bonuses, and acreage based rental payments. Your local USDA Service Center can be located via their websites, and is under US Government listings in your area phone book. Their staff will be able to tell if you if your land qualifies for any of these programs and will get your enrollment application started if so.
Well, the hardest thing in life sometimes is finding the gumption to get started, and by visiting this site, you've already begun. Good luck! Remember to enjoy this journey.