The South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative

Upstate Outdoors
September 22, 2017 - 12:13 pm

Back in the day of our fathers and grandfathers, the populations of bobwhite quail in South Carolina rivalled that of Texas and Georgia. However, changes in land use and land management practices, couples with other environmental factors, have seen a sharp decline in this most ubiquitous of game birds across the state.

In an attempt to counter the decline, The South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative was established in 2015 to restore bobwhite populations to early-1980s levels. Based on a plan written by the SC Department of Natural Resources and supported nationally by the NBCI (National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative), the work is directed by the SC Quail Council, a group of government and non-governmental agencies, organizations, and individual landowners.

Over the last 30 years, segmented efforts have resulted in little results for the state’s quail population. Unlike deer or turkey, which can and do adapt to changing land use and are more than capable of surviving in segmented pockets, bobwhite quail require a more continuous environment across the state.

Growing bobwhites requires many parties working together on timber management, prescribed fire, planting, discing, cutting, funding and cooperation between neighboring landowners across a wide landscape.

Until now, a coordinated effort to restore bobwhite quail and suitable quail habitat on a coordinated statewide basis had not existed.

“Bobwhite quail used to thrive in South Carolina primarily based on the land use of row cropping and share cropping and now a lot of that type agriculture has gone away,” said Mark Coleman, SCBI Outreach Committee Member. “The South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative is a statewide effort, working to help land owners and lease holders create and maintain the type of habitat that will help these wild birds thrive.” 

Probably the biggest encroachment on quail habitat both here in South Carolina and across the southeast has been land use change from agricultural pursuits to urban development and timber management, particularly growing stands of longleaf and loblolly pine tree for timber and paper products.

But the two goals are not mutually exclusive. While growing quail in the suburbs is not feasible, making stands of pine plantations more conducive to quail habitat certainly is. It’s also possible in areas to make areas that are still predominantly agricultural more quail-hospitable.

To this end, the South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative provides many services and cost share opportunities to landowners who are interested in providing quality habitat for bobwhite quail in the state. This effort starts by providing technical assistance on land management practices that not only benefit quail, but enhance overall hunting land health for growing other game species such as deer, turkey, and rabbits.

At the meat end, the SCBI also offers financial assistance or cost share arrangements administered through several of it’s partner agencies to offset costs associated with effecting changes in land use.

Another valuable asset offered by the organization is the availability of tools and equipment that can be provided or rented to plow firebreaks for planting food sources, offering prescribed burning services, and providing seed and shrubbery available for purchase to enhance a landowner’s habitat. 

The SCBI is also constantly looking for volunteers to do birds counts or fox squirrel surveys. There may be opportunities to assist with annual surveys on the focal areas around the state. The organization frequently organizes volunteers willing to put in the time and effort to go through training to learn to identify several grassland bird species of concern by sight and sound and the willingness to assist in several days of monitoring various wildlife populations throughout the year.

“That’s what we are here for,” said Coleman. “We want people of all walks to get involved, to call us and say what can I do to get more bobwhites on my land or what can I do to help these wild birds recover?”

******************

The SCBI and Upstate SC Chapter of Quail Forever will be at Cabela's in Greenville on September 30 from 10am-3pm talking bobwhites, bird hunting, and conservation. Experts will be answering questions, eagerly listening to what you'd like to see more of and showing you how to get more quail on your favorite piece of land.

***************************

Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week’s guest will be Rick Counts from Quality Deer Management Association of SC. Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

******************

The Bobwhite Quail’s road to recovery in the state is dependent on coordinated land use management. That is the goal of the South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative. Photo by Phillip Gentry.

Comments ()