Friday, October 28, 2011

If you're in the neighborhood...

Tall Timbers Research Station, the preeminent organization studying bobwhite ecology in the southeast, is hosting a field day on Friday, November 11th, in the heart of South Carolina's quail country.  The venue is Groton Plantation, a 23,000 acre facility just outside of Estill in Hampton County.  On the docket are a regional hatch report, a presentation on Groton's wild quail management, and an update on the South Carolina Quail Project.  You can download the brochure here.

Flying under the radar even in these parts, the South Carolina Quail Project is an offshoot of Tall Timbers' work focused on habitat unique to the Carolina coastal plain.  They're also experimenting with some new methods of restocking bobwhite populations, an practice that hasn't previously met with much success.  Restocking has worked well with other species (whitetail deer, wild turkey) and success with quail would enable rapid recovery of numbers in areas hit hard by adverse weather or faster building of populations on tracts that have undergone dramatic habitat improvements.  It's no silver bullet but it sure would be a nice tool to have available.

A November day in the South Carolina lowcountry can be as pretty as one anywhere.  Might be too long of a road trip for you western guys but for NC/SC/GA residents it's worth the drive if you can play hooky for a day.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The State of the Bobwhite

Last week the NBCI issued their State of the Bobwhite report (download a copy of it here), a fairly comprehensive 46-pager detailing the warts and all of bobwhites in the United States.  Right about now you're thinking "I already know how bad bobwhite hunting is, seen three coveys in three years and my dog doesn't recognize a picture of one.  Why do I need a report?"

Well, if it were merely to moan about how bad bobwhite hunters have it we wouldn't.  The report bypasses the sobbing, however, and for the most part is heavy on the data.  From my perspective it serves two purposes:  (1) It establishes a benchmark by which all future population trends - up or down - will be measured.  At the same time it establishes the benchmark by which all future restoration efforts will be measured. (2) It issues a call to action, more on this later.

I'm a self-admitted bobwhite goober and read just about everything I get my hands on that pertains to the subject.  And while I won't point any fingers, I know I'm not the only one seeing as every post on this blog that has 'bobwhite' or 'quail' somewhere in the title gets an outsize number of views.  You're in good company.  A bird hunter's passion coupled with an engineer's penchant for numbers makes short work of 46 pages of facts and figures.  Still, it's not for everybody so if you don't have the appetite for all of it I'll boil it down to the most useful nuggets.

The key piece of data I pulled from all of the charts and tables is that on nearly every plot of land being managed properly for bobwhites, the numbers are improving.  Habitat management is not some pipe dream conjured up by biologists to ensure their employment.  It's the only, yes I said only, viable method of restoring bobwhite populations, and it's working.

The problem is that it's not at work in enough places.  For years the NBCI has stated that restoring bobwhite populations requires habitat change on a landscape scale, not on a few random farms throughout the native range. 

One of the lead-ins to the report is a call to action urging states and individuals to step up and get actively involved in bobwhite restoration efforts.  Specifically it asks that individuals:
  • Join a grassland habitat-related conservation organization immediately
  • Support your state's quail initiatives
  • Tell your local Congressional delegation to prioritize Farm Bill conservation programs
Given that I don't have a large farm that I can manage to my heart's content and am instead reliant on public land and/or the generosity of private landowners, I figure the least I can do is toss my hat in the ring.  My efforts are no guarantee that I'll have booming quail populations in the near future, but if a bunch of people like me don't step up it's pretty well guaranteed the hunting around here won't get any better.  So I'm gonna give these three suggestions a go and see where it leads.  And what good is a blog if you can't use it to gloat, vent, praise, criticize, prod, expose and share?  In short, stay tuned..

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Free Boone & Crockett membership

The folks at the Boone & Crockett Club in partnership with Hornady ammunition are working hard to spread the word about current attempts to ban all lead in hunting and fishing.  While there are readily available alternatives in both sports the
uncomfortable fact is that they are more expensive, in some cases ridiculously so.  If such a ban were implemented I'd have to take out a loan to go dove hunting.

The animal rights activists masquerading as environmentalists have their work cut out for them given that there is no scientific evidence to support a blanket ban on lead in any activities where it is not currently prohibited (waterfowling).  That hasn't stopped them from lobbing lawsuits at every government agency in arm's reach, however, the latest target being the EPA.  Imagine that.  What goes around comes around, I guess. 

What you as a wingshooter can do is contact your representatives in Washington and voice your support for S.838, the Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting Protection Act. You can read a summary or the full text of the legislation here.  The short version is that the Act clarifies the EPA's jurisdiction over certain sporting goods, conveniently excluding lead ammunition and fishing tackle from their authority.

In appreciation for your support and for taking the time to learn more about the issues at stake, B & C and Hornady are offering one lucky reader a free Boone & Crockett Club Associate Membership.  Leave a comment below and you're automatically entered.  Wit and wisdom are always appreciated but given that this will be a random drawing these won't earn you any favors with the selection panel, which incidentally is composed of my four year old and my six year old, neither of whom has any idea how to rig a drawing anyway.  Drawing will be held just prior to bedtime on Monday, October 24th.

Friday, October 7, 2011

From the back of the photo bin...

Killing time one evening earlier this week I rummaged through the photos that never found a way into the blog and came across a few that seemed too good to waste.  No extended commentary, just a serving of visual potpourri...




Poor man's field lunch

End of a day

Beginning of the next

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Change is up there with bullfighting and oysters: you either love it or don't care much at all for it.  Compared to the others, unfortunately, it's several degrees harder to avoid.  File it under Life's Not Fair.

Somewhere in the laws of physics must be a formula explaining why so few things in this life are static.  Particularly the good stuff.  Just when you get it right, just when it's all tweaked the way you like it and the planets line up and all is good with the world, something changes and before you know it you're back to square one, trying to make it right and good again.  Einstein should have calculated the energy wasted trying to stop, undo or otherwise negate change.

Earlier this season I finally gave up shooting my standby 870.  It is the first shotgun I ever owned and it's brought down just about every winged species of game in the lower 48, yet this fall I found myself (again) unable to hit much of anything with it.  I left it in the closet a few weeks ago in favor of my "walking gun", a lightweight 20 gauge that I carry on extended hikes, and quickly started dropping birds again.  Change.  I could get all maudlin about it but what's the point?  The 870 will still be there in the closet when I can't hit the ground with that 20 gauge.

Sitting under a pair of trees in the dove field last weekend I looked up at the branches of one, already mostly bare, and fought off the slightest bit of chill from the shade of the other.  Undeniable, unstoppable, once again fall is coming.  Change.  Maybe file it under Sometimes Life Ain't So Bad.