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..


  1. I love to hear my Dad and his cousins talk about bird hunting on the family farm in the good ole' days. We still chase 'em every year, but coveys are getting fewer and farther between. Our problem here in South Georgia is not having birds, but having huntable birds. The quail that live in swamp bottoms and pine thickets are hard to hunt!

  2. Similar problem here. There's some really good habitat in the lower part of our state but a whole lot of it's on private plantations. The upside is that habitat improvement on neighboring lands pays off exponentially. And I'm with you on the swamp bottoms - those are best left to hog hunters.

  3. Well said. As a dear friend says "often when all is said and done, more is said than done." Your specific calls to action are right on and very helpful.