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Quail Preserve season open October – March

A quail hunter after the hunt, using a double gun and hunting over bird dogs. Photo by Jeff Dennis.

One of the longest hunting seasons in South Carolina opens October 1 and continues until the end of March. Upland bird hunting for quail at shooting preserves runs for five months during the fall and winter, enabling wingshooters to pick a time that suits them to schedule a hunt. Quail hunting is really all about the bird dogs, and this style of upland hunt allows sportsmen to feel a stronger connection with their canine partners that must locate the birds using scent.

First of all, the plight of wild quail in Colleton County and across the south is indeed a sad subject. Wild quail are not being found in sufficient numbers for a sustainable harvest, and certainly not in great enough numbers to train bird dogs. The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) is a new program that is uniting voices from all across the U.S. to promote quail habitat conservation.

At a recent meeting of the southeastern outdoor press association in East Tennessee, I heard from the leaders of the NBCI program about how states like Virginia and Kentucky are seeing bobwhite quail rebounding, especially where a focus on habitat management was executed. The funny thing is, it seems that the exact type of habitat management that benefits quail also benefits turkeys and deer – but that message has not been heard loud and clear.

The Communications Director for NBCI is John Doty of Knoxville, who enjoys frequent trips to the Lowcountry to visit family. “The habitat management practices that benefit quail also benefit a large variety of forestland songbirds,” said Doty. “But the real nuts and bolts are the thinning of pine tree stands until sunlight can reach the forest floor. After that, a regime of prescribed fire will stimulate the landscape to produce native food and cover that benefits big game too.”

The news that wild turkeys stand to benefit from NBCI practices resonated with the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) based in Edgefield, S.C. Now the NBCI and the NWTF have teamed up to sign a memorandum of understanding to bring biologists and volunteers together for a win – win scenario for both species. “We welcome the challenge of working with NBCI to bring back bobwhite quail to their original numbers,” said NWTF’s James Kennamer.

As NBCI projects begin to demonstrate that quail recovery can succeed, then look for more and more landowners with a passion for bird dogs to join in by managing their lands for quail. While in Tenn. I visited with bird dog man Dale Myers at Jones Hunting Preserve near Jonesborough. “We have five fields we manage for wild quail with mowing, discing and prescribed fire,” said Myers.

This upland hunting preserve offers two hunt lodges and a stable of 30 bird dogs. While most of the hunting is over released quail, it’s not unheard of for some wild quail to be in the mix. “We offer quail enthusiasts a place to bridge the gap between today’s quail populations and the birds that we all hope the NBCI will deliver in the future,” said Myers. To reach Myers call 276-494-3207 and to read more about NBCI visit the Internet at www.BringBackBobwhites.org.

Be sure to read the October 7 edition of the Mark Trail comic strip, which will feature bobwhite quail and NBCI. This nationally syndicated comic emphasizes ecological and environmental themes that focal character Mark Trail, a photographer and outdoor writer, views as worthy of exposure. Both fictional and non-fictional outdoor communicators are glad to share the story of bobwhites on the brink of a comeback!

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (360 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com