By Thurman Tucker
Metro and Southeast Quail
Houston County in southeastern Minnesota is the main county in Minnesota that the Metro and Southeast Quail Forever Chapter (QF) records bobwhite sightings on an ongoing basis. Quail sightings are running a little above expectation for the year.
Two quite large coveys were reported to QF in late August. Both coveys had about 30 birds apiece. The coveys were in separate parts of the county. Brood sightings were higher than expected. Five separate sightings were reported this year. Last winter was very mild with little snow, and the assumption is wildlife responded very well from last winter, including quail.
2006 – 8
2008 – 22
2009 – 43
2010 – 32
2011 – 21
2012 – 33 (as of 11/10/12)
Of the 17 townships in Houston County, quail have been seen in seven of those this year.
Currently it’s estimated that there are less than a thousand bobwhite quail in Houston County. QFs goal is to increase the quail status to “good” in five years, with the estimated number of birds landing between 3,000 to 5,000. To make this happen, QF recommends improving quail habitat in Houston County.
To accomplish this goal three things are needed:
• Greatly increase edge feathering work around the CP-33 sites
• Increase food plots around the CP-33 sites
• Produce and increase Ragweed (at least a half acre) around the CP-33 sites
QF is pleased to say that there are some really good landowners in Houston and Fillmore Counties that are working with the organization in building “good” quail habitat. Keep in mind that good quail habitat benefits many other forms of wildlife and it improves water quality as well.
There are a lot of landowners willing to work with QF on building habitat for quail and other birds on their land, but the organization lacks funds to handle this interest.
This year the organization had two new landowners in the Metro area, in Dakota and Scott Counties, that were willing to work with QF in developing land for grassland birds. Between the two landowners and their neighbors the opportunity lies on about 300 acres.
Weather and wildlife
November is the unofficial start of winter in Minnesota. Southern Minnesota receives between eight and 10 inches of snow during an average November. For wildlife, especially bobwhite quail, deep snows (four to eight inches or more) get to be quite challenging.
When these three habitat components are in place – good covey headquarters, good food plot and a good stand of ragweed – quail and other birds have a much better chance of surviving the winter.
Last winter was a very mild, and two winters ago, southern Minnesota experienced over 80 inches of snow along with very cold temperatures, which had a negative impact on pheasants and quail.
It is believed that if snow cover stays below 50 inches for the winter, quail will hold their own.
According to the DNR, the pheasant numbers in the SE Minnesota are quite low; however, some people reported an increase in the number of pheasants seen. Turkey numbers are also up this year throughout the county. One species of song birds, namely the meadowlark, is still way down from a decade or so ago.
• The county just experienced a dry fall, meaning that almost all the corn and beans have been harvested, and wildlife, including quail, will not have extra crop food to depend on for this winter.
• The acorn crop is down this fall also, and that’s because the hard frost back in April of this year stunted the acorns. A good number of wildlife eat acorns, including deer, turkeys, blue jays, squirrels and yes, bobwhite quail.
• QF provides weekly information on bobwhite quail and other birds in Minnesota on their Facebook page. You can get this information by going to Quail Forever Minnesota.