Quail Like ‘Weeds’ in Iowa
Dray Walter bought a 200-acre farm in Taylor County, IA in 2003. Of the farm, 144 acres were already signed up in the Conservation Reserve Program and the rest of the acres consisted of draws of mature woodlands. All of this CRP was planted to smooth brome (invasive cool season grasses) several years ago.
The main reason that Dray bought the property was for hunting. The first year that he hunted his new property he found one covey of eight quail and very few pheasants. Dismayed by this Dray did some research and learned about the existence of voluntary mid-contract management on CRP … and he already knew the value of native grasses compared to brome.
Dray then went in to his local Farm Service Agency office and got the okay to convert 26 acres of his CRP to a diverse mix of native grasses and forbs, and he signed up for voluntary mid-contract management on his remaining 118 CRP acres.
This past hunting season, only two years after he planted the natives and started disking and applying herbicide to portions of his brome CRP, Dray found five coveys of quail and a good number of pheasants on his property. This is hopefully only the beginning of the transformation of his property from mediocre to exceptional habitat for upland birds.
In Dray Walter’s own words, “I think the major reason for the increase in my quail and pheasant populations is that we created great habitat by encouraging the growth of what most people would call weeds.”