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Success … With No Silver Bullets

Silver BulletBy Ben Robinson

Success [suh k-ses] (n) – the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted.

What a great word.  And so much better than her distant cousin, failure.  We all want success.  Most of us don’t start the day ready to fail.  Note: if you do, drink another cup of coffee…  Just a small taste of success can motivate even the most uninspired.

As a quail manager, I’m no different than the rest of you {please refrain from commenting on that one}.  You want more quail, I want more quail.  See, we really aren’t that different.  In terms of quail restoration, success to each of us can mean different things: more birds in the hunting vest or more whistles of bobwhite heard from the front porch.  However, it’s probably safe to say that our idea of success in the quail arena is very similar.  What may be different, though, is how that success is achieved.  Allow me to elaborate.

Rare is the week that I don’t receive at least one phone call from a landowner who wants more quail.  And rare is the call that doesn’t mention one of the many romanticized methods of quail management that I so dearly refer to as a “silver bullet”.

Pen-raised birds, systems that act as a surrogate mother, predator control, supplemental feeding…  The list goes on.  Don’t get me wrong, much research has been done on many of these tactics.  Supplemental feeding, for example, may have its place, but as a whole these quick fixes have been attempted many times over the years.  The results typically don’t fit the definition above, because while you may have a desired outcome, it’s usually not achieved.

Fast-forward to what many have considered Kentucky’s most successful quail restoration endeavor of modern times: Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.  Prior to 2008 the property manager estimated that his 3,000 acre property held 6-10 wild coveys.  Since then, nearly 1,000 acres of low quality habitat has been converted to excellent cover in a short amount of time.  And in that same amount of time our surveys indicate that we went from an estimated 6-10 wild coveys to more than 35!

Success!  And guess what?  We did this with no silver bullets.  We skipped the lowly silver and went straight for the gold – good habitat.  Many might argue that the addition of pen-raised birds or surrogate systems would only increase our quail numbers.  What do you think?