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For Bobwhites, Scale Matters

By John Morgan


The first thing that comes to my mind when you mention the word “scale” is what damage the last buffet did to my waistline!  In the bobwhite world, scale has a far different meaning.  The reason we’ve had so much success with bobwhite on Shaker Village has everything to do with scale, and believe me, the bobs are fat and happy!

Scale at Shaker Village isn’t about the buffet of weed seeds and bugs the habitat produced, but about the extent of the project area.  Words simply can’t express what a 1,000-acres of bobwhite habitat looks like in a sea of overgrazed and hayed fescue!  Only walking or driving around puts the project in the right perspective.  Every field you come to that was once a wasteland is now a Mecca.  Yep, my prose didn’t even do it justice!

For at least two decades, we have been preaching that bobwhite need habitat.  We’ve spent the vast majority of those years scattering patches of bobwhite habitat over a 25.6 million-acre state.  Occasionally,  we do a project 50 acres or larger that would generate a covey or two, and a big time project might be a couple hundred acres and get us a half dozen coveys.   Sometimes we do projects of similar size and get absolutely nothing!  Truth be told, we didn’t really know if we’d get quail or not.

Today, we still can’t guarantee a bobwhite response, but we’re trying to learn from our 20 years of experience.  The keys to getting a good quail response are based on two primary factors – having some quail to begin with and scale. Both were present at Shaker Village with 6 -10 wild coveys to build from and then 1,000-acres of new habitat created in a two-year period.  Bobwhite, known for their boom and bust potential, finally showed us what a boom looked like. Viola – 40 coveys! (And bear in mind those 40 coveys came without the “silver bullets” of pen-raised quail releases, predator control or food plots. Stay tuned to future posts for more on those!)

Scale seems like a simple concept. Do a big project and get a big response.  Well, it’s just not that easy.  Lots of things fell into place on the Village — money, manpower, a remnant quail population, and weather all converged to create a Kentucky miracle – “Bob- white!”  Coordinating and making a big project hit the ground is extremely difficult.  Rarely, can you find a circumstance where you can plop 1,000-acres of habitat side by side by side in two year period.  What is more likely is a field here, a field there, a field half mile over there; I think you get my drift!

Getting bobwhite back isn’t easy.  Next time we’ll introduce a third factor to this puzzle called connectivity, because I think I’ve given you enough to chew on this time.  I know many of you have tried bringing back bob.

Why did it work?

Why didn’t it work?

Let’s hear from you.