“Deer hunters will march on the steps of the capitol to protest buck regulations; but quail hunters just go away.”
–A frustrated New Jersey quail hunter/conservationist
“If quail hunters made as much noise as bear hunters, this agency would be doing more for quail.”
–A southeastern wildlife agency administrator, September 2011
Which comes first – quail hunter action or agency action? I hear both sides, almost every day. The “State of the Bobwhite” report, released in October by the NBCI (www.bringbackbobwhites.org), illuminated that much more needs to be done simultaneously at federal, state and local levels to address the bleak state of grassland bird conservation. But whose move is it?
Quail hunters often contend that if wildlife agencies would do more to restore quail, increased hunter numbers and public support would follow. Conversely, a common refrain from agency commissioners and administrators is there aren’t enough quail hunters to warrant so much attention and resources; and those that are left don’t speak up. In other words, deer pay the bills and bear hunters speak up, but quail hunters do neither.
Both views have some merit, but neither helps move us forward.
Here’s where we stand: the states and the quail technical experts already have taken the first big leadership steps – developing the NBCI, and providing the initial push with their quail organization partners to get it going. Momentum is building, but not big enough or fast enough. Now it’s time for legions of individual quail hunters to add their collective weight to the movement.
Wildlife agency commissioners, board members and administrators are human, and respond to squeaky wheels. I used to be a mid-level administrator for a southeastern state wildlife agency, and saw firsthand how readily deer hunters will storm the castle to try to get their way, while quail hunters are silent and invisible. Deer hunters make things happen. Quail hunters could learn lessons from them.
To those quail hunters and enthusiasts who already are actively engaged in and supportive of grassland habitat conservation, “Thank you!” Your continuing support and engagement is crucial. To the majority who care but are not yet active, now is the time; no more excuses. We cannot do it without you.
If throngs of quail hunters in all 25 NBCI states began making noise worthy of the urgency of the problem, agencies would begin to notice and respond. Respectful prodding may be needed in some places, especially at first. But over the longer term, quail hunters need to engage their state wildlife agency and commission with positive reinforcement – constructive interaction that is supportive of the agency’s efforts.
The NBCI Management Board, itself—comprised largely of state wildlife agency administrators—challenged quail enthusiasts to get active, to help grow this movement. Some specific actions that individual quail hunters can and need to take that add value are:
1. Join one or more organizations that work for quail habitat conservation;
- Every single person who cares about quail has a stewardship responsibility to join;
Provide local leadership and manpower to help implement quail focal areas.
2. Contact your state agency quail coordinator (www.bringbackbobwhites.org) ;
- Find out what is already going on for quail in your state;
Ask if the NBCI 2.0 has been stepped down and tailored to your state;
Offer help, such as with habitat conservation or bird counts on focal areas.
3. Attend and speak up at commission or board meetings of your state wildlife agency;
- Promote the NBCI and its habitat restoration goals;
Be positive, supportive and appreciative of ongoing quail work;
Ask for high priority and more resources for quail;
The human core of quail conservation is why I contend ad nauseam that bobwhite restoration is about “people, politics and money.” Quail hunters who “go away” will not win political support. Quail hunters who “go away” will not influence agency policies and spending. Quail hunters who “go away” will not foster positive change. The NBCI needs all quail hunters and enthusiasts to get actively engaged, the sooner the better.