By Vic Venters
As wild-quail populations nose-dived in the Southeast in the 1980s, relative declines on even well-managed private plantations in north Florida and south Georgia proved that they, too, were not immune. In the early ’90s alarmed owners turned to the region’s top biologists—notably at Auburn University’s School of Forestry & Wildlife Sciences and Tallahassee’s Tall Timbers Research Station—and funded a series of large-scale research projects that followed thousands of radio-tracked quail across numerous private properties in several states for more than two decades. Information gleaned has provided unprecedented insight into quail ecology and has updated and altered techniques and management philosophies for wild bobwhites in an era of superabundant predators and habitat degradation on a landscape scale.
Today the fruit of lessons learned is wild-quail populations on plantations that are not only at historic highs but also more stable year to year than ever recorded. In Tall Timbers’ Bobwhite Quail Management Handbook, edited by William E. Palmer and D. Clay Sisson, these intensive management principles are thoroughly illustrated and explained. Written primarily for professional land managers by seven biologists affiliated with TTRS, the Handbook is also accessible and understandable to the lay reader. Although some guidelines apply principally to large private properties, other techniques could be initiated on public lands region-wide. Then the bird—and sporting traditions—the South has almost lost might be gained once again.