Medium 9781603444750

Beef, Brush, and Bobwhites

Views: 2968
Ratings: (0)

In this completely revised Texas A&M University Press edition, Guthery and coauthor Fidel Hernández have breathed new life into a classic work that for more than twenty years has been teaching biologists, managers, and ranchers to "think like a quail."

Updated with the latest research on quail habitat management, predator control, and recent issues such as aflatoxin contamination, Hernández and Guthery help land stewards understand the optimum conditions for encouraging and sustaining quail populations while continuing to manage rangeland for cattle production. Written in a style that is entertaining and easy to read, this book is, in Guthery’s words, "meant to be kept on the dashboard of your pickup." More than 150 helpful photographs and figures, along with supporting tables, accompany the text.

In his foreword to this edition of Beef, Brush, and Bobwhites, respected Texas wildlife photographer Wyman Meinzer writes of how the calls of a covey of bobwhites—or the unfortunate absence of those calls—can remind us "that wildlife and habitat conservation is directly proportional to the quality of stewardship that we bestow on the land."

List price: $24.95

Your Price: $19.96

You Save: 20%

Remix
Remove
 

14 Chapters

Format Buy Remix

1. The Colin Cosmos

ePub

WE ARE ABOUT to embark on a study of the life history and management of one of the most intensively and extensively researched wildlife species—the northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus). Literally thousands of studies have been conducted on the species. It has been the subject of formal investigation since the early 1900s. Name a topic about northern bobwhites, and it likely has been studied by someone somewhere sometime.

Having such a broad and deep research foundation is fortunate for a species, particularly if it is one of conservation and management importance, as is the northern bobwhite (hereafter, bobwhite). However, when you deal with such an extensively and intensively studied species, you sometimes cannot see the trees for the forest. Yes, that is what we intended to say. The trees represent important observations and principles in the forest of knowledge. Our purpose in this book is to select and emphasize observations and principles that lead to a general body of knowledge for understanding and managing these quail.

 

2. General Ecology

ePub

Figure 2.1. Ecological regions of Texas. (Cartography by Eric J. Redeker; Data Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

IMAGINE THAT YOU ARE 6 inches tall, weigh 6 ounces, and would rather walk than fly. Your view of the world would change. A knee-high shrub would become a small tree, a dense stand of bluestem would become an impassable jungle, and a 1-mile jog would telescope into a half marathon.

You are beginning to see the world through the eyes of a bobwhite. These are delicate, typically sedentary birds that require a variety of habitats. They are largely concerned with living space from ground level to a height of about 3 feet on areas usually no larger than 20–30 acres. Managers, therefore, must create crazy-quilt patterns of cover on small areas. “Patches” in the quilt must fulfill all the needs of bobwhites. These include whistling posts, nesting cover, brood cover, feeding cover, resting coverts, and roosting cover. In this chapter we discuss the food, water, and cover needs of bobwhites on a seasonal and annual basis.

 

3. Principles of Habitat Management

ePub

Figure 3.1. Bobwhites sustain a high level of mortality. In any given year, only about 20%–30% of the population will survive. Hawks, particularly Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks, contribute to the high mortality of bobwhites. The hawk in this photograph is a Cooper’s hawk. (Photograph by Steve Bentsen)

EVERY WINTER, thousands of northerners migrate to Texas. Convoys of motor homes, travel trailers, and camper trucks move south like Canada geese (Branta canadensis). These migratory humans travel hundreds of miles to escape blizzards and ice storms for the sunny days and fuzzy warmth of southern Texas.

Northern journeyers pass through several plant communities en route to the Rio Grande Plains. Depending on route, they might see maple-beech (Acer-Fagus) forest, oak-hickory (Quercus-Carya) forest, longleaf pine-wire grass (Pinus palustris-Aristida stricta) savannas, tallgrass prairie, mesquite-silver bluestem (Bothriochloa laguroides) prairie, juniper (Juniperus)-oak woodland, and eventually, South Texas brushland.

 

4. Brush Management

ePub

Figure 4.1. This drawing shows the relationship between the amount of brush and the amount of grasses and forbs. As brush increases, herbaceous cover required by bobwhites decreases.

HOUSES WITHOUT ROOFS for people are like habitats without brush for bobwhites. Without brush, a few hardy birds may occupy the countryside in some years, but most move on to new areas, or die. How much brush do bobwhites need? What are suitable brush cover and structure? What brush-management practices are best for managing bobwhite habitat? In this chapter we describe how to provide bobwhites with the proper amounts and structure of woody cover.

Providing bobwhites with the proper amount of brush cover is a balancing act among what they need, what a landowner tolerates, and what a hunter prefers. A rancher who wants to accommodate bobwhites would like to provide the minimum amount because brush competes with forage for livestock. Hunters also do not want too much brush because it interferes with hunting. On the other end of the balance beam are bobwhites, which need sufficient brush to survive the elements and predators (including hunters).

 

5. Grazing Management

ePub

Figure 5.1. Cattle are remarkable quail managers if used properly. With them you can create bare ground and plant communities necessary for bobwhites. You can do it on every acre of a pasture. (Photograph by Fidel Hernández)

THE COW is a most powerful habitat management tool. Give it a little salt, supplement, and water, and it manages millions of acres of bobwhite cover. Like any powerful tool, however, it can be harmful or helpful, depending on how it is applied. In this chapter, we give the background ecology of grazing, a discussion on grazing systems, and an overview of research findings on the relations between grazing and bobwhites.

A plant community is a group of plant species that commonly occur together. “Plant community” is another name for “bobwhite habitat.” Generally, plant communities change in species composition over time in an orderly, more or less predictable manner—like the swing of a pendulum. By human standards, the direction of change can be forward (succession) or backward (retrogression). The pendulum mode of plant-community change fits best in mesic areas. In arid and semiarid landscapes, plant communities might change in a disorderly, erratic manner. The plant pendulum might even get stuck on an undesirable community from the standpoint of bobwhites and their managers.

 

6. Food Management

ePub

Figure 6.1. Supplemental feeding is a common practice in bobwhite management. However, food has to be limited in order for food management to be effective. Natural foods generally are present in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of bobwhites in most years. (Photograph by Forrest S. Smith)

SO FAR WE HAVE DISCUSSED management that affects bobwhite habitat at fence-line to fence-line scales. We have decided on brush-control patterns and grazing programs. These practices have both direct and indirect effects on food supplies.

In this chapter we discuss more localized practices executed specifically to increase availability of food, including feeding, food plots, strip discing, and patch burning. Before getting into the specifics of management, though, we must set the stage by identifying circumstances that imply a need for increased food supplies. A primer on bobwhite nutrition also is in order because the nutritional needs of bobwhites vary with season and reproductive status. Obviously, food management is designed to satisfy these needs.

 

7. Water, Predators, and Pen-Raised Bobwhites

ePub

Figure 7.1. This map shows where annual precipitation averages 20, 30, and 40 inches. Although soils, length of growing season, and severity of winter affect bobwhite management, annual rainfall is the most powerful influence on much Texas rangeland. Management practices for bobwhites must be fit to rainfall zones.

IN THIS CHAPTER we discuss common practices other than food management that generate just as much interest in the bobwhite world: water, predators, and pen-raised bobwhites.

All animals need water to survive. Laboratory experiments tell us that a 160-gram bobwhite in the wild needs about 18–22 milliliters of water/day to survive. Some of this water, about 3–5 milliliters, can be obtained during the metabolism of food (metabolic water). The rest has to be obtained from outside (exogenous) sources.

Exogenous sources of water may include preformed water (water in food), free water, and dew. The amount of preformed water in food depends on the item. Preformed water may range from as low as 3% of the food-item mass (e.g., dry seeds) to as high as 90% (e.g., green vegetation). Free water may be obtained from a variety of sources such as stock ponds, puddles, and water troughs.

 

8. Cover Management

ePub

Figure 8.1. Woody cover generally is seldom deficient on Texas rangelands. However, in open fields, lack of woody cover can limit bobwhite use of the area. Adding woody cover to this field in the form of brush shelters or brush plantings would improve the habitat for bobwhites. (Photograph by Fidel Hernández)

THERE ARE 2 GENERAL approaches to managing bobwhite habitat: improving the quality of habitat or managing its structure. Practices such as supplemental feeding, food plots, and waterers attempt to manage quality. Other practices, such as half-cutting, grazing exclosures, and controlling nonnative grasses, attempt to manage the structure to maintain or increase usable space. In this chapter we discuss a few practices available to the manager when structural cover is deficient and nonnative grasses pose challenges in bobwhite management.

The amount of brush on southwestern grasslands has increased over the past 200 years. The prairies and savannas that settlers traveled across in the 1800s have become brushlands. Brush probably was present on the landscape—even common in some areas—as indicated by early accounts. However, it likely increased in height and density since the 1800s as a result of suppression of fire, introduction of grazing, and other factors.

 

9. Population Counts

ePub

Figure 9.1. Counts are an important component of management programs. Counts may be used to regulate quail harvest or evaluate the efficacy of habitat management. (Photograph by Fidel Hernández)

THE ECOLOGY OF BOBWHITES comprises 2 main pillars: habitat and population. Biologists and managers often gather information on these components to evaluate quail status. They may spend hours measuring habitat variables such as percent cover of bare ground, forbs, and brush and number of nesting clumps/acre. They also may collect data on the population such as the number of whistling males/stop, coveys flushed/hour, or age ratios. The need for habitat information is clear; it helps guide habitat management. Likewise, population information helps guide population management.

In this and the subsequent chapter we discuss 2 types of population measures—counts and age ratios—that may be used to evaluate bobwhite populations. We also discuss how this information may be used in management.

Why count bobwhites? They existed long before managers started tallying numbers. They also will persist in cattle country without score cards on population size. In fact, counting bobwhites often may not be needed on ranches or leases, especially where harvest is light and habitat is good. The same is not true for states. Game-management agencies must have data on population sizes or trends to evaluate the effects of hunting regulations and to satisfy the concerns of sportsmen and sportswomen.

 

10. Sex and Age Ratios

ePub

Figure 10.1 Sex and age ratio data are relatively easy to collect from harvested bobwhites. This information can be used to gain insight on bobwhite survival and productivity. (Photograph provided by Dale Rollins)

THE SEX AND AGE of bobwhites in the harvest provides information that may be used to index or induce additional attributes of populations such as production, survival, and distribution of hatches during the breeding season. As was the case with population counts, this information may be useful in evaluation of management efforts or habitat types. For example, estimates of average annual survival may be used to evaluate quail responses between a pasture with a grazing system and one with continuous grazing. Hatching distributions may be used to evaluate if supplemental feeding in a pasture influences the length of the hatching season differently than in a pasture with no feeding. Age ratios may be used to compare the productivity of bobwhite populations among habitat types or properties.

 

11. Harvest Management

ePub

SEVERAL QUESTIONS OFTEN arise when discussing bobwhite harvest. “How many bobwhites can I sustainably harvest?” “Should hunting be stopped during drought?” “Is harvest later in the hunting season of more concern than harvest earlier in the season?” “Should daily bag limits and season lengths be reduced?” Many of you have probably pondered these questions.

State agencies establish harvest regulations that provide an overarching framework within which quail hunting may occur. These regulations are important from a regulatory perspective on a statewide basis, but they are not designed to manage harvest at the ranch or lease scale. That is, they do not tell you how many bobwhites you should harvest on your ranch or lease to ensure a sustainable population. Determining and managing harvest in the back 40 falls directly upon the shoulders of the bobwhite manager.

Figure 11.1. Harvest regulations set by state agencies, such as daily bag limits and season lengths, regulate hunting effort but are not designed to regulate harvest. Determining an appropriate harvest for a ranch is the responsibility of the manager. (Photograph by Ricky Linex)

 

12. Management Examples

ePub

Figure 12.1. (a) Brush strips 15 feet wide have been cleared throughout the Vivoritas Ranch. (b) These senderos are established in a crisscross pattern that creates a checkerboard of habitat patches that lend themselves to habitat management. (Photographs by Fidel Hernández)

SO FAR, ALL WE have done regarding bobwhite management is talk the talk. We have discussed how to manage brush and grazing, how to correct habitat deficiencies, and how to manage harvest. Now it is time to walk the walk.

In this chapter we highlight 4 Texas landowners who have used the practices and principles described earlier to create usable space for bobwhites and increase bobwhite populations. Texas is a big state, varied in weather, soils, and management challenges. These managers have adapted practices and techniques in creative and unique ways to reflect their particular circumstances and personality. We have included management examples from the Rio Grande and Rolling Plains to capture the diversity in management approaches that lead to strong bobwhite populations.

 

13. The Business of Bobwhite Management

ePub

Figure 13.1. Quail hunting is big business in Texas. The economy of many rural communities is supplemented by the expenditures of visiting hunters. (Photograph by Dale Rollins)

FALFURRIAS, TEXAS, is the seat of Brooks County in the Rio Grande Plains. About 400 miles to the north is Albany, the seat of Shackelford County in the Rolling Plains. Both of these small, rural towns have an air of bustle and prosperity uncommon in other towns of similar size. The residents there owe part of their good fortune to hunting. Landowners’ revenue from hunting in 2005 exceeded $8.5 million in Brooks County and $1.8 million in Shackelford County.

Bobwhites are big business in Texas. Jason Johnson, an economist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service, surveyed Texas quail hunters in 1999. Johnson reported that the average Quail Unlimited hunter spent about $10,000/year. This translated to a cost of about $438 per bagged bobwhite. If you were buying quail meat by the pound at the grocery store at this rate, it would be about $1,168/ pound.

 

14. Bobwhites and Other Wildlife

ePub

Figure 14.1. Brush is an important component of white-tailed deer habitat. It provides not only a dependable source of food but also important thermal and escape cover. (Photograph by David G. Hewitt)

THOUGH A NOBLE and valuable bird, the bobwhite is not the only important wild animal in cattle country. Sportsmen and sportswomen spend thousands of hours hunting whitetails, a species that raises hundreds of millions of dollars for landowners and merchants and increases the value of Texas real estate by millions. Wild turkeys provide countless hours of recreation in fall and spring. The opening of mourning dove season is no less important than spring break or Super Bowl weekend to many people. Likewise, Texas is blessed with untold numbers of nongame animals that enrich our lives and attract tourist dollars. Ecotourism such as birding and nature photography has become a billion-dollar industry.

Many people want to manage for several species of wildlife. Indeed, hunting leases are more valuable to lessor and lessee alike if there are high populations of more than one game species. People practicing “broad-spectrum” management will surely have questions about the recommendations in this book. How does bobwhite management affect deer? Turkeys? Doves? Nongame species? How does the management of these species affect bobwhites? This chapter addresses these questions.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Chapters

Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Sku
B000000020077
Isbn
9781603444750
File size
9.91 MB
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata