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11. Harvest Management

Hernández, Fidel Texas A&M University Press 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)

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6. Food Management

Hernández, Fidel Texas A&M University Press 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.

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12. Management Examples

Hernández, Fidel Texas A&M University Press 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.

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8. Cover Management

Hernández, Fidel Texas A&M University Press 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.

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5. Grazing Management

Hernández, Fidel Texas A&M University Press 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.

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