2,286 Acres Leesburg, GA
Fox Creek Plantation quail numbers are very strong under existing traditional quail management, such as prescribed burning the uplands, strategic timber harvests, mowing and disking to create more edge, planting plots and strips for cover/food, seasonal supplemental feeding, and limited predator control. Quail courses are well-defined by roads and hardwood drainages and are set up for classic Southwest Georgia quail hunting. The southern half of the property generally has more open “plantation” woodlands, due in part to more frequent burning, and more fields and plots. While the northern half is generally more densely forested, it still has classic open woods and excellent quail hunting. Quail plots of bicolor lespedeza and milo strips/plots are well distributed throughout all the uplands, and a network of hunting trails provides easy access.
Future Management Potential
While Fox Creek is currently home to
high numbers of wild quail, even by
Plantation-Belt standards, the following
additional management steps will further
enhance quail numbersif the goal is to
maximize quail hunting opportunities.
Thin the thicker upland timber stands, especially on the north half. This will allow sunlight to reach the forest floor to grow more of the understory plants quail need for food and cover.
Burn 70-75% of the primary quail pine uplands annually, leaving about 25-30% unburned in various sized areas ranging from 1 to 10 acres. Include the unburned areas in next year’s burning rotation.
Increase “edge” by increased disking and mowing, primarily in the early fall.
Intensify predator control, which may require professional help.
Start a consistent, widespread supplemental feeding program. Broadcast grains starting in early fall and continue through the summer months. Don’t just feed the roads, thus exposing the birds to predation, but also broadcast into cover.
Add more food plots for better food and cover and even more edge. The old standbys – milo, sorghum, corn, millet, etc. – are always good. One of our favorite perennial plots, Tecomate Monster Mix, (white clover and chicory, and we like to throw in some alfalfa) will provide excellent quail food and cover and good spring bugging grounds when they need the extra protein for egg production. We have found that quail really use Tecomate Horn-maker Extreme plots (sunn hemp and forage cowpeas) because it grows in such thick stands that the “floor” beneath is clear for quail to maneuver in.
Intensified management will certainly result in more quail and better hunting, but there’s a limit to the pressure wild quail can take during a season. Plus, wild quail natural mortality is relentless, as much as 80% a year. Early fall numbers erode from bad weather, predators, accidents, illnesses, you name it, without a shot ever being fired. Of course, good food and cover, healthy birds and fewer predators slows and lowers losses.
Now, factor in hunting pressure. On many plantations, the fast-paced wild quail hunting of early season understandably slows as season progresses. When and to what degree depend in large part on hunting pressure. To stretch out great hunting, some plantations carefully control hunting pressure, like hunting a course no more than once every 10 days of so and only shooting covey rises, but other plantations take more aggressive action.
Many plantations elect to supplement wild quail with specially raised pen birds stocked into the wild one or more times over the season. The goal is to have them “adopted” by existing coveys and soon behave like wild birds. We realize pen-raised birds are a no-no for some, but with the right birds and stocking strategy, it is possible to closely simulate wild bird hunting with supplemental stockings. Pen-rearing techniques and stocking strategies have greatly improved in recent years, resulting in birds with higher survival rates that behave and perform much like wild birds. With the resources tied up on a quail plantation, an option for more recreational return may be of interest.