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MONDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2007
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Expect drought to affect quail hunting

Hunting for bobwhite quail is popular across northern and central Alabama, but because of the extreme drought, it isnít known yet if quail will be easy to find this year.

Quail season in Alabama is Nov. 15 through Feb. 29, with a bag limit of 12 a day and 12 in possession. It could be that hunters who harvest a limit of wild quail will consider themselves lucky.

Quail Forever recently issued news releases concerning quail, habitat and the droughtís effect on hunting.

QF says the drought across large portions of the Southeast didnít help quail production this year. Due to the poor weather conditions, including lack of rainfall and the continued loss of habitat, quail populations are dwindling.

From 1980 to 2000, bobwhite numbers dropped by about 70 percent. That percentage could be much worse in some states than in others.

Last fall, the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, members of which manage wildlife in 16 states, said quail could disappear from some areas in the South by 2010.

Even the thought of that is alarming enough for serious hunters. If it happens to quail, other species surely would be affected.

The National Audubon Society recently announced that the population of the northern bobwhite quail has declined by 82 percent over the past 40 years. Quail populations were estimated to be about 31 million in 1967. Today, that number in the U.S. is estimated at 5.5 million.

In a little more than two years of existence, Quail Forever has formed more than 90 chapters in 26 states. They are promoting the Conservation Reserve Programís CP-33 Practice (bobwhite buffers) to provide transitional habitat along row crops for quail nesting. Nationwide, more than 161,000 CP-33 acres have been enrolled, and quail populations on those acres are already showing signs of improvement.

On a larger scale, QF is educating policymakers on the needs of quail, during the 2007 Farm Bill debate. The billís conservation title influences land management decisions on over 50 million acres nationwide. The Farm Bill will be introduced in the U.S. Senate soon, meaning now is the time to contact your stateís senators and let them know you want a farm bill with a strong conservation title.

Quail Forever gave the following assessment of Alabama: Drought conditions from spring through summer has quail production looking poor. Over the past five years, Alabama hunters have harvested between 200,000 and 300,000 bobwhites per season.

Donít let those numbers fool you, as the harvest is not made up entirely of wild quail. An unknown number are released birds, and the overall harvest remains one-tenth of what it was in the 1960s and 1970s.

QF says fescue, forestation and farming (of the intensified variety), are the main culprits diminishing quail habitat.

Quail Forever also said some positives signs are mixed in with all the negatives. They said a significant amount of longleaf pine and native grass is been restored. That in itself speaks well for Alabama.

AWF

The Alabama Wildlife Federation Wild Game Cook-off will be Tuesday at Riverwalk Marina. This is one of the biggest outdoor events in Decatur each year. Cooking teams should have food ready for those in attendance at about 5:30 p.m.

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Paul Stackhouse
Outdoors
Paul Stackhouse

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