The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Quail Forever are teaming up to provide a special landowner workshop devoted to northern bobwhite management in southeast Arkansas. The workshop will begin at 6 p.m. March 13 at the AGFC Regional Office in Monticello.
With vast farming operations in rice, wetlands managed for waterfowl and large stands of pine timberland, southeast Arkansas is a far different landscape than the Ouachita and Ozark mountain regions where quail populations have fared better. However, this area of the state has some excellent potential to create good bobwhite habitat and hunting experiences. But it’s going to take the help of private landowners who want to improve wildlife habitat on their holdings.
“Pine management can provide excellent quail habitat,” said Austin Klais, farm bill biologist with Quail Forever. “In typical forestry rotations, you’d thin the stand anyway. We are just looking at heavier thinning to create a more open pine forest and then maintaining a layer of native grasses and forbs underneath with prescribed burning.”
Klais says presenters at the workshop will give details about possible ways landowners can implement such practices on their land, as well as some that they may not have thought of, such as silvopasture.
“You can let cattle graze on the native grasses underneath the pines to maintain the grass layer and see a moderate financial benefit from the habitat as well,” Klais said.
Quail Forever, AGFC and Natural Resource Conservation Service conservationists also will be on hand to offer one-on-one opportunities to talk and plan new strategies for landowners interested in helping bring back the bobwhite quail. In many instances, Farm Bill programs and other incentives can help offset the cost of establishing the habitat, even with pine plantations.
“We want to meet new landowners and work with them as much as possible to improve the wildlife habitat on their land,” said Bubba Groves, private lands biologist for southeast Arkansas. “It may be sitting down with them to discuss basic changes to their current practices, or it may be as in-depth as coming out to their property, providing a free management plan and loaning some of the equipment they’ll need. Depending on what’s needed, we may be able to provide native grass and wildflower seed and even get boots on the ground to help them do the work needed for such practices as prescribed fire and herbicide treatments. All for free.”
Ultimately, both Groves and Klais want to increase the habitat on the ground for northern bobwhite, but many other species benefit from this management as well.
“Turkeys, deer and a wide variety of songbirds and nongame animals thrive in good quail habitat,” Groves said. “So even though the workshop is focused on quail, anyone looking to improve wildlife habitat on their property for any species is welcome to attend and visit with us.”
Call Groves at 870-367-3553 to learn more about the workshop and register. Food will be provided to those who register in advance.
Private lands biologists can help landowners with customized plans, equipment, seed and even help apply for grants to get habitat on the ground.