Quail hunting season is in full swing, at least on South Carolina's quail preserves. While the population of wild native quail in South Carolina is virtually nonexistant, many property managers are doing all they can to see that change. In years past, most preserves released a certain number of quail--usually about 100 birds per 4 hunters--just before a hunt. Not much thought was given to what happened to the quail that made it through the hunt, and most were killed by fire ants, hawks, and foxes.
But these days, thanks to quail restoration programs and seminars offered by the National Bobwhite Technical Committee and Quail Unlimited, many plantations are taking steps to help these released quail make it as full time inhabitants of their land, leading to breeding populations of the bobwhite. Planting native grasses and doing controlled burns are a couple of practices land managers can engage in to boost survival chances of released birds, and attract what few wild birds may be in the area.
Bulk releases are also becoming popular on hunting preserves. Instead of just releasing 100 birds prior to a hunt, quail are released in bigger numbers several times a year. While this is a bit more expensive up front, it will pay off in the long run as long as other measures are taken to help restore the population of this important gamebird.
PhotosByBrianCope: A Sumter County hunting party stands over their collection of quail and a few chukars. Dog on point! A hunter watches the dogs who are eagerly awaiting to hear their command to flush.