By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show
Bobwhite quail fell off my target list two decades ago, when numbers were plummeting and I didn’t want to contribute to the decline of the popular upland gamebirds that once thrived in the Buckeye State. That’s why I was glad to hear that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has designated a new priority area in Ohio focused on improving and creating northern bobwhite quail habitat. Private landowners and producers can apply for funding through the NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and interested landowners in the selected townships are encouraged to contact their local NRCS service center, ODNR private lands biologist or Pheasants Forever biologist to learn more.
“Private landowner involvement is such an important part of preserving this iconic species,” said Lori Ziehr, Ohio Natural Resources Conservation Service Acting State Conservationist. “The northern bobwhite quail is an edge species, and through priority area funding, we can incentivize and promote conservation practices that generate the high-quality early successional habitat crucial to their survival.”
Ohio is near the northern edge of the species’ range, and winter weather conditions can contribute to dramatic fluctuations in bobwhite quail populations. Mild winters often boost bobwhite quail populations in areas with suitable habitat, while harsh winters with prolonged snow and ice cover have an adverse impact.
The Ohio State University has identified edge habitat and woody escape cover, both essential during the winter months, as critical factors in quail survival. The selected townships shown on the priority area map have been identified by the Ohio Division of Wildlife as the areas of highest concern within Ohio’s bobwhite quail range.
“The Ohio Division of Wildlife is committed to restoring Ohio’s quail population through EQIP and increasing suitable habitat,” said Kendra Wecker, Ohio Division of Wildlife Chief. “We are proud to work with our partners to keep the momentum going in a positive direction for this cherished bird as well as other edge species.”
Quail Forever also supported the creation of the priority area and is prepared to lend a hand implementing the program.
“Quail Forever strives to conserve Ohio’s quail populations through passionate work by wildlife biologists and grassroots chapter volunteers,” said Cody Grasser, Quail Forever’s Ohio State Coordinator. “Thanks to strong partnerships with NRCS and the Ohio Division of Wildlife we have team members implementing EQIP in each of the priority area townships and are excited to present landowners with this unique opportunity.”
NRCS conservation practices including hedgerow plantings, wildlife habitat plantings and early successional habitat development will receive increased ranking points within the priority area townships. Landowners who implement these practices will not only promote bobwhite quail habitat, but further enhance their property value to other species such as songbirds, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbits and pollinators.
Landowners in the selected townships interested in EQIP Quail Priority Area funding should reach out to their local Ohio USDA service center or visit the Ohio NRCS EQIP webpage for more details.
Canada geese populations on the rise
While predictions for the upcoming duck season offer only a few glimmers of optimism, goose hunters are savoring the prospects for the fall flight. According to Delta Waterfowl, resident giant Canadas are at new population highs in many places. Analysis of weather data from arctic nesting grounds indicates conditions should have been mostly good for successful light goose, Canada and cackler hatches, meaning more juveniles in the fall flights than last year. Specklebellies likely experienced good nesting conditions as well.
“Temperate breeding Canada geese breeding in southern Canada and the lower 48 United States would’ve been far less affected than ducks by the widespread dry conditions,” said Chris Nicolai Delta’s waterfowl scientist, a leading goose expert. “And farther north, conditions appear to have been average to excellent for arctic-nesting species like snows, white-fronted geese, cacklers and Canadas, with a few areas that may have low production due to late springs. Overall, the three eastern flyways should see a much stronger fall goose flight than last season while the Pacific Flyway should have another stellar season similar to last year.”
All states that conducted breeding spring waterfowl surveys, including Ohio, reported near-record, if not record-breaking, numbers of resident giant Canada geese.
The Ohio State Trappers Association (OSTA) will hold its annual convention on Sept. 10 to 11 on the Crawford County Fairgrounds at 610 Whetstone Street in Bucyrus. The event is expected to draw plenty of Buckeye trappers to enjoy meetings, demonstrations, food, and merchandise vendors. Fur prices are expected to be up somewhat this year. At the March OSTA fur auction in Kidron, for example, prices for large fall muskrat pelts reached $7 plus, and the best large raccoon furs averaged $9.43. Coyote skins were down a bit, but still passed $26 for the prime furs. For more details on the convention, visit ohiotrapper.org.
Early September hunting and fishing seasons
Hunting seasons for mourning dove, squirrel, Virginia rail, Common snipe, Common moorhen and ginseng open Sept. 1 statewide, followed by the early season waterfowl openers for Canada geese and bluewing and greenwing teal beginning Sept. 4. The daily limit for Lake Erie trout and salmon drops from five to two starting Sept. 1.