By Sam Burnham, Curator
One thing that has really caught my attention since writing about the quail hunt is the number of messages and comments from people remembering going quail hunting with their fathers or grandfathers. Quail hunting has a cultural and social history in Georgia that goes back generations, especially in South Georgia. The connection is so strong that the legislature appointed the bobwhite quail as the official State Game Bird.
But wild quail hunting in Georgia, right now anyway, is just a memory. There is no widespread population of wild quail that could support such hunting. There are no doubt patches of population where hunts could be carried out. But as a whole, those days are in Georgia's past. The bobwhite is listed as "near threatened" and most quail hunts in Georgia are ones using farmed birds
My father-in-law used to spend time hunting farms in West Georgia. He noted that they were always careful to never wipe out a covey. They always left birds behind to repopulate and provide for future hunts. Healthy populations are needed for good hunting. But over hunting is at least partially to blame for the current situation. Loss of habitat from development as well as predators such as coyotes and domestic pets have contributed as well. Poor land management practices are also to blame.
But many property owners are beginning to make changes. If you've read the quail hunt article, You've heard of Matt and Franks Creek Farm. Matt is currently using land management practices to create habitat for quail. There are also several other people in South Georgia doing the same thing. Within a week of the hunt, I met up with a land manager in Floyd County who was doing the same thing. He had even jumped a few coveys while working on the land. Forestry workers beginning to plant new healthy stands of longleaf pine will also contribute to these habitats, whether that is their intention or not. There are some positive signs but there is still a long way to go.
It is incumbent on hunters to recognize healthy practices - game management, land management, safe and courteous hunting practices, and maintaining healthy relationships with landowners and the state DNR to secure a future for this sport.
It is up to the general public to understand that without hunters, bobwhite quail will never again thrive outside of a farm pen. This is the paradox, without hunters protecting habitat and managing game, there will be little to any wildlife in our nation. But with the space, the resources, and the time, the love hunters have for the animals they pursue will help these animals thrive. And for a native Georgia animal like the quail, why should it be any other way?
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire