UNION COUNTY — If you talk to the older generation of hunters they can tell you stories of quail hunting when they were younger. I have listened to many stories of turning the bird dog out in the afternoon and finding a covey of quail for a quick afternoon hunting trip. Those days have passed and now it is no secret that the Northern Bobwhite Quail population across South Carolina has severely declined over the past several decades. Many attribute those losses to the decline in early successional habitat across the state. Early successional habitats typically consist of native warm season grasses, annual forbs, shrub thickets, and even young regenerating forest.
In South Carolina, the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicates that the quail population has declined at a rate of 6.1 percent annually since 1966. Along with the quail we are also seeing similar declines on many common grassland bird species. Quail populations peaked in the early 20th century when agriculture was common across the state. Urbanization, modern agricultural practices and intensive forestry have all been attributed to the decline of the quail population.
All is not lost though, there are organizations across the state that are working to restore habitat for quail. Locally, the Indian Creek Restoration Initiative is working with both private and public lands to help restore quail habitat through thinning timber, establishing native grasses, and patch burning. This group has been working in the area since the early 2000’s and prime quail habitat is now being managed within the Newberry and Union County borders.
The Indian Creek Restoration Initiative is hosting a field day on March 27, 2018 to showcase some of the management practices that are being put in place across the Sumter National Forest in both Newberry and Union County. We invite any who would like to come see the progress that is being made to attend. We will visit a timber thinning where the objective is to reduce the canopy and manage the understory for grasses and forbs. We will see a plot that has been winter disked to promote native grasses along with a plot that is planted with native grass seeds. There are three tour stops in total that address the basics of quail management, that most landowners would be able to implement on their property. We are excited about the progress being made to improve the quail habitat in our area and we hope that our success will spread to surrounding lands and improve the quail population.
If you would like to attend the field day we do ask that you pre-register. There is a small fee of $20 that will include lunch. The field day will begin and end at the Whitmire Community Center (1222 Glenn Street, Whitmire, SC 29178). Space is limited, so reserve your seat early. For registration details please contact Joe Berry at 803-597-3160.
Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.
Jeff Fellers is the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Area Forestry Agent in Union County.