Putting Quail Back in Quail Hunting
by Johnny "Dr. Duck" Everhart

If you're a quail hunter, and enjoy watching your dogs work a covey of birds, chances are you've seen a drastic change in the last several years here in Missouri.

Seems like the good hunts, on private and public land, are about all gone. The blame can be laid on many things, and we could argue all day about that, but until things change we may have to take another route.

Many of us have hunted shooting preserves one time or another. (Sometimes just to get the edge off and work the dogs.) This can get expensive if you go very often, but at least you get some action. So, maybe it's time you did what I did, and start your own shooting preserve. Here's a couple of plans on how you can do just that.

Plan One: Dog Training Area Permit

A dog training area permit is required to operate a dog training area, and to purchase, hold, release and shoot on the training area legally acquired pheasants, chuckars and quail as an aid to dog training. Dog training areas shall be a single tract of land not more than twenty acres in size and posted with signs specified by the department. Shooting privileges shall be limited to the individual permitted and not more than two training assistants, whose names shall be listed on the permit application and specified in the permit. All shooters shall possess the prescribed hunting permit. The permittee shall attach to each game bird killed on the area a leg band obtained from the department to transport birds from the area. Cost of permit is $20 per year.

Five years ago I started with this permit, which works very well for small acreage. I designated ten acres where anyone could train their dogs. Myself, and two others, were named on the permit and could hunt and shoot over dogs any time of the year. I built a pen with a dirt floor, and kept over 300 quail handy. I believe raising birds on dirt makes them fly much better when released.

Later, I went one step further by purchasing a Class I Breeders Permit, which costs $100 per year. This allowed me to hatch and raise my own quail and pheasant. They are easy to raise, and it's not hard to find places to buy eggs. This makes it very inexpensive to start your own flock, and you can also sell birds to others to eat or release, to help pay the operating cost.

Plan Two - Game Bird Shooting Area

The shooting area shall be a single body of land not less than one hundred sixty acres nor more than six hundred forty acres in size. Shooting areas shall be posted with signs specified by the department. The permittee must release, during the shooting season, at least one game bird per acre of shooting area, with at least one half of the birds to be bobwhite quail. License cost is $100 per year.

I now buy this license and have set aside 160 acres. Every shooting preserve in the state must have this license to operate. It allows you, or anyone else, to hunt birds any day of the year. You can also release birds and charge groups to hunt, which is becoming very popular.

If you don't own any land, you probably know someone who does that might consider a club project or membership lease. The possibilities are almost endless.

We all hope that the future of quail hunting in Missouri will get a whole lot brighter. But until then, "Don't give up ... get involved!" And put the quail back in the quail hunt.

Be sure and pick up a new Missouri Wildlife Code Book and read all the details of the permits described.