How I achieved the highest density of quail ever recorded per acre. Seven quail per acre.
My phone rings. The gentleman introduced himself as Tucker Link. He said he had just bought a 13,000 acre ranch in the Kiamichi Mountains in Southeastern Oklahoma. He was interested in hiring me to help him improve the quail hunting on the ranch. Tucker said he owned the ranch for a year and as of now he has yet to see or hear a quail on his property. I was not surprised to hear this, because I knew the area. And I knew there had not been many quail in that part of Oklahoma for the last 20 years. As most quail hunters know, quail populations have declined through out their natural range. Some areas have been harder hit than others. I know this area and the quail population has been devastated. All but eliminated.
As I continued listening, Tucker described his dreams and hopes regarding the hunting opportunity on his property. Tucker said he wants the worlds greatest upland game bird hunting on his property. In my mind I thought wow what does that even look like.
I traveled to the ranch a few days after our phone conversation and spent the day riding in a buggy looking at the property. The property was around 13,000 acres. There were over 25 miles of rivers and creeks with beautiful mature oaks lining them. The ridges were covered with mature loblolly pine trees. The ranch was probably 60% timber and 40% grass fields and meadows. Most of the Meadows were small in size 25 too 300 acres. The fields were covered in native bluestem. You could tell the grass had not been grazed in a long time. The largest field on the property was approximately 600 acres. And that field had a river that snaked along its west and south side. That 600 acre area would eventually become what was lovingly called the Bird pen.
Once hired. The first thing I do is to evaluate the health and viability of a piece of property to hold and sustain game birds.
I need to have a idea of wild bird numbers. Nest and egg survivability. Chick survivability. Adult bird harassment from avian and mammalian predators. Grass density and quality. Food source types and accessibility.
The numbers for Kiamichi link ranch at the beginning of the projected where.
Wild Quail. 0
Nest survival rates. 0 present survival of eggs.
Estimated chick survival rates.Very Low.
Adult bird harassment from avian predators.Medium.
Adult bird harassment from mammalian predators. Very high.
Grass quality.Very dense. Restricts birds movement. Reduced bird accessibility to food sources.
Nesting and roosting habitat.Potentially excellent.
Mid range woody cover and lofting habitat.What little there was, it’s was poor quality.
After evaluating the property. It was easy to determine what the Tuckers options or option was.
There were no wild birds on the ranch or in the surrounding area. So wild bird enhancement was off the table. Due to high predator numbers on the property, none of the early release systems would work.
At the time the only viable option was individual restocking and recreational hunting. Tucker was not interested with that option. I mentioned to Tucker I had an Idea. A new concept. I told Tucker the idea had never been tried before. And that I had no idea if it would work. I explained the concept to Tucker and he was excited to give it a try. He was all in.
So over the next seven years we rewrote the book on quail and pheasant enhancement on a piece of property. A new science that will revolutionize how people with difficult if not impossible quail and pheasant situations can turn their property around and enjoy world class hunting.
It started with getting control of the predators in a very unique and affordable way. The next thing was habitat enhancement. Our goal was to establish 24 covey of quail on the 600 acres. That’s a covey every 25 acres or so. We also wanted habitat suitable to hold 250 pheasants. But by the second year of the project we blew past our goal. We achieved 110 Covey of quail on 600 acres and over a 1000 pheasants. That’s a covey every 6 acres it was amazing.
Over the next 5 years with diligent study and micromanaging things got even better. For example I established 5 covey of quail on 11 acre area. These are things that everyone including me thought were impossible.
We eventually achieved and maintained seven quail per acre. A number we felt like may not be the worlds greatest upland bird hunting. But we where confident this put us in the conversation of world class upland bird hunting. The exciting part to me was this was accomplished on a piece of property that for over 20 years did not have a quail on it. In an area with zero nest and chick survival rates due to high predation. As well as extremely high predator harassments for adult birds.
During that seven years we had hundreds of sportsmen hunt the bird pen. Best of my knowledge every person indicated that that was the best upland bird hunting they had ever experienced.
Look at this Video. It was shot at Kiamichi Link Ranch. A total of six hours of hunting over two half days. During that 6 hours of hunting we moved around 70 coveys of quail and got 51 covey rises on video. These are the 51 coveys we moved. Let me know what you think.