Hunters like these are the focus of a new partnership between Quail Forever and elements of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks’ youth participation initiative. The two groups are in their second year of orchestrating day-camp-style events to teach young hunters about the habits and habitat of the bobwhite, then put the hunters through their paces on a sporting clay range, then wrap up the day with the challenge of live birds pointed and flushed in the field. One such event was held at Shannon’s Birdshot Lodge in late February.
“We wanted to expose these young men and women to something they hadn’t done before,” said Rick Hamrick, small-game biologist with the MDWFP and manager of the agency’s statewide quail program. “The program has a strong educational component that gets into the specifics of quail biology, then combines that with hunting and shooting skills they’ve already begun to acquire and brings it all together with a style of hunting that was once very common, but that has slipped away from the likely set of experiences most new hunters are going to have, simply because quail habitat and the birds themselves have done the same thing.”
Through the modern history of wildlife management, hunters have been conclusively demonstrated to be the most effective conservationists. Hunters spend more time and money providing for the game animals’ common defense and promoting their general welfare than anyone else. By getting young people interested in quail hunting, then, programs like this are achieving a critical step in preserving and promoting the reestablishment of the birds to their native range, as well as continuing traditions that are a part of a Southern way of life.
“I’ve dove hunted and deer hunted, but I’ve never quail hunted before today,” Sidney Ogletree, 12, of Carthage, said. “I like this a lot.”
Ogletree had shot clay pigeons before but other participants like Kaitland Goff, 13 of Tunica, had not.
“This is my first time doing this,” Goff said. “I could do this all day long.”
“This was our first time to host a youth event, and it’s been very positive,” said Jim Homan, of Birdshot Lodge. “This opens the door to lots of kids who’ve hunted other things but never quail. There are lots of people with gray hair who can talk about quail hunting and say, ‘I remember when,’ but getting new hunters introduced to quail is another matter altogether.
“I’m glad our place is a part of it.”
The Shannon event included 12 youth participants and their parents, the ideal size for such an event Hamrick said, noting the program is expected to continue and grow in years to come. Those interested in taking part can find out more by going online to home.mdwfp.com or by calling the agency in Jackson at 601-432-2400.