Quail Forever and the Hoosier Partner Program at Work

Anna Swerczek

40 partners providing a total of $2 million for habitat

By Nathan Yazel

The Grasslands for Gamebirds & Songbirds (GGS) program began in 2018 after the latest Indiana State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) placed grasslands as the habitat type in greatest decline. GGS’s goals are to increase grassland and pollinator habitats. Gamebird hunting opportunities are provided on intensively managed properties. In southern Indiana, the species focus is on northern bobwhite, while ring-necked pheasants are the focus in the northern portion of the state.

GGS was significantly funded through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which is part of the Farm Bill. Partner contributions were matched through the RCPP, bringing in additional funding. This was a large partnership, with 40 partners providing a total of $2 million for habitat.

Quail Forever has played a significant role in providing $94,500 of food plot seed as in-kind match. The first three years QF contributed technical and/or financial assistance on 182 habitat projects and more than 2,500 acres of habitat.

A gamebird hunting access program was also developed as part of the program. In the first two years, 2,514 acres of quail and pheasant hunting were opened. To implement this program’s objectives, three new biologist positions were added that focus on establishing and managing grassland bird habitat. Additionally, Indiana DNR purchased equipment and hired habitat technicians to create such quality habitat.

Species that rely on grasslands struggle in the Midwest these days. This groundcover type has either grown through the stage required for grassland birds or has changed to large, clean crop fields. Where we can establish and manage the habitat grassland species prefer, they can and do persist and thrive.

The initial interest in GGS showed us that people are looking to establish and improve habitat on their properties, and the interest is coming from all over Indiana. As a result, if everything goes according to plan, we will be focusing new monies into a larger focal region.

I went out on one of the first quail hunts on a property that we had done intensive management work for a couple of years, just to watch the dogs work and to take some photos. By the end of the morning, the two setters had worked three coveys. There were about 40 birds total, and six went home with the hunters that day. This is just one of the properties that we are having success on. It was nice to see the result of the focus and effort.

Nathan Yazel is the Indiana DNR's Southeast Grassland Biologist.

This story originally appeared in the spring issue of Quail Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to read more great upland content, become a member today!