“I felt strange and somewhat rude as I walked in behind the point and honor—I was a man walking into what was so much like a famous painting that I almost had to laugh. But, if you’re lucky, that’s what a lot of quail hunting is—a series of lovely paintings that we walk into and out of all day long.” – Gene Hill, My Respects to Mr. Bobwhite
Since the 1980s, bobwhite quail populations throughout North America have decreased nearly 80 percent and with them, experiences like those referenced above by Sports Afield contributor, Gene Hill. Although this overwhelming statistic is a cause for concern, glimmers of hope are finally starting to appear out of the bobwhite blight across the bird’s native landscape —including Georgia—and allowing a new generation to experience quail hunting in “The Quail Capital of the World.”
Having people who care about quail and quail habitat is key to rebuilding our wild populations. Just as important for these bobwhite enthusiasts—who have teamed with state agencies, private landowners and other conservation organizations—is to see strong signs of success. To that end, Georgia residents are contributing a great deal of volunteer time and resources to return wild covey rises on public and private lands in Georgia as volunteers of Quail Forever, “The Habitat Organization.”
One of the best examples of volunteers rising to the occasion to save wild bobwhites can be found again in Albany. Passionate quail hunters will gather for the 2016 Georgia Quail Invitational on Jan. 28-30.
The Georgia Quail Invitational serves as an annual fundraiser for the Southwest Georgia Chapter of Quail Forever to promote and protect bobwhite quail habitat in hopes of resurrecting one of the state’s most iconic species. A competition of sorts, the two-day quail hunt on America’s finest quail hunting plantations showcases the state’s hunting heritage, while highlighting practices and management techniques in the southwest region that private landowners are using to resurrect quail in notable numbers.
“Our local chapter is proud to be part of the Albany community and the Georgia Quail Invitational, an event that supports the $100 million economic impact of quail hunting in southwest Georgia,” said Bobby McKinney, president of the Southwest Georgia Chapter of Quail Forever. “In only its second year, we’ve doubled the size of the 2016 Invitational and look forward to providing further support for bobwhite quail conservation efforts and introduction of youth to one of Georgia’s timeless traditions.”
Combining their annual membership fundraising banquet with the weekend long Invitational, the Southwest Georgia Chapter of Quail Forever invested $30,000 for quail conservation efforts and $3,000 for youth shooting sports programs in their first year as a volunteer group.
Chapter fundraising efforts for quail conservation are contributed directly to the Florida/Georgia Quail Coalition, a partnership between different conservation groups—Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Quail Forever and Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy. The goal is to enhance, promote and conserve quality habitat for northern bobwhite and to promote and support youth shooting sports programs and education.
In Georgia specifically, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and local chapters of Quail Forever, including Southwest Georgia QF, are working in tandem to make valuable upgrades to bobwhite quail habitat. The Coalition supplements existing efforts of the Georgia Bobwhite Quail Initiative to work intensively with interested landowners in priority areas, to form landowner cooperatives where feasible, and to work with managers of select public lands to restore and manage bobwhite populations until 2023.
“We’re very excited to have a non-profit with such a great reputation doing great work in the quail world,” said Clay Sisson, director of the Albany Quail Project. “We’re so appreciative of the support that the Southwest Georgia Chapter of Quail Forever is providing to Tall Timbers and the Albany Quail Project. This vital research provides management data that will ultimately help restore quail habitat and our hunting heritage in southwest Georgia.”
Quail populations have declined over a half century, and there won’t be many shortcuts on the road to recovery. But these partnerships and successes—and mind you, these are just a few of the examples—show continuing down the hardcore habitat path will drive results. With more chapters, members and partners, what can we do in the next 10 years? Quail Forever is eager to find out, and we invite others to join us on this exciting journey to restore the whistle of bobwhite quail.
For more information about the 2016 Georgia Quail Invitational, contact Sandy Gregors at (229) 435-7721. For online information, visit the website of the Southwest Georgia Chapter of Quail Forever at www.swgaquailforever.org.
Friday and Saturday night banquet tickets are available for $100 (one person), $175 (one person both nights), or $300 (two people both nights). All-inclusive Hunter Packages are $3,000 and include all meals, lodging, banquets, hunts, shells and transportation.
About Quail Forever
Established in 2005 in response to continued quail declines and suitable bobwhite habitat, Quail Forever is a national organization dedicated to the conservation of quail, pheasants and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education and land management policies and programs. Unique among national conservation organizations, volunteer chapters of Quail Forever retain 100 percent decision-making control over their locally raised funds. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Quail Forever now has more than 15,000 members and nearly 150 chapters throughout the United States who have spent $3.1 million on more than 7,000 habitat projects benefiting 500,000 acres nationwide.
For more information about starting a chapter of Quail Forever in your local area or to learn more about the organization, contact Jared Wiklund at (651) 209-4953 or visit www.QuailForever.org.
2016 Georgia Quail Invitational Schedule
Thursday, January 28, 2016
- Reception for landowners, hunters and sponsors
Friday, Jan. 29, 2016
- Day 1 Invitational Quail Hunt
- Friday Night Dinner & Live Auction
Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016
- Day 2 Invitational Quail Hunt
• Saturday Night Dinner, Auction, & Live Entertainment