Recovery Data From Pen-Raised Quail Released Before And During The Hunt Season

A total of 1,915 bobwhite quail (Colinu8 v. virginianu8) was released on Belmont Game Management Area in South Carolina from 2 to 10 weeks prior to the advent of the 1969 hunt season. An additional 1,134 quail were released on the same area during January and February, 1970. The overall study area had been sub-divided into nine smaller compartments for "release" and "hunting" purposes. The hunting season extended from November 24, 1969 through March 2, 1970. Recovery data showed that 33.52 percent of the quail released prior to the hunting season were harvested during the hunting season. The quail recovered from the releases made late in the legal season represented 37.57 percent of the quail released during this period. Data recorded on flight characteristics of the pen-raised quail were believed to be biased, but other information obtained verbally indicated that the earlier released birds possessed greater qualities as game birds. Movement data showed that the quail released in each of nine release areas within the 5,700 acre plantation were eventually recovered from almost all of the other release areas within the study area. For several years prior to 1969, the South Carolina Wildlife Resources Department had advocated and, to a lesser extent, utilized the technique of releasing pen-raised bobwhite quail (Colinus v. virginianus) on selected areas to increase the quail harvest. The pen-raised quail were often released on the areas as soon as they were flight conditioned, with this condition being attained as early as mid-July and as late as mid-November. In other situations the quail were retained in rearing or flight training pens until a few days before being released for hunting throughout the regular season. These practices raised several questions regarding the best time to release the quail. Of primary concern were the recoveries that could be expected from quail released several weeks prior to the legal season as compared to those recoveries realized from quail released just prior to hunting. Another question involved the movement of the released quail from one area to another before being harvested. A third question concerned the relative flight characteristics of quail released prior to the hunting season in comparison with those released immediately before hunting was to take place. With these main questions in mind, the South Carolina Wildlife Resources Department initiated a study in 1969 to provide data on some of the problems confronting land owners who desire to use pen-raised quail to increase their quail harvest. The state-owned Belmont Game Management Area (Figure 1), located in the southwestern part of the state and containing approximately 5,700 acres, was selected for the study area.

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