Eau Claire County bobwhite quail?
I spent the weekend of Nov. 15 bowhunting whitetails at our cabin in eastern Eau Claire County. Despite a sudden plunge to single digit temperatures and half a foot of snow we had some action, observing a few bucks traveling with dogged deliberation. The bucks we saw were so intent on their missions that grunts, bleats, even actual does feeding nearby could not sway them from their courses. You begin to wonder what objective they could possibly have when they are willing to ignore a healthy doe, as well as the clover she’s eating. Success would elude us on that weekend
Our biggest surprise that weekend came not from deer, but birds; – bobwhite quail. After loading our gear into the cabin I began suiting up for the afternoon hunt. Glancing out the window to the bird feeder, I was shocked to see a flock – a covey actually – of bobwhites scratching out sunflower seeds from the snow beneath. Six bobwhite quail. In the Central Forest Region of Eau Claire County.
What makes this so unusual is that there are no game farms within many miles. Nor are there area landowners, that I am aware of, who would have planted these birds. I gave a call to Ken Thompson, DNR field warden to the area, who was also lost for an explanation. He did recall seeing the occasional bobwhite, through the years, on one forest roads a few miles to the north. He assumed these quail were used by dog trainers, likely the origin of the covey I was feeding.
With the woodcock long gone and grouse fairly scarce, it was fun to have some game birds around again. My wife Jane even watched as one of the cocks perched himself on a log butt of the cabin and whistled out his “bob-white” recall to the covey I scattered when heading out.
Bobwhite “season” remains open until Dec. 10, and while my gun dog has a very strong opinion on the matter, I am not quite sure what to do with these birds. Sooner or later deep snow is going to keep us from getting back into the cabin and back to the bird feeder. I have done a lot of habitat work on the property, but I am not very confident the land will support this little covey. Nature can surprise you though, and I think I am content to wait and see