Mercerville, Ohio — The Ohio Wildlife Council is considering a proposal by the DNR Division of Wildlife for a limited quail hunt at Crown City Wildlife Area.
“Lawrence and Gallia have long been closed quail hunting counties,” said Mike Reynolds, Division of Wildlife executive administrator of wildlife management research. “Crown City is a unique habitat in the middle of unsuitable quail country. It is a reclaimed strip mine; we have a fairly healthy quail population there.”
The 11,119-acre Crown City Wildlife Area, in portions of Lawrence and Gallia counties, is in southern Ohio near Mercerville. Surface mining took place there from 1975 to 1987. As with other strip-mined lands, Crown City provided an opportunity to develop habitat for declining grassland nesting species.
Surveys in Lawrence and Gallia Counties don’t detect many quail because those counties are primarily forested, Reynolds said. But this small area is unique. In the recent surveys by the Olentangy Research Center, Crown City is a hot spot for quail in southeastern and southwestern Ohio.
“This is a chance to give our hunters a limited opportunity for quality quail hunting that we can closely monitor,” Reynolds said. “We can learn a lot about the effects of harvest on a quail population at Crown City. I think we’ll be able to use that as a model for other public land opportunities elsewhere in the state where we’ve had no harvest.”
The goal is to introduce limited harvest and continue to monitor the population. Plus, the division has been doing habitat management at Crown City to create both nesting and wintering habitat, Reynolds said. They follow the quail population by counting whistling males in the late spring and early summer and with fall covey counts.
Over the past 15 years, those surveys have shown a loss of quail in Clermont, Montgomery, parts of Warren, and other counties, due mostly to urbanization said Nathan Stricker, Division of Wildlife biology supervisor, Olentangy Research Station.
“In southeast Ohio in particular, in areas where we had quail a dozen years ago we’re not detecting any with our roadside surveys,” he said. “As forests have become mature, populations of quail become more isolated to the point where they’re nonexistent or are there only in small numbers.”
Meanwhile, Division of Wildlife staff and researchers are determining what the rules for the controlled hunt will be. Those details should be in place by June, Reynolds said.
“We’ll be able to track the total harvest after four or five months and monitor the population the next year,” Reynolds explained. “Maybe we keep the hunt the same; maybe we have to scale back. Possibly we can extend more opportunity depending what we find out after one year of controlled hunting.
“I am excited about this,” he said. “It is going to give our game bird hunters a unique opportunity to hunt quail on public land. A lot of other states – Kentucky, southern Indiana – have similar hunts that are very popular. Hopefully, we can get raise some interest and awareness for quail in Ohio.”
Possibly just a limited number of hunters would be allowed and they would be asked to report their harvest, Reynolds said.
This proposal for the hunt will now be open to public comment through the open house process and on the Division of Wildlife’s web site (wildlife.ohiodnr.gov).