Park Cities Quail Hunters Raise Money to Map Quail Genes So They Can Shoot More Quail

Categories: Buzz

quail.jpg
Bobwhite quail: If you had his life, you wouldn't mind being shot.
To his credit, Joe Crafton didn't sigh, or mutter, or hang up the phone when Unfair Park hit him with The Big Dumb Question. Instead, the chairman and co-founder of Park Cities Quail -- a group of well-heeled quail hunters who recently announced success in their campaign to raise money to help scientists sequence the genetic blueprint of Texas' vanishing bobwhite quail -- politely hung in there.

"You know," came the BDQ, "some people might wonder if you're so concerned with quails' survival, why don't you stop shooting at them?"

OK, stop right there, any hunters reading this. Before you limber up those fingers to fire off a flaming comment, let's clear things up: While most of the Unfair Park Action News Team doesn't share your tastes for blasting God's creatures to kingdom come (mostly because it involves waking up before 11), we respect and endorse your right to do so. And, yes, most of us do eat meat and wear leather, but we prefer to have other people do our killing. Call us hypocrites if you like; we prefer the term "American."

Now, back to the quail hunters.

"That's the easy punchline, and you hear it from those who don't understand," Crafton told us. The plain truth, he said, is that quail hunters pay a huge bill to preserve not only quail, but a good chunk of the Texas environment.

In the past five years, Park Cities Quail has raised more than $2 million to help bobwhite quail, and their annual benefit dinner earlier this month drew more than 1,000 "sport enthusiasts" who spent an average $380 per plate. That money will help fund the Bobwhite Genome Project conducted by the Rolling Plains Research Ranch in Roby in cooperation with Texas A&M.

Crafton said the hope is that genetic sequencing will help researchers determine exactly what has caused the Texas quail population to plummet, and find ways to help it recover. (As writer Ann Zimmerman reported in the Wall Street Journal this month, state surveys found and average 5.3 birds per area measured in 2011, well below the longtime average of 21.)

One likely culprit is a widespread infestation of parasitic worms that attack the birds' eyes, Crafton said, leaving them vulnerable to predators, which in the wild is just about anything that isn't a quail. (Just picture poor Mr. Bobwhite, stumbling around Mr. Magoo-like, groping for a mate, unloved and harried by snakes and foxes, while his only friend in the world tries to cure him so he can shoot him. It'd break your heart if they weren't so damn tasty grilled over mesquite.)

But don't blame the hunters for the population decline. The money they shell out to provide quail habitat preserves countless acres of Texas range land, also giving homes to other species, including meadowlarks and horned lizards, on ranches that might otherwise be converted to grazing or monoculture farming, which are much more environmentally hostile than a few loads of bird shot.

"A well-managed quail ranch will look a lot like land looked, presumably, 1,000 years ago, Crafton said.

And hunters do shell out. On average the cost to a hunter for the dogs, travel, ammo, etc. comes out to roughly $260 for every bird taken, Crafton said, and for every quail a hunter bags, another 1,000 are provided habitat and a chance of a natural, unpleasant death. It's easy to be an armchair environmentalist, but as Crafton said, ask the folks standing in line at the DMV how many of them would be willing to pay $2,600 to save 10 quail.

No thanks. Rather not. While I wouldn't be surprised to die of old age in line at the DMV, I'd just as soon not be torn limb from limb.

But it makes you think, doesn't it? Like, how might we harness hunters' wallets to other good causes. Say, the Women's Health Program. State-issued game stamps for poor wo ... Nope, sorry. Can't do it. Let's give Jonathan Swift a rest. Besides, someone might take the suggestion seriously.

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cactusflinthead
cactusflinthead

I fall into the category of those hunters that buy in to the program and rarely fire a shot. I spend more time poking around looking at the plants and taking pictures than I do sitting in the stand. The turkey population is another success story of good management practices bringing back a species. Most of the time if the farmer/rancher/exurbanite is aware of the cultural practices to increase or benefit game species and by extension the non-target species they will be glad to oblige. Like other posters I would really like to see the reasoning why the funds they originally allocated are being diverted to the general coffer. But, then knowing our Lege I am not hopeful they will ever see those dollars again. 

pak152
pak152

since I didn't see any links here are some

Ducks Unlimitedhttp://www.ducks.org/

Quail Unlimitedhttp://www.qu.org/

Coastal Conservation Associationhttp://www.ccatexas.org/

Desert Wildlife Unlimitedhttp://www.desertwildlifeunlim...

National Wild Turkey Federationhttp://www.nwtf.org/

60 Minutes recently did a story about big game ranches in Texas that have managed to increase the numbers of certain species, but thanks to many in the anti-hunting crowd those ranches and their herds may go away

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18...

Rico
Rico

Patrick, thank you for the recognition of the efforts of the Quail Coalition. The Texas Bighorn society has done similar work on behalf of the Texas Desert Bighorn Sheep population. As Mr. Covington mentioned, Ducks Unlitmited does great work on behalf of waterfowl, as does Delta Waterfowl. Pittman Robertson excise taxes on hunting merchandise have funded wildlife restoration projects since the passage of the act in 1937. Federal Duck Stamp sales have produced over $750 million in revenue for watefowl protection and habitat restoration.

Dallas Safari Club this year alone  granted over $1,000,000.00 for wildlife conservation and protection projects around the world, including significant grants to the TP&W Department, Black Rhino protection in Zambia and other anti-poaching programs, African lion studies,  an ongoing African wildlife DNA collection and analysis project and conservation efforts locally, statewide and across the US,  to name a few.

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

Few people today realize how much hunters do to preserve species and the environment. Ducks Unlimited (a hunting organization) has done more to protect and preserve wetlands in this country than any other organization. By the end of the Great Depression, deer were close to an endangered species in much of the country. Thanks to efforts spearheaded by hunters, our nation now has a thriving deer population. It is to the point that in some areas of the countries they are having to hire people to cull deer herds that have become a danger to people and the environment.A large portion of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's budget is paid for by a tax on hunting and fishing equipment. (Don't get me started on the amount that the state diverts to other agencies). 

pak152
pak152

 many people buy hunting and fishing licenses and shell out for the appropriate game/fish stamps even though they may not do either. why? because they want to support those programs. Decades ago the enviros pushed for their own stamp, but hardly any one bought them

Hunters and fishers do more to save wildlife and habitat than do all the enviros/ PEATA followers and animal lovers have ever done

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

Yep, and there really needs to be some public attention paid to the state's diversion of tax revenues that were approved by the voters to go specifically to wildlife, fisheries and parks to the general fund to make up the deficit.  

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

Actually, the last time I checked, the TPWD budget is lower than the amount generated by the tax. That does not even count the money generated by licenses, stamps and various park fees.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

All that money goes to the  specified programs .....

It just our state ledge says well now they that they have those funds we don't need to be sending so much from the General funds.

TimCov
TimCov

A deep look needs to be made into all the fund raising programs sold to the voters as going to specific budget items that are having funds diverted to other parts if the state budget. I'm specifically talking about gasoline taxes (which are supposed to go to transportation projects), the lottery (profits are supposed to go to public schools), and the outdoor sporting equipment taxes (which are supposed to go to TPWD). All of these should be well funded in Texas based on the amounts collected, yet none of them are.

Patrick Williams
Patrick Williams

Yep. In fact, Mr. Crafton mentioned in passing how money collected from hunters doesn't often find itself spent on wildlife programs and how hunters basically were responsible for reintroducing the state's deer herds. (Couldn't make those facts fit with my lame jokes.)

He also pointed out that nearly all of the land in Texas is privately owned, so if hunters and ranchers don't step up, a lot of habitat protection won't get done. And he pointed out that quail aren't migratory, so the health of the state's coveys hang on us -- or, in this case, hunters.

Patrick

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