Laclede County Farmer Leads New Quail Forever Chapter

Bob St.Pierre (866)457-8245

A group of quail conservationists recently formed the Wyota Missouri Chapter of Quail Forever (QF). The Wyota Chapter’s leaders intend to focus their efforts on improving habitat for quail in Laclede County and the surrounding area. The new group’s president is farmer Judith Smith of Eldridge.

“I own my own farm of 60 plus or minus acres, and am the senior ranch hand on the family-owned 650-acre cow/calf beef operation,” explained Smith. “In addition to being a farmer, I care a lot about bringing bobwhites back to my land and to this entire area. And, I know first-hand that you can make money farming and implement conservation programs into the farming operation that help quail at the same time.”

According to Quail Forever biologist Elsa Gallagher, habitat restoration is the key to brining back bobwhite quail numbers in south central Missouri. “This chapter and all of the Quail Forever chapters in Missouri will focus on converting monocultures and exotic grasses back to native warm season grasses. Grass diversity can have immediate and dramatic benefits for quail and other wildlife.”

The U.S.’s quail populations are in trouble. Bobwhite population losses over the past 25 years range from 60 to 90 percent across the country. The reason for the quail population plunge is simple – massive losses of habitat suitable for quail. Missouri has not been immune to this population drop. One key figure offering insight into Missouri’s quail population drop is the state’s annual quail hunting harvest. From the late 1960s to the early 2000’s, the state’s harvest total has dropped by nearly 80 percent.

Smith offered a call to action for area conservationists, hunters, and farmers. “The time to save the bobwhite quail is now. Our generation must act before it’s too late.” The chapter’s leaders also include; John W. Moore Jr. of Lebanon as treasurer, Jimmie Lee Haines, Jr. of Lebanon as habitat chair, and Kevin Hedgpeth of Lebanon as youth & education chair.

The chapter plans to focus their initial habitat efforts on landowner education. Chapter leaders would like to hold farmer/landowner forums to educate private property owners on their conservation options. One option of specific note is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP offers financial payments to participants who establish grass, shrub, and/or tree cover on environmentally sensitive lands. These CRP lands have been shown to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and create critical habitat for a variety of wildlife species, including bobwhite quail.

The new Wyota Missouri Chapter of QF plans to hold their next meeting on Thursday, January 11th at 6:30PM. The meeting will be held at the Laclede Electric Co-Op Community Room in Lebanon. For more information about the new chapter, please contact Judith Smith at (417)426-5232 or via email at If you are interested in learning more about starting a QF chapter in Missouri, please contact QF regional wildlife biologist Elsa Gallagher at (573)680-7115 or via email at

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