Oak-Prairie Wildlife Management
Changing land use practices over the years has reduced upland game species habitat in the Oak-Prairie Regulatory District. Historically, many of the northern counties in the district had a lot of small farms. These farms provided excellent habitat for doves and quail. Today the small-scale farmer is almost extinct. The farms that remain are usually large-scale operations. Modern farming practices are quite different from the day of the small farm operation. These large farms use modern techniques that are not beneficial to wildlife species.
Another major change that has occurred over large areas of the district has been the conversion of native pastures to improved grasses to enhance cattle production. As a result, native pastures have become rare in many areas. Broadleaf plants or forbs (weeds) are extremely important to wildlife species, particularly quail and doves. Forbs are usually abundant on native pastures, but low in numbers on improved grasslands or native pastures that are constantly overgrazed by cattle.
The absence of small farms and the conversion to improved pastures has greatly reduced the quail population. However, there are still areas that have fairly good quail numbers in the southwestern part of the district, where there are still large ranches that have not converted their native pastures to improved grasslands and that do not overstock their pastures. The native clump grasses (little bluestem, big bluestem, Indian grass), when properly managed, provide the best quail nesting habitat and will support the high populations.
Dove hunting is still quite popular in many parts of the Oak-Prairie region. However, dove numbers are directly related to food supply. Planting food plots to attract doves is becoming more popular in the area. Good feeding areas provided by native weeds such as Croton (dove weed), sunflowers, etc. often result in a limit of birds for the dove hunter. During some years the winter dove season also provides a lot of shooting. However, just as in the fall season, there must be a good food supply available to attract and hold the birds in an area.
There are two species of turkeys in the Oak-Prairie wildlife district. The eastern tier of counties has been stocked with the eastern turkey. Reproduction has been quite limited in this population. However, it is too early to tell if the stocking will be a success or failure. The Rio Grande turkey is found in many of the counties of the district. Although widespread, most counties do not support a large number of birds. Many areas do not provide adequate turkey habitat. The birds are usually found along the major creek and river drainages. Most counties have only a spring turkey season, although several have a fall season as well.