...In my opinion your article, "Pen-Raised Quail" (SI, Sept. 6) by Hart Stilwell, is a great disservice to the quail hunters of the country....
Missouri Quail Hunters, Inc. has pen-raised and distributed quail to its members for several years, and are satisfied with the results. This year they reared about 7,500.
Why not have Mr. Stilwell contact one of the club's officers and learn why the Missouri Conservation Commission's feeble attempt to restock quail died aborning.
GEORGE TILLES JR.
In your article, "Pen-Raised Quail" by Hart Stilwell, you only published part of the story. The Missouri Quail Hunters furnished the chicks and the Missouri Conservation Commission furnished the wild birds. The birds that the Commission used were planted on two tracts of land that the Missouri Commission picked out. Foster parents did adopt chicks about 90% of the time. This is a definite fact. Whether or not it is economically as sound as stocking good, strong, more mature birds is open to question. Our experiment was not continued long and thorough enough to find out.
Most of these chicks had their toes clipped when they were one day old. This weakened them and caused considerable loss among the chicks. This was done to identify these birds when they were taken. It undoubtedly was a great mistake. Three hundred of these chicks were released just prior to a cloudburst. This caused a lot of chicks to perish, just as wild chicks would under similar conditions. Others were taken by predators, as too many chicks were liberated at one time on the same area.
Spot hunting checks were made to see how many birds could be recovered during November. Birds had moved off the areas and were not counted, neither were the many birds taken by poachers. This work was only in the nature of an experiment and was not considered to be anything but that. The costs to the Commission were negligible. It was run very loosely both on our part and the part of the Commission....
We have had a state habitat program for the past six years. This has cost millions of dollars. During this time, our possession limit, on quail has dropped from 15 quail to six. Our season has been cut from 52 days of quail hunting to 36 days in 1953. Our licenses from small game hunting have also shown a decline, both in number of hunters and revenue. The price of our hunting license is the only thing that is increasing in our state. So much for the results of our habitat program.
Our neighboring state of Illinois does have a game farm and a habitat program. The state releases both pheasant and quail. They have, in the same period of time, maintained their season on quail, 10 birds daily and 20 possession limit. Their revenue from licenses has gone up, and last year set a new record. None of our neighboring states has shown as rapid a decline in the past five years as Missouri in the possession and daily bag limits on quail. Many of them, however, do restock.
We know that neither wild quail nor pen-raised quail will exist where there is no food or cover...so we plant food patches on our area at Wright City. We also have a controlled shooting area.
We will donate 100 pen-reared quail to any State Commission that will turn them loose with a like number of wild birds. We are confident that our pen-reared quail will compare favorably with wild birds under the same conditions, as they are able to fly and take care of themselves as well as wild birds.