Much of the quail range in the Rolling Plains has some component of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)—we have about 450 acres of former CRP at RPQRR. The brush component on these fields is almost entirely regrowth mesquite, which usually does not afford good “midday coverts” (sometimes referred to as “loafing coverts” or in my vernacular “quail houses”). Ideally such a landscape should feature a good “quail house” about every softball throw apart.
One method for improving the growth form of multi-stemmed mesquite is by “half-cutting”. First, select a multi-stemmed (10 or more stems), smooth-barked tree to half-cut.
Take a limb saw and score the upper half of the outer branches while pushing down on them. About half-way through the limb (again you’re pushing downward on it) should break over. If you cut too far through the limb, or the limbs aren’t flexible enough, the limb may crack like a muzzleloading rifle; if that’s the case you’ve likely killed that limb, and we don’t seek to kill the limbs, just make them grow downward. If done correctly, you’ve created a “poor man’s lotebush” that will enhance the availability of quail houses. Seek to half-cut about 10 trees over the size of a basketball court, then move over about 200 yards and repeat. I like to leave two or three branches in the middle of the canopy intact.
April is a good month to half-cut. I like to think I can call turkeys until the wind starts blowing (about 8:30 most days), then half-cut mesquites until about 5 p.m. (when the wind typically subsides) then go back to turkey calling!
Our “South Annie CRP” is the best-looking CRP field in TX for bobwhites (my opinion of course!) due in part to “brush sculpting” including half-cutting. See the Webisode of the Month below for more information on how to half-cut mesquites.- by Dale Rollins