Why We Love Our Quail

Quail
We love our quail!

By Didi Hoffman

Walking with fellow hunters or riding horseback across the rustling grain fields, you feel the tall grasses swaying along the path.  The pine trees stand majestic as a cool breeze whispers from their branches – your dogs are on edge, ready – working close and excitedly  to point a covey…as you walk anxiously past the dog, a covey rises in a  swift chaotic unity, and scatters.   Quail hunting season represents the very best in shooting sport!   It’s why hunters have been visiting the Red Hills Region of Georgia and North Florida since the late 1800’s in pursuit of the little bobwhite.   We are fortunate in this area to have quail in abundance.  Since the 1960’s the majority of the North and Eastern US has seen quail populations decline, to almost zero in the Pennsylvania/Delaware region.  For many years, we were no different; our quail were disappearing at a frightening pace.  What changed?  What brought the population back?

Hunting for Quail
Hunting for quail in the Red Hills Region of Southwest Georgia

A little regional history has a lot to do with the story of our beloved quail.  There was no rail here until a year before  the Civil War and even then, we were the end of the line for the railroad. We were the  “western frontier” in the Deep South; and,  because we  were the last stop by rail, it took a long time to get anything needed that wasn’t made locally. Changes to the economic landscape came very slowly.  People farmed, as a matter of course, but for the most part, the area stayed closer to its native natural habitat because of its remoteness .  The Red Hills Region was underpopulated  and Sherman didn’t make it this far – so despite reconstruction after the Civil War in many parts of Georgia, we had nothing to rebuild.  Things stayed pretty quiet and physically the area grew at a slow, steady pace.   After the war, the northern tycoons headed for warmer weather in the winter. The train  line stopped here, and so did they.  Soon, the industrialists  fell in love with the area, abundant in fishing,  wild game and birds;  and, mixed with a warm winter, these snowbirds of the north began to call this region their winter home.

Thomas County 1880
Thomas County in the 1880’s – notice the dense pines and scrub very similar to today’s pine forest. Photo: Thomas County Historical Society and Museum

During the late 1800’s until the early 1900’s quail and quail hunting flourished.  For the industrialists, it was an elegant sport.  Quail wagons pulled by a team of mules are still  a wonderful southern tradition used in the hunt today.    The wagons serve a purpose, they bring the dogs, the spare dogs, their water and refreshments for the hunters.  For those who are spectators, the wagons offer a perfect seat.  You will see them on the private lands and on the quail hunting preserves in southwest Georgia and north Florida. But you don’t need a wagon to hunt quail!  Most people still  enjoy hunting  quail on foot.

As the Red Hills Region became better known, the northern families that moved to the area wanted to preserve the land for hunting . Although they made their fortunes from industry, they worked together to fend off industrial growth to preserve this pristine  hunting environment.   Quail conservation was not on their agenda, but by the early 20th century the quail had all but disappeared – due to over hunting.  This loss of quail became the catalyst focusing the landowners towards  preservation. This little bird was  a main food source in the area,  going back to the native American’s who first inhabited this region, so it was important to keep the  population strong.  The desire to bring back the quail, rallied the landowners together to learn everything they could about conservation. They were open to learning and exploring ways to bring back the quail and protect habitat.   At this time, many of the programs now used were unknown, but  early efforts made a big difference and brought back the quail. This commitment, turned the landowner’s into conservationists, which helped save the quail then, and again, many decades later.

Quail Wagons
The popular quail wagon

All seemed to be going  well for this special bird until the 1960’s when the  quail again, began to disappear, except now it was a national problem.  Every state saw the same decline. What was happening?  Why was the bobwhite quail population declining? According to Quail Forever , www.quailforever.org. “Bobwhite population losses over the last 40 years ranged from 60 to 90 percent across the country. The reason for the quail population plunge was simple – massive losses of habitat suitable for quail. Five major factors lead to the losses of quail habitat; intensified farming and forestry practices, succession of grassland ecosystems to forests, overwhelming presence of exotic grasses like Fescue that choke out wildlife, and urban sprawl.” [i]

The quail population struggled with the our country’s  new landscape.  The  significant expansion of row crop farming, although a boom for farmers, destroyed the protected nesting areas and food sources for the quail.The carpet like grasses of Bahia and Fescue for cattle grazing offered no food or protection for the quail.

Peanut Field
The landscape changed from warm grasses and pines to agriculture. Photo: Georgia Ag .com

Quail have a very short lifespan and about 80% die within the first year naturally; the good news is quail are prolific breeders.  Nature gives the quail lots of chicks to offset their short lifespan and their high mortality. Females  continue re-nesting until late into the season to keep the number of chicks high.  From the start, the chicks have a difficult go, suffering  about  a 30% mortality rate the first few weeks due to cold, or wet climate and predators.   Ground cover and food sources close to the covey are critical to survival. In  the winter coveys join together to stay warm, and face out on guard for predators like skunks, foxes, owls, raccoon, dogs, snakes and domestic cats.  The grasses and insects around the coveys provide warmth, protection and food.  [ii]  This short life span and low mortality rate makes loss of habitat for nesting and protection  an urgent situation.  Quail cannot survive  if they cannot breed safely.  A member of the pheasant family, quail are not strong fliers, mainly because  don’t need fly except to flee a predator.  They search for food, or forage, almost entirely on the ground, eating grains and insects.  They need room to wander as adults and thickets of ground cover at night for warmth and protection.  These little birds need space!

Great Quail Habitat
This hunting plantation has worked hard to meet the needs of the quail habitat in southwestern Georgia

Organizations like the national Quail Forever and our local Tall Timbers http://www.talltimbers.org/ work closely with landowners to help create habitat that promotes quail population.  Critical to the effort is the use of prescribed fires, something that the Native American’s also used. It’s common to see the smoke rising from fields and the woodsy scent of burning brush feels like home to many.   “The Fire Ecology Program promotes the use of prescribed fire (controlled burning) as an essential tool for managing natural ecosystems in the southern U.S.  Many native plant and animals’ species depend on fire to maintain their habitat and have become rare and threatened because of the lack of fire in most places.”[iii]  These fires also reduce the risk of  wildfires.  They keep habitat healthy.

A controlled burn
A prescribed burn helps keep wilfire risk low and keeps grasses flourishing to protect and feed wildlife. Photo: jonesctr.org

Private landowners in north Florida and Southwest Georgia have a real  focused commitment to maintaining quail population, so organizations like  Tall Timbers and  Quail Forever,  continue to be an integral part of  land management. Their research  helps  promote suitable habitat for not only quail, but many other declining species suffering due to changes in habitat created by man  “This is a major reason why quail lands across the southeast often are a bastion for threatened species on private lands.  There are now over a million acres managed for bobwhites on private lands in the Southeast alone.” [iv]

Theron Terhune , Gamebird Program Director at Tall Timbers said the long term trends in quail in the region has seen a steady incline and this year the number of birds looks strong, slightly increasing.   “The landowners are doing a phenomenal job to preserve bobwhite population and maintain a long term population.”  With the local growth of the quail, we need to be careful to not overpopulate, game management prefers to keep the population size around 21/2 – 3 birds per acre.” iii

This plucky little bird, inspired generations of private landowners in our region to  learn and implement strong conservation programs.  Our area is known as the quail capital for good reason! Many regions of the US are not so fortunate, with quail populations now almost gone.   The bobwhite quail flourish because of our history of slow growth, northern industrialists keeping industry away from the region which allowed hunting land to remain intact, and a quest to keep the quail population strong.    Our regional private landowners have always taken the loss of this  challenging bird with great seriousness and because of their efforts, all of us enjoy a thriving quail population.

The Longest Love Affair – Barbour

Barbour
Why we love our Barbour!

Love affairs don’t always last, except a love affair with Barbour.   Based in  South Shields, UK ,  Barbour has been around since 1894 and our love of Barbour grows stronger with time and wear.    A 5th generation family owned business, Barbour  is renowned for their outstanding  craftsmanship and customer care.  Every Barbour coat can be repaired or reproofed (waxed), even if it is torn and tattered from your grandfather’s closet. Just make sure to empty the pockets before you send it up – they have a museum full of love letters, keys and anything else you can stuff in a pocket!    When your coat is returned clean and heavier, full of new wax, you will be ready to face any weather challenge (well, maybe not summer sun!).  Buying a Barbour jacket is buying into a history story filled with classic style and quality.

Barbour loyalists, like the Queen of England, and many of the Royal family, probably have the same “ahhhh” moment every time they put their arms into the sleeves and adjust the jacket onto their bodies as we Yanks do. It’s that “I am warm and dry no matter what” sensation– that “ahhhh’  of knowing you need not fear wet and cold because  you are loved back by a warm, dependable jacket!

Royals love Barbour
Royals love Barbour

Kevin’s customers are no different, they love the line and we see them wearing Barbour through the generations – and just like in the UK and around the world, the  two most popular jackets  sold are the Beaufort and the Bedale.     To the untrained eye, they seem almost identical, why would Barbour make two jackets that seem so similar?  So,  what are the differences in these two jackets? It’s the subtle dissimilarity that screams different.   Two classic jackets, both perfectly suited by design.

The Beaufort is considered a shooting jacket – it’s longer than the Bedale and will easily fit over a man’s sports coat. If you are wearing a great tweed coat, the Beaufort is a handsome compliment.   The Bedale is considered an equestrian jacket, it’s shorter and has vents in the back to allow the jacket to easily fit over a saddle.  If you don’t ride and don’t hunt, your size might influence which one you prefer based on length.  A taller person would want to test both, but might be happier with the longer Beaufort, just as a shorter person will probably lean towards the Bedale for a fit.

Barbour Beaufort Side
The side of the Barbour Beaufort – no vents and it is longer than the Bedale on the model.
Back of Bedale
Back of Bedale notice it is vented and is shorter on the model
Back of the Beaufort - no vents
Back of the Beaufort – notice how different it is from the Bedale with no vents.

The back of the Beaufort also has a rear game bag with zippers which can be reached from both sides, perfect for in the field.   Contrasting this look are the snapped studded gusseted side vents on the Bedale to accommodate a saddle.  Since the Beaufort is longer than the Bedale and has more fabric and wax, it also is a little heavier than the Bedale.

Another big difference, on the jackets is the inner cuff.  The Beaufort has a Velcro inner cuff.  This is designed to “break away” when lifting your arms quickly to shoot. The Bedale has a knitted inner storm cuff which hugs your wrist and was designed to keep rain from running down your arms when riding.  Both classic, logical designs based on need!

Break Away Cuffs onBeaufort
The Break Away Cuffs on the Beaufort allow ease when shooting a gun – picture from the Daily Prep

Since most people will be wearing their new Barbour jackets over a sweater or sports coat we recommend you  try them on over your sweater or  sports coat, since you want to really make sure your layered look feels great under your jacket. This is what you will most likely be wearing on a cold day anyway so a test drive in the store makes sense.  There are many more choices in the Barbour line and there is at least one  Barbour jacket that was created with you in mind.

What’s even more amazing about Barbour is if you love the cuffs of the Bedale but want the longer Beaufort,  Barbour will happily make the adjustments to your coat, simply send it to their NH USA headquarters and they happily will make the changes you need.  Leather cuffs?  No Problem, Additional inside pockets?  No Problem.  It’s what makes Barbour so loved – their willingness to give you the best service possible.

Kevin’s is proud to carry this timeless product, like Kevin’s it represents quality, traditions and the outdoor lifestyle.  To see our large selection of Barbour products including dress shirts , socks and more, please visit our website www.kevinscatalog.com

For more information about repairs or reproofing contact Barbour in New Hampshire at 603-673-1313 or email barbour.repairs.us@barbour.com  and don’t forget to empty out your pockets.

Prince William, David Beckham Join Battle to Save Endangered Rhino’s

By Didi Reuschel

Today, the book about Douwlina, an endangered white rhinoceros  was awarded  Silver Medalist – Environmental Issues by the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, a great honor.  But, the story of Douwlina is more than a children’s book. It’s the true story about an orphaned baby rhino whose mother was slain for her horn.  Douwlina’s story began when she lost her mother to poachers. Because she was a baby and had no horn, she was spared.  In Africa, where Douwlina lives, there were once over 100,000 of these smart, magnificent animals. Now, there are less than 20,000 on the entire continent, and one is poached every day in her Kruger Park alone. At the current rate of killing, it is expected they will be extinct within our lifetime.

White Rhino Douwlina in South Africa
Kathleen Kelly visits Duowlina. Notice the shaved horn, this protects Douwlina from poachers. They have no interest in her without a horn.

Kathleen Kelly, co owner of Kevin’s Fine Outdoor Gear & Apparel, traveled to South Africa this summer and spent time on the Leopard Rock preserve to meet  Douwlina and other endangered rhino’s.  The outrage about the rhino poaching goes beyond their killing. With a cold blooded cruelty, the horns are actually ripped from the animal’s heads and slowly, the rhino suffers in pain until death from bleeding and infection.   The ones that are found and heal (though most  don’t survive even after treatment) suffer a “ heart-breaking  melancholy” [i] at the loss of their horns  – they know something awful has happened to them; and they can no longer protect themselves in the wild.

There are many global organizations, especially in Africa, fighting to stop the poaching and bring awareness to the public.  Well known globally, Prince William, David Beckham and Yao Ming have joined together to try to save these animals by changing the mindset  of  the end user’s  and their demands for the rhino horn.   Through a series of Public Service Announcements, these men are educating the Chinese and Vietnamese in  understanding  that the rhino horn’s have no medicinal value as they implore  their audience to focus on protecting  rhino’s from extinction. One powerful image they use,  shows  if all the rhino’s left in the world were together, they would fit inside a soccer stadium.[ii]

Prince William feeds Rhino
Prince William works to protect endangered Rhino  Photo – SeamePost.com
Prnce William, Yao Ming and David Beckham PSA for WildAid
Prince William, Yao Ming and David Beckham join together for WildAid PSA to educate Asian countries about endangered Rhinos. Photo -Kristian Schmidt WildAid

It’s incredible, but the rising demand for rhino (and elephant) horns  is driven by an Asian belief that the powder can cure cancer,  hangovers and impotence. Even worse, the rhino horn powder is a   status symbol of wealth.  In Vietnam,  giving  a gift of rhino horn powder designates  power.  Wealthy men want this powder and demand is strong;  the more difficult it is to find rhino horn, the more prestigious. “The rhino horn is being swallowed by a small segment of the Vietnamese population who can afford prices of about $65,000 a kilogram, conservation groups say.”[iii]  This is what funds the poachers in Africa, who are paid well for their efforts.

In China and Thailand it is a medicinal powder with no validation of effectiveness, simply an old wives tale passed on through the generations.

This increasing demand from Asia, coming from people with the money to pay,  has created a violent criminal syndicate which stops at nothing to get the horns.   In Kruger National Park , South Africa, the park service has turned its rangers into soldiers, using drones to patrol airspace, along with helicopters as soon as poachers are suspected.  [iv]  “A spokesman for WildAid, which campaigns to end the illegal wildlife trade, said the ivory trade claims the lives of an estimated 25,000 elephants annually and as of September 5th, at least 618 rhinos were killed for their horns which may break last year’s record of 668 poached rhinos. “ [v]

Incredibly, the horn does not need to be cruelly ripped from the rhino’s snout.  Rhino horns are composed largely of the protein keratin, also the chief component in hair, fingernails, and animal hooves. They can be shaved down or trimmed. Unlike the horns of most animals, which have a bony core covered by a relatively thin layer of keratin, rhino horns are keratin all the way through. In fact, scientists can determine geographic location of a rhino by the makeup of the keratin, because the food they eat are in the horns chemical makeup . This fact allows ecologist Raj Amin of the Zoological Society of London and his colleagues to take “fingerprints” of horn samples and determine the animal populations they came from, which has helped law enforcement officials target and crack down on poaching.[vi]   In  the pictures of Dowlina and friends, the horns have been  shaved, keeping poachers away, for without the horn, the rhinos have no value.

Though Kathleen is an avid hunter, the distinction must be made that in controlled, conservation hunting, animals killed are for food and herd control to allow the animal or bird population to remain healthy.  There is a profound respect for the animals and nature.  If populations become too dense, the animals become sickly and the herd dies off due to lack of food in the wild.  Controlled hunting, keeps the animal population large enough to thrive but not so large, they starve and become sick.  The poachers of the rhinos are cruel with money as their motivation; they discard the injured rhino’s to die a slow, painful death.  Hunters, respect their bounty and will do anything in their power to keep an animal from suffering.   The poacher will kill anyone or anything  in their way to savagely mutilate a rhino only for it’s horn, leaving  the animal to suffer until it dies.

There are many organizations to help end the poaching and destruction of  rhino’s, elephants and other animals killed by syndicated poachers.  It is a global problem which requires global action  – every person can make a  difference in helping save the rhinoceros from extinction.

Shaving the horns of the rhinos keeps poachers at bay
By shaving the horns of the rhinos, the poacher no longer has interest in the rhino. The horn continues to grow like a nail or hoof and needs continued trimming.

[i] Elephant, Rhino Poaching is A Brutal Disaster, by  Libby Leyden-Susser, Fresh Talk, The Hartford Courant October 18, 2013

[ii] Rhino poaching hits new high in South Africa, experts warn of extinction in wild by Jon Herskovitz, Reuters, October 1, 2013  2:31pm

[iii]ibid

[iv] Rhino poaching hits new high in South Arica, experts warn of extinction in wild by Jon Herskovitz, Reuters, October 1, 2013  2:31pm

[v]ibid

[vi] David Beckham and Prince William pictured together for campaign against ivory and rhino horn, by Paul Cockerton, The Mirror News, September 13, 2013

VOTE FOR KEVIN’S Campaign Blitz

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For the past month, we have been bombarding our friends and customers with pleas to VOTE FOR KEVIN’S.  With great enthusiasm you have supported us and helped us move to the next round of  Intuit’s contest to win an all expense paid commercial for the SUPER BOWL!!

Wow, the competition has been fierce, but we made it to round two….which requires more voting by the public and our friends.    In the first round, we could see who was doing well, where we fit in and we knew were always in the running because of your support.

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The second round ends October 13th, so please vote everyday for us,  Watch our video – it is funny and real.  Our video camera failed during the shoot, Kevin and Kathleen had to go out of town immediately to watch Anna cheer at an away (far away) football game,  so we had very little time.  It would be several days of delay if we didn’t do it that day.   The Thomasville  store was packed with customers  (a wonderful thing) and Kevin and Kathleen knew all by name so of course, they wanted to say hello to everyone!  Having the  five minutes to film was nothing short of a miracle.  We wound up having to shoot the video on a smartphone (pretty amazing) and after a few tries, our video opportunity was over…back to work!  We hope you enjoy our entry, realizing rehearsals and technology were not in the cards, but we had a blast filming it  anyway!

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Miss Betty did  forgot to mention she was 91 years old – which is a privilege to forget at 91 years old!  We also had to answer some questions about our business as a part of the competition – please take the time to read them (and vote for them) because they really give you an understanding of how important our customers, our families, our dogs and the outdoor lifestyle are to  us.   Thank you for your continued support and VOTE FOR KEVIN’S everyday.

PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO VOTE FOR KEVIN’S!

https://www.smallbusinessbiggame.com/GA/Kevins-Fine-Outdoor-Gear-/377197

Remi – Kevin’s Celebrity Dog!

Written by guest blogger: Meghan Lodge

As many of you hunters know, no two sporting dogs are the same, even within the same breed. Some just have an amazing drive to perform and will perform their tasks with precision and a confident grace that makes your chest swell with pride. Others may not operate as smoothly, but still get the job done. Then there’s that select few – the eccentric failed sporting dog that thinks flushing a bird is barking at it until it flies away and retrieving is an exercise game for the owner. My Remi darling falls in the latter category, for sure!

Kevin's Celebrity Dog - Remi
Winner of Kevin’s Catalog Celebrity Dog Contest – Boykin Spaniel Remi! The competition was tough but Remi stole the show!

Remi was a rambunctious and mischievous adolescent Boykin Spaniel known as Madison when we met her. Her first owners weren’t prepared for her boundless energy or penchant for hunting moles in the backyard. We adopted her, and my husband renamed her “Remington High Brass” after the only shell his father’s beloved 16 gauge shot gun would shoot. He clearly had high aspirations for her to be a fine bird dog.

It’s true – you can teach an old dog new tricks, but you sure can’t teach drive or passion! Remi took to chasing bumpers and balls across the yard like a champ, but her only aspiration was to pounce and “kill” it rather than bring it back. The first time she heard a gunshot, she dropped her ears and peed. She’s also not very fond of the tractors that are in the neighboring fields every plowing and harvest season. We won’t even discuss staying quiet (or still) in a hunting scenario!

If you have never heard of a Boykin Spaniel, you probably also haven’t heard their slew of nicknames, which includes “swamp poodle” and “little brown dog.” One attribute these little spaniel darlings often share (Remi included) is their ability to not rock the boat…literally. Small and lithe, Remi makes an excellent car passenger. She finds her spot and doesn’t move until we arrive at our destination. On a boat, she is content to sit or lie down and watch the clouds float by over the water. On her favorite place, the couch, she curls into the smallest ball, making her an excellent TV watching companion.

Kevin's Catalog Celebrity Dog Winner Remi
Though not the most proficient hunting dog, Remi still loves the outdoors!

I guess you could say Remi is from the “other side” of sporting breeds. Although she’s no hunter, she has lots of energy and a great personality, making her a wonderful and fun family dog, traits that sporting dogs all share – at least, all the ones I’ve ever met! We were thrilled she won the Kevin’s Catalog contest, representing the Boykin Spaniel proudly on the front cover. She certainly hammed it up for the photography crew!

**Kevin’s note:  We were thrilled to have Remi on our cover too!  In fact, we received so much great press about her we invited Meghan, her owner to tell us a little more about her!

Meghan Lodge, owner of Remi, Kevin's Catalog Celebrity Dog!
Meghan Lodge always knew Remi was a celebrity!

About Meghan – our guest blogger!

Meghan Lodge is a Thomas County native that grew up barefoot in the country and enjoyed early summer mornings with a fishing pole and her dog. She enjoys fishing, deer hunting, and bird watching. She lives with her husband and their two dogs and cats. They are expecting their first child this February.  She is a contributing  blogger with Dogster http://www.dogster.com/author/meghan-lodge  and has her own blog  http://www.ohmypibbles.blogspot.com/ dedicated to pit bull advocacy and other animal issues.