ROANOKE, W.Va. — The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is studying whether wild quail have a chance to survive and exist on the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area in southern West Virginia. Several dozen wild quail, captured in Texas, were released in March on the area. Most of them were outfitted with radios to determine survival rates and movement.
Now, a group of interested West Virginia sportsmen wants to help the idea of a quail reintroduction along.
More than 40 showed up for an organizational meeting to create the state’s only chapter of Quail Forever in recent weeks. The conservation organization is dedicated to helping improve conditions to bring back the bob white quail in larger numbers nationwide.
“Governor Justice and Director McDaniel are very committed to quail restoration and trying to reverse the downward trend in our grouse population,” said Dave Truban of Morganntown who was elected the chapter’s first president.
Truban holds know misconception about the challenge. He admitted restoring quail won’t be easy, if it’s even possible at all. But the point, at least for those who gathered to talk about it, was to at least give it a try. According to Truban, even a failed attempt wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
“Quail Forever is a habitat driven organization. We’ll build a habitat. Any habitat we build, even if the quail restoration thing is a total failure, the habitat is still out there for a host of wildlife. It will benefit lots of things and it won’t be a waste of money,” he said.
Releasing a bunch of birds raised in captivity is not the goal. Truban in fact called such an approach a complete waste of money. The idea would be to work with other states to trap and transfer wild quail to West Virginia. The birds under study on the Tomblin WMA were wild birds from Texas. Finding those kinds of arrangements will be important, but also they need a place to put them. Habitat, for now, is priority one.
“Whether it’s quail, or grouse, or brook trout, habitat is the key. That’s what we’re going to focus on,” said Truban.
Quail Forever’s national body provides resources to help volunteers get more involved. Raising money is one off the biggest parts of a local chapter. Money raised locally is plowed into the program in a partnership with DNR and is often facilitated by the national organization. It’s similar to other successful conservation causes like the National Wild Turkey Federation, The Ruffed Grouse Society, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
“My goal is to raise enough money this winter to take advantage of their seed program and provide Tomblin with whatever seed they need down there. It’s 32,000 acres. If they can get quail area wide on that much acreage, it could become our seed population to go to Hillcrest, Stonewall, or other places which would be excellent places to reestablish quail,” he said.
Truban is a lifelong bird hunting enthusiasts. He enjoys working his dogs afield and gets excited about the possibilities. He admitted however, the goal in this effort is the long game.
“What we’re doing right now won’t benefit old guys like me. It may benefit your sons and some of these younger kids. They may get go hunt quail again someday,” he said.
The organizational meeting turned out some of those fresh faces who were willing to get involved. Their involvement energized Truban who hopes setting the fire now will enable a passing of the torch.