I grew up quail hunting on public and private land in Mississippi. The majority of my hunting was on International Paper land. In the 1980s you could buy a permit that allowed access to thousands of acres of timberland. IP was cutting timber for paper so their harvest rotation was pretty quick. Once it was clear cut, they would roller chop it, burn it and replant it in pines. The burning and the soil disturbance created the quail habitat. A good cutover was tough hunting but the quail lived there for at least three years. If the soil was poor you might get five. After that it would be too thick.
There was always plenty of cutovers to hunt, but since anyone could buy a permit, there were no guaranteed spots. If you planned to hunt a location but there was a truck already parked there, you had to move to the next spot.
After a few major lawsuits over smoke on the highways, IP stopped burning and moved to a chemical application. Quail numbers plummeted.
We moved to hunting public ground. It was mainly state wildlife management areas and National Forests. The same thing applied here. If someone was already at your spot, you had to move on.
Quail ground on the public lands was constantly changing. Once an area was burned, it was good for a few years and then it would get too thick. You had to add new areas to hunt as your old areas matured.
Because of the lack of guaranteed spots and the need to add new spots on a regular basis, we made it a habit to hunt at least one new spot every time we went out. New spots didn’t always pan out, but being on the constant search for new locations paid off over time.
I still hunt a good bit of public ground today, especially in the Midwest and on the prairies of Montana and the Dakotas. We also hunt private ground that has public “walk in” access. It’s pretty much public ground since buying a hunting license gets you access but unlike state and federal ground, access can change from year to year. A great walk in area this year might be out of the program the next year.
Another thing that happens on a lot of this ground is grazing and haying during periods of severe drought. This can make a good bit of this public ground not an option for hunting when it’s super dry. It’s also not uncommon for areas to close during drought conditions over wild fire concerns.
Because of these factors, I still make it a practice to add new spots every time I hunt. There’s no guarantee that the spot you want to hunt will be open and even if it is, it might be bare ground when you get to it.
This is especially an issue for folks that travel to hunt and have limited time to actually put your eyes on land and your boots on the ground. Keeping up with what’s going on from a 1000 miles away can be tricky.
Having a Plan B (and a C,D,E & F) comes in real handy on a hunting trip.