A man approached Laura McIver at Sam’s Club in Oklahoma City a few months ago and asked, “Aren’t you the quail lady?”
McIver is indeed Oklahoma’s first lady of quail. As president of Quail Forever’s Central Oklahoma 89ers chapter in Oklahoma City, McIver was hailed by Field & Stream magazine last year as a hero of conservation for her work in trying to restore the bobwhite population in the state.
The 89ers chapter formed in 2005 and was Quail Forever’s only chapter in the state when the conservation organization hired McIver this past April as a regional representative just for Oklahoma.
Part of her duties includes recruiting others to the conservation cause and forming new chapters in the state.
In less than three months, McIver has helped start four new chapters (in the Panhandle, northeast Oklahoma, Tulsa and western Oklahoma).
She also has the pot simmering on potential chapters in Stillwater, Enid, Altus and Ponca City. Her goal is to add a dozen chapters within a year.
“It’s great for quail,” McIver said. “The whole point is to come together and work on these things and improve habitat conditions for quail.”
Traveling around the state to recruit new members, McIver has discovered that many Oklahomans are still interested in quail hunting, even if some of them have quit raising bird dogs because the bobwhites have been so hard to find.
“We have a lot of quail hunters in this state that may not be going out and quail hunting anymore, but they still care passionately about quail,” she said. “They want to do something. They care very much about keeping that heritage here in Oklahoma.”
The momentum to form new chapters began even before the news broke this spring that the quail population could rebound this year, McIver said.
Timely rainfall and milder spring temperatures have Wildlife Department biologists more optimistic about this year’s quail population than they have been in several years.
“There are a lot of birds being heard that haven’t been heard in the past two or three years,” said Scot Cox, upland game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “We’re optimistic that we’re looking at a good nesting season.”
McIver said some landowners in western Oklahoma have reported hearing and seeing quail for the first time in four years.
Even if hunters are rewarded with a good quail hatch this year, the work to improve habitat conditions must be constant, McIver said.
“There will be other droughts,” she said. “This is the perfect time, when people are so excited about quail coming back, to capture that enthusiasm and put it to work for the future.”