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Quail, game-bird growers on rise in North Carolina

The Associated Press

HARMONY, N.C. - The number of people raising quail and other game birds is on the rise in North Carolina, as farmers look for supplemental income or a way to participate in sport hunting.

Richard Hix of Iredell County hatches 80,000 quail a year and raises 28,000 of them in the houses where he once raised chickens at his farm.

Another farmer, Edward Elam Jr., buys some of Hix's birds and runs a 140-acre shooting preserve nearby that caters to hunters from suburban Charlotte and the Triad.

"I couldn't make a living at it right now," Elam said. "But it's some supplemental income, and it allows me to make a little money doing something I enjoy."

Though older North Carolinians can recall finding wild quail outside their back door in rural settings, biologists say the bird has steadily declined since the 1960s.

That's because farming practices no longer leave weeds and grasses at the edges of fields for quail to eat.

To meet the demand for quail enthusiasts, whose hunting season began Saturday, more people are getting involved in raising the birds or providing land for hunters to shoot them.

The number of permits issued statewide for farmers to grow quail and other game birds rose from 435 in 2002 to 627 in 2004, according to the state Wildlife Resources Commission. And the number of permits for game-bird preserves grew from 151 in 2002 to 223 in 2004.

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