Living the Bobwhite Quail Dream

Last Sunday I realized a big part of my Bobwhite Quail Dream.  When I started raising wild bobwhite quail a few years ago, I did so because my bird dog was getting ruined on pen raised birds and there weren’t any wild bobwhite quail available.  My goal was to hunt quail anytime I wanted.  Last Sunday on a hot Texas June morning, we got 15 points – a new record.  I know my dog is living the bird dog dream!

Point Bobwhite Quail All Year

Orange and White Brittany Dog on a Bobwhite Quail Point
Bobwhite Quail Point
We are very fortunate that our hard work has paid off.  We can consistently find bobwhite quail to point all year long.  We are much more cautious during the breeding season so as not to disturb the covey and scatter the chicks, but we definitely hunt and point them anyway!

Wild Turkeys Benefit from Bobwhite Quail Habitat

Grey and White Wild Turkeys on a Green Grass Field
Wild Turkeys
Raising bobwhite quail is hard. Getting them to stay and reproduce is even harder.  But, those efforts also benefit other species – like wild Rio Grande Turkeys.  I’m not a turkey hunter but have friends that are and they think this is great!

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Farming for Bobwhite Quail

Dark Brown Plowed Ground with Green Grass Surrounding for Bobwhite Quail Food Plot
Plowed Ground for Bobwhite Quail Food Plot
Getting the bobwhite quail chicks from hatch to release is only the start.  They are there but they are going to wander to the best habitat they can find.  I actually do more and spend more in habitat management than in actually raising the chicks.  I am in the process of figuring out “quail strips” that look somewhat like the pheasant strips you see in the midwest.  They will have adequate cover and protection while providing great nutrition for each stage of a quail’s like.  This mean that I get to drive a tractor and do a little farming.  If you haven’t farmed then you’re missing something really cool. I expand my food plots each year and this is a picture of breaking new ground to plant.

Scattering and Covering Bobwhite Quail Food Plot Seeds

Green and Black Mule Dragging the Bobwhite Quail Food Plot
Dragging the Bobwhite Quail Food Plot
Planting seeds on a largish scale to feed bobwhite quail is a challenge.  My plots aren’t big enough for large commercial equipment so sometimes I just have to make do.  I scatter the seed with a seed thrower – just like you use in your yard.  But, the seeds need to be covered – just a little bit – and dragging an old railroad tie around the freshly planted area seems to do the trick nicely.  My plots are getting larger and I am in the process of rebuilding an old seed drill so my planted seed stand a better chance of germinating and growing evenly and to full production.  Hand scattered seeds have a density problem.

Seeds Planted in Bobwhite Quail Food Plot

Rich Red Dirt Holding Seeds Planted in Bobwhite Quail Food Plot
Seeds Planted in Bobwhite Quail Food Plot
Very few things are as pretty as a freshly plowed, planted and dragged food plot.

Bobwhite Quail Food Plot Seeds Germinate

Light Green Young Seedlings in Brown and Grey Bobwhite Quail Food Plot
Young Seedlings in Bobwhite Quail Food Plot
It takes a week or so for the bobwhite quail food plot seeds to germinate and break ground.  But, when they do it is always a special occasion for celebration.

Better Seed Planting for Bobwhite Quail Food Plots

Green John Deere Seed Drill for Bobwhite Quail Food Plot
Seed Drill for Bobwhite Quail Food Plot
Hand scattering seeds is very inefficient.  The seed density is very random and this causes issues with plant growth and maturity – not mention harvesting if you plan to do that – I don’t.  I purchased an antique seed drill.  It needs some work and repairs and I expect it to be ready by Fall 2015 for testing.  When it does work, a single pass with the seed drill will take the place of walking with a hand scatterer and then dragging with a mule and railroad tie.  But, it should have a much bigger impact on the quality of the plants that the seeds produce and allow me to farm a larger area and hold more bobwhite quail in the habitat.

Wild Dewberries as Bobwhite Quail Food

Pink and Red Wild Dewberries for Bobwhite Quail
Wild Dewberries for Bobwhite Quail
We are fortunate to have a bunch of wild dewberries on our ranch where I raise bobwhite quail.  This year was a spectacular season due to the higher than normal Spring rains.  Dewberries area also delicious for humans and I can seldom walk past a vine loaded with berries.  But, be careful!  Snakes LOVE dewberry patches as hiding and ambush spots for smaller animals.  Get a long stick and make sure the snakes have left before you start snacking!

Hog Snares and Bobwhite Quail Management

Silver Wire Hog Snare in Brown Dirt Hole
Hog Snare
We don’t have a hog problem.  We used to have a hog problem and now we have an occasional hog situation.  We constantly run hog snares in our fencelines to trap hogs.  Hogs pose two threats to wild bobwhite quail.  Hogs will find and eat eggs in the nest.  Hogs also love tearing up my bobwhite quail food plots.  So, we are fortunate to have managed downward from problem to situation and only see or snare a couple every year.

Dead Hog

Dead Black Wild Hog on Green Grass with Black Pistol
Dead Hog
This young boar was caught recently in one of my snares.  Unfortunately, he was caught by the leg instead of the neck.  This can present a distinct problem and danger when the time comes to untangle the mess of a very live and angry hog from a tough wire snare.  In this case, the hog actually jumped and broke the snare as I approached.  It took an entire clip to do the job but the job got done.

Summary of Bobwhite Quail Dreams

It took 3 years before I ever saw a wild bobwhite quail more than 2 weeks after a release.  This was hugely disappointing but I didn’t give up.  I doubled down and started habitat management in addition to continuing to raise batches of surrogated bobwhite quail. I cut brush, fixed fences, snared hogs, planted grain and built water/wet spots for bugs. But, the effort was entirely worth it.  Now, I can hunt and point wild bobwhite quail almost any day we feel the notion to.  Nice!  Dog agrees!