The season for raising wild quail is just around the corner – baby chicks are usually available around mid May. So, it’s time to get everything inspected, repaired and ready! Surprisingly, there’s quite a bit to do to get everything ready to go for a successful season.
Rainwater Collectors and Quail
Bobwhite quail don’t have a huge need for ground water. They fulfill most of their water needs from either dew or metabolic water. That said, the Texas Summers can be very hot and dry and providing a little water may mean the difference between life and death. Also, a watering location provides an excellent location for a game camera to keep tabs on the wild quail population as well as their predators.
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Forbs Feed Quail
Forbs and their seeds are the primary feed for wild quail. Forbs are essentially wild flowers and can be very abundant in Texas. It all depends on the amout of rainfall – it doesn’t take much rainfall to get them to sprout and bloom but it does take some. During the early Spring months, we monitor the forbs production and then make plans from there on how and if we will feed additionally in the quail feeders.
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Controlling Invasive Plants for Quail
Non native grasses, like King Ranch Bluestem are hell on quail. The KR Bluestem is so dense and compact that the quail can’t get around in it. Additionally, KR Bluestem does a terrible job at producing seeds AND seems almost impossible to eliminate once it has started. This is a picture of a small tract where we disced heavily several years ago. The KR Bluestem has grown back in most areas except where we disced down to bare earth. In those areas, we are seeing emergence of native grasses. I plan to continue my experiments with the destruction of our KR Bluestem this year.
Quail Feeders and Bobwhite Quail
I’ve built and used several different types of quail feeders over the years. I’ve come to understand that they don’t do much except to support the wild quail during their first week after their release. WE’ve been fortunate that most years have produced a decent crop of forbs so the bobwhite quail have sufficient feed available to the without the need for supplemental feeding. We are currently in the middle of a 10 year drought so we’re watching carefully and are prepared to supplement the feed if needed.
Custom Quail Feeders
This type of electrified bucket worked OK – it sure kept the critters off! In the end, it wasn’t as durable as I wanted and I’ve discontinued using this design. Honestly, I think a regular broadcast deer feeder works the best but you do have to contend with everything else in the area that likes what comes out of a deer feeder.
Predator control is one aspect of rebuilding a wild population of bobwhite quail. We don’t have a lot of predators but we do have some. It’s been said that a bobcat can wreak havoc on a covey of quail by destroying all of them and only eating a few. I’m a big fan of game cameras to monitor the wildlife population and then formulate actions based on what I see. However, I am loath to kill every predator out there as I do believe that this upsets that balance of nature and I’ll only end up paying the price at some later date with some larger problem.
Raptors and Quail
Raptors are another bobwhite quail predator and this is an interesting picture of one coming down to peer into the surrogator. We do have several pairs of hawks on the ranch but we also have magnificent habitat in the areas where quail are being found. So, I’m not horribly worried about the raptors taking out my quail and have been pleased with the balance.
Surrogator Repair and Maintenance
Early Spring is always the time for surrogator repairs and they always need a little love and attention. The surrogator is incredibly well built and sturdy and the repairs each year are mostly clean up and preventative maintenance. Nothing a little buffing and painting can’t easily take care of. I’ve been very pleased with my surrogator and hope it continues to last for many years.
The Reason I Raise Wild Quail
Lastly, the reason I got started doing all of this several years ago. I bought a hunting dog and then almost ruined her on pen raised quail. Now, she get’s exposed to hyper training at least 3 times each Summer. I have her sit at the end of the surrogator during the quail release and she doesn’t move. She get’s very excited and I do turn her loose to hunt them afterward but this is an excellent training regime for steadiness.
Very Steady Hunting Dog
Yet another shot of Jill waiting patiently while the wild quail become even wilder. She’s just turned 4 years old and is quite steady on command.
Summary of Pre Season Raising Quail Warmup
Spring is here and it’s time to get ready for another season of raising wild quail. The list of things to do and check get’s longer every year as I implement more practices to improve the habitat. This will be my 4th year of raising wild quail and I’m very much looking forward to it – Jill is too!