Quail Habitat Improvement

The 2013 bobwhite quail raising season is over.  I’ve made some great progress with my quail habitat improvements over the Summer.  I’ve also run into numerous issues with quail feeders during the season – time to do some more thinking and experimenting.  The quail hunting is picking up as I’m regularly kicking up 4 to 6 coveys of wild bobwhite quail when hunting on the ranch.  I’m not harvesting them yet but it does my heart good to see the dog point them and then bust them.

Old Ways to Improve Quail Habitat

Antique Brown and Grey Disc on Grey and Brown Trailer
Antique Disc
While we’re fortunate to have a place int e country to enjoy, we aren’t made of money either.  My dad found this antique disc plow and after he cleaned it up it looks like it will work just fine to help us battle the King Ranch Bluestem grass that covers approximately 40% of our pastures.

Old Tools and New Tools

New Hite Tractor and Old Brown and Grey Disc as Quail Habitat Improvement Tools
New and Old Quail Habitat Improvement Tools
Before we had a “real” tractor, we were able to borrow a Bobcat to use as a tractor to see if discing the KR Bluestem would help remove it.  The Bobcat doesn’t have a 3 point hitch so I just drug it around with a chain.  It worked well enough to break through some of the dense KR Bluestem coverage and provide some early indications of wether this strategy of controlling the grass will work.  It was hot, dusty and dirty!
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Discing Thick Grass to Improve Quail Habitat

Killing Bad Brown and Green Grass to Improve Quail Hunting
Killing Bad Grass to Improve Quail Hunting
We have a large open pasture area that is thoroughly infested with KR Bluestem.  This area has the potential to provide excellent quail habitat and quail hunting if we can control the non-native grass.  I drug the disc around about 6 times in each oval attempting to disc it down to bare dirt.  I was successful in some places and not in other – it all depended on how thick the grass was.  Now we’ll let it sit for a couple seasons to see if the native grasses will batlle back against the KR Bluestem re growth.

Digging Ponds to Improve Quail Hunting and Quail Habitat

Digging Black and White Ponds in Green Grass Pasture to Improve Quail Habitat
Digging Ponds to Improve Quail Habitat
Our location doesn’t have any live water on it.  We have suspected for quite some time that we have decent water flowing underneath and we do know that rain runoff flows through in large volumes in several draws.  We hired a bull dozer man to dig 11 test ponds at various locations around the ranch.  This is an example of one pond in a draw area.  This poind probably won’t hold water over and period of time but will stop and collect the run off and allow it to percolate back into the ground instead of running off into the Gulf of Mexico.  Every little bit helps when improving the habitat for quail hunting.

Cool Water for the Quail Hunting Dog

Orange and White Quail Hunting Dog Likes New Ponds filled with Muddy Brown Water
Quail Hunting Dog Likes New Ponds
Five inches of rain had a big impact on the 11 ponds we dug!  Even better, the quail hunting dog really appreciates the various opportunities to jump in and cool off while working the ranch and quail hunting.  We don’t expect this particular pond to hold water over the long run but we won’t know until we give it a try.

Bobwhite Quail at the House

Brown, Black and White Adult Male Bobwhite Quail Checking out New Quail Chicks on Green Surrogator and Grey Brick
Adult Male Bobwhite Quail Checking out New Quail Chicks
I normally don’t run surrogator cycles at my house.  But, this Summer when working in the yeard I heard several bobwhite quail calling from the nearby trees.  So, I ran a last, late cycle at my house behind the workshop since I had to bring the Surrogator home anyway for winterizing.  Low and behold, one of the quail that had been calling from the trees came by to check out the new additions to the neighborhood!  Once I release this batch of bobwhite quail, I’ll begin experimenting with quail feeders again since it is close and easy to monitor and improve.

Rat Snakes and Quail Feeders

Black Brown Rat Snakes Like Silver Quail Feeders
Rat Snakes Like Quail Feeders
Rat Snakes love bobwhite quail and quail feeders!  At least once a year, I’ll find one of these nasties hiding below the quail feeder underneath the bobwhite quail surrogator.  It always gives me a shock and I squeal like a little girl!  They’re hard to kill as well but I now have a long pointy screwdriver in my quail bucket just for when I find one of these guys raiding my quail feeders.

Releasing Wild Bobwhite Quail at the House

Final Brown and White Bobwhite Release of 2013 from Green Surrogator on Green Grass
Final Bobwhite Release of 2013
No matter how many times I do it, I alwasy get a special thrill out of releasing another batch of bobwhite quail from my surrogator.  I’ve run this program for 4 years now at the ranch and consistently bump 4 to 6 coveys of wild quail – including mams with babies so I know they are successfully reproducing.

Quail Hunting Dog 3, Bobwhite Quail 0

Orange and White Quail Hunting Dog Raids the Quail Feeder
Quail Hunting Dog Raids the Quail Feeder
Jill, my quail hunting dog, was really impressed with the bobwhite quail release I did in the back yard.  It usually takes a day or so for the released bobwhite quail to scatter from the surrogator area.  While I did put the surrogator outside the dog fence, I couldn’t stop some of the released quail from coming back into the yard – I guess my yard is pretty good quail habitat.  The dog thought this was magnificent!  The afternoon of the release, she “fetched” two bobwhite quail.  The following morning, there was still game to be had so she brought me another one.  Sure, it’s a loss of a bird but look at that dog – so eager to please!

Summary of Quail Habitat Improvements

I learned a lot this year about raising wild quail.  I’m seeing evidence that all of my hard work over the past 4 years is paying off with wild quail reproducing on the ranch.  Getting the non-native grass under control and building more water collection ponds will be a big step forward in improving the quail habitat.  I did a final surrogator release in my yard at my house and if I continue that, will provide a great laboratory to experiment with quail feeder designs.  Dog likes that idea as well!