Water is important when you are raising Texas quail for hunting. Quail use three types of water – ground water, dew and metabolic water. Of the three, ground water is both the least and most important type of water. In Texas, we’ve experienced one of history’s worst recorded droughts during 2010 and 2011. In the Fall of 2011, it seems to be breaking a little with some slow soaking rains every week or so. With the huge importance of water and the need to actively manage habitat to sustain and grow wild quail populations, we’ve done quite a bit of work to find and retain what little water we’ve had. This has put extraordinary pressure on our efforts in raising Texas quail for hunting.
Large Water Ponds
It is possible in the Texas Hill Country to find soil locations that hold runoff water in the form of tanks or ponds. These locations require significant amounts of clay soil and the potential evaporation is great. Stored water in a pond provides moist areas where bugs can breed and become food for baby wild bobwhite quail. Careful brood management is very important for raising Texas quail for hunting.
Rainwater Runoff Collection and Retention
Identification of and harnessing low lying areas with runoff can also be very worthwhile in improving your raising Texas quail for hunting. Low lying areas that retain water can either be exploited by additional excavation or simply managed with additional water retention methods such as rock dams. Additionally, these types of water retention areas are more favorable and available to wild bobwhite quail as well as being tremendous feeds to store underground water in local aquifers.
Identification of Wet Spots
Locating soil strata for run off and collection only requires some simple observation. In this area, the presence of muhlie grasses and clay soil are very good indicators of both water holding capabilities as well as potential water run off and collection opportunities. It is these areas that also provide runoff collection opportunities and they are frequently found near the wild quail brooding areas. Identification of these areas also provides great opportunities for game cameras so that you can conduct a census while raising Texas quail for hunting.
Determining the Viability of Clay Soils
Testing the water holding capacity of clay soils can be very simple. Take the soil in your hand, add a very small amount of water and then start kneading and pinching it to see how long you can make it. Approximately 3 inches or more is needed for any long term water holding capability.
Testing Water Holding Capacity
Seep Muhlie plants and a clay soil are good indicators or water holding capacity or underground water. A small excavator or front end loader can be used to scrape test sites to determine the depth and thickness of any clay soil strata as well as the potential for underground water.
Harnessing Natural Springs
Naturally flowing springs are becoming rare in Texas due to declining rainfall and the huge demand that growing population centers are putting on the aquifers. This is an example of a natural flowing spring that has been harnessed and directed into a small pond.
Enhancing Water Runoff Retention
One water retention device that has been in use for thousands of years are rock or dirt berms. The purpose of the berms is simply to slow the water as it runs downhill and provide it with the opportunity to sink into the ground rather than runoff into streams and rivers. This also serves to recharge the local aquifers and regenerate any natural springs that exist in the nearby area.
Dowsing is an ancient art that can be done by almost anyone. In this example, my Dad is using 2 bent clothes hangers to locate water and/or moisture underground. If you don’t believe it, give it a try by searching for the water pipes in your yard – I promise you’ll be surprised!
Harvesting Rainwater for Raising Texas Quail for Hunting
Rainwater collectors are incredibly handy devices when there is rain. They are inexpensive, easy to build/assemble and provide an ideal opportunity to take a regular census of the wildlife in the area.
Another potential modification to a rain water collector is a dew collector. These are typically used in much more arid regions and have to be quite large to produce any usable water.
Summary of Water and Raising Texas Quail for Hunting
Water collection and management is critical for raising Texas quail for hunting. Large water storage tanks and ponds are good but are susceptible to evaporation. Identification and exploitation of natural water holding and retention areas provides a much better opportunity to hold water and recharge local aquifers. Rainwater collectors are also very good and are inexpensive to build and operate. Dowsing can provide clues to where to look for water. In summary, habitat, and especially water management is critical in being successful raising Texas quail for hunting.