Raising wild quail in a quail surrogator is simple but it is not easy – it requires some hard work and consistency during each cycle. Each cycle is typically five weeks long and starts with setting up the quail surrogator. Once it’s set up, the quail chicks need to be checked and tended once weekly. Finally, after five weeks, you can release them and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Transporting the Quail Surrogator
One of the nicest aspects of the Surrogator XL is that it breaks down into simple components that can fit into the back of a pickup truck. Here, I’ve loaded it by stacking the two halves horizontally. This is the easiest approach but maybe not the most efficient. The two quail surrogator halves aren’t the only pieces of equipment – you also have tops, water tank, feeder, flyout preventers, propane bottle and the heater. Yup, it can easily fill the back of a pickup and some of the parts and pieces are delicate – not fragile – just delicate enough that you don’t want to stack something on top of them.
Better Transportation for the Quail Surrogator
A better way to transport the Surrogator XL is to arrange the two halves vertically. This is a little more challenging to load but as you can see, it leaves plenty of room for all of the rest of the stuff that the quail surrogator needs. The quail surrogator units are very well built and sturdy. They don’t weigh much but they are somewhat large and awkward. Heck, my twelve year old daughter helps me load them into the bed of my truck!
Bobwhite Quail Training Feeder
It’s been horribly hot and dry in Texas this summer and I’ve taken to supplemental feeding the quail that I’ve released. To help them, I’ve built a “training feeder” that I keep inside the quail surrogator so that they will learn to recognize it as a source of feed. So far, it has worked well but I still have a few problems I’m ironing out.
Quail Surrogator Watering System
The watering system inside the quail surrogator has worked incredibly well. I load and charge it properly by filling the large, fifteen gallon tank and then bleeding the air from the system. I also take about 10 gallons of water out to the surrogator every week just to keep the water tank topped off – better to have too much than to run out. The nipple system is brilliant but I make it a point to check the water flow from each nipple each time I visit. Just a tap to confirm that it drips a drop of water is sufficient in the quail surrogator.
Growing Wild Bobwhite Quail
These bobwhite quail chicks are three weeks old. I’m always amazed at how quickly they grow and mature. Also worthwhile to remember, always use the flyout preventers. Flyout preventers are simply wire mesh that stays on top of the quail surrogator after you life the lid. These birds can – and do – fly and they will escape given half the chance. Normally, if you’re calm when working around them, they will tend to congregate at the opposite end of the surrogator. However, if you bring your hunting dog along and she’s working the opposite end of the quail surrogator, you are going to have your hands full.
Scouting a Location to Raise Bobwhite Quail
Week three of each quail surrogator cycle is when I scout the location for the next surrogator cycle. This gives me time to come up with some options and make a good choice. Ideal locations are under trees with adequate habitat nearby so that the chicks will have cover when they are released. It’s also important that it is easily accessible so that you can tend it each week. Most of the new locations require a little work trimming ground brush and low hanging tree limbs. By scouting in the third week, I have time in the fourth week to do that brush trimming.
Fat Quail Chicks
In week three, the quail chicks tend to grow upward. During week four they tend to grow outward and fatten up. Their feathers are still immature but again, they can and will fly.
Cleared Location for Quail Surrogator
This is a new location for the quail surrogator. As you can see, compared to the picture from the previous week, I’ve done a little brush clearing to make it easy to install and then tend the quail surrogator. Also evident is the shade from the trees that is absolutely critical for the health of the quail chicks. The quail surrogator needs to be shaded – they provide a sun netting device but I haven’t used it – and oriented so that they get adequate breezes without blowing out the pilot light on the heater unit. Yeah, it does sound a bit complicated but it really isn’t. The most critical aspect for long term viability of bobwhite quail releases seems to be smart selection of the surrogator locations.
There are lots of critters out there that love to snack on bobwhite quail – chicks and adults. I found this snake resting under the quail surrogator one day when I went to tend the quail chicks – NASTY! He was about 8 feet long and appeared to be a rat snake. No harm, no foul – I let him go his merry way as he was wanting to do. The surrogators are built very well and I’ve never had anything, coons, skunks, foxes, rats, hogs, snakes, possums or anything breach the security of the surrogator.
Releasing Wild Bobwhite Quail
The release of the bobwhite quail chicks is always a fun time. It’s the culmination of 5 weeks of hard work and usually the start of a new cycle. In most cases, the chicks come thundering out of the quail surrogator and seek cover as quickly as they can. Their flight feathers are still immature at this point but they are capable of flying upward of 50 to 75 feet. It’s also wonderful to stand there and listen to them covey call each other trying to regroup.
Bobwhite Quail Surrogator Summary
The Bobwhite Quail Surrogator XL performs magnificently when setup and used properly. Operation is very simple and it works reliably. Tending the bobwhite quail is relatively easy but does require that you tend them weekly. I load the quail surrogator with 125 quail chicks and release approximately 100 birds each cycle. I’ve completed 7 cycles – 4 last year and 3 this year – and we are consistently seeing wild quail on the ranch that were released from the quail surrogator.