Bobwhite Quail Habitat and Feeders

I’m into the middle of my annual season to raise bobwhite quail for quail hunting.  I’m actively running surrogator batches, improving the  habitat and experimenting with wild quail feeders.  It’s a marvelous adventure that allows me to spend time with my dog and my kids – how could things get any better?

Full Stock Tank for Water Conservation

Silver Sky Reflected in Brown Water Stock Tank Overflowing in Green Grass as Quail Habitat Water Conservation
Quail Habitat Water Conservation
Texas has been in a long term drouth for several years and we’re having a wet Summer.  It’s also cooler this year due to the frequent rainfall.  Water conservation is a big aspect of quail habitat management and something we watch and manage carefully.  Bobwhite quail get their water from metabolism, dew and then surface water – primarily in that order.  The collection and storage of rainfall in stock tanks is very valuable but the challenge in our arid country is finding ground suitable to collect and hold the rainfall.  But, when you do, it is wonderful – to overflowing!

Cutting Trees to Build Improve Quail Habitat

Dead Brown nad Live Green Cedar Trees as part of Building Habitat
Building Quail Habitat
We also actively manage the invasive plant species to improve the quail habitat.  This will also provide easy walking when quail hunting.  Western Cedar or Juniper Ashe trees are highly invasive and will take over cleared pastures within 10-15 years if left untreated.  Juniper trees aren’t actually as thirsty as most people think but they do have a big impact on water conservation.  Here’s why.  The leaf needles of the trees hold up to 1/3 if the rainfall.  The dead leaves underneath the trees hold another 1/3 of the rainfall.  Thus, only 1/3 of the active rainfall actually makes it into the ground – the rest is evaporated.  Clearing large trees is a challenge but I have a tractor with hydraulic shears on the front that will make short work of trees up to 14 inches in diameter.  And, I have to say, it’s a blast chopping those suckers down!
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Small Water Holding Ponds

Small Brown Creek Water Pond in Shady Green Glade for Bobwhite Habitat
Small Water for Bobwhite Quail Habitat
Clearing cedar and other invasive species can have a big impact on getting ground water spring to percolate and flow again.  These small creeks and springs provide an excellent place for quail to brood protected from hawks and other raptors.  Getting your springs flowing again is a great indicator of good quail habitat management.

Fence Brush Management for Bobwhite Quail

Brown Dead Vines and Green Cedar Trees Left After Clearing Fence for Habitat
Clearing Fence for Quail Habitat
Another aspect of quail habitat management is preserving their favorite locations.  If you remember when you were a kid and there WERE quail, you found them on fence rows near a dirt road with grain fields on the side.  Keeping the fences cleared is a normal part of any ranch management but spraying the trees growing on fence lines instead of chopping them down preserves the bobwhite quail habitat and lessens the work without having an impact on the fence itself.  It’s not practical everywhere but where you can take this approach, it will benefit the bobwhite quail.

Steady to Flush!

Orange and White Dog Watching Brown Bobwhite Quail Releasing for Quail Hunting
Releasing for Quail Hunting
My poor dog – she get’s this “steady to flush” training three times every summer when I release my surrogated birds for quail hunting.  I’m not actively hunting and harvesting them yet but we do hunt them and then I use a starter pistol instead of a real shotgun.  Yes, it’s a bit disappointing for the dog but leaves more to breed and hunt in the future.

Training Feeder

White PVC Tuve on Brown Plywood in Black Net Cage as Quail Feeder Training
Quail Feeder Training
I’ve had some success with wild quail feeders.  Most of the success has been supplementing the quail just after release from the surrogator.  To increase my success, I start training the quail by using a smaller quail feeder inside the surrogator during the first 5 weeks so they are familiar with the sight and use of the quail feeder.  I’m not sure it is a huge benefit but I’ve sen more quail at the quail feeders since I started doing it and it is such a simple thing to do.  I’m learning that it is seldom one thing but a combination of several things that leads to success raising wild quail successfully.

Sharing a Bobwhite Quail Feeder

Whitetail Deer and Brown Bobwhite Quail Sharing Feeders
Sharing Quail Feeders
My post release quail feeder attracts a lot of attention and for the most part, I’m happy to share until you become a pest.  The deer like to snoop around and feed on the tailings and the bobwhite don’t mind them either.

Feeder Raiders!

White PVC Tube Homemade Feeder with Coons
Homemade Quail Feeder
Coons, on the other hand, have become my quail feeder nemesis – especially when it becomes a “family affair”.  These little critters not only feed, they raid and empty the feeder by shaking out too much feed.  I’ve tried numerous approaches to keeping them away – none successful yet.  But, I keep experimenting and will find the solution.

Electrified Feeder

White Plastic Bucket with Yellow Standoffs for a Feeder
Range Feeder for Quail
My highly electrified long term quail feeder was somewhat successful.  It did attract wild quail and they did feed but it had some problems with leakage and moisture.  I’m taking a different approach now as I found that while this quail feeder was effective, it wasn’t efficient to manage and use over the long term. That said, this has proven to be a good location to start quail hunting due to the prevalence of food.

Summary of Bobwhite Quail Habitat and Feeders

Management of quail habitat for bobwhite quail is tough work and requires sustained efforts.  Quail surrogators work well to produce six week old bobwhite quail but they will only stay, survive and thrive if the quail habitat is sufficient and better than that available nearby.  Quail feeders work but need to be designed and implemented with a specific purpose.  Additionally, other wildlife will visit quail feeders and need to be managed appropriately

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Quail Feeder Update – Success and Failure

Lot’s of new information to report on my quail feeder.  The new model – buzz bucket – worked well to deliver feed and attract birds while repelling varmits in the quail habitat.  It did experience some problems with durability in the wild.  The old model – pvc pipe – showed new signs of value in a particular use right after a release at the surrogator.  I had some issues with the buzz bucket model so I’ve taken it down and brought the buzz bucket quail feeder back to the shop to rethink the purpose and methods as part of my strategy to raise wild quail.

 

Buzz Bucket Quail Feeder Damage

White Plastic Quail Feeder Showing Damage from Gnawing Squirrels
Quail Feeder Damage from Squirrels

The buzz bucket quail feeder suffers from a lack of robustness.  The lid shows signs of animal gnawing – I suspect squirrels – and this leads to water getting inside the bucket and harming the feed.  It’s curious that the electric fence on the buzz bucket did not repel the squirrels nor did the game camera capture them. This is a set back in my efforts to improve the quail habitat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feed Flow in a Quail Feeder to Support Raising Wild Quail

Quail Habitat Improvement with a White Plastic Quail Feeder and Red Grain
Quail Habitat Improvement with a Partially Empty Quail Feeder

The feed delivery speed from the buzz bucket quail feeder was optimal.  Feed flowed smoothly but at a slow enough rate that it didn’t normally attracts any varmits.  A 50# sack of scratch lasted well over 5 weeks.  The feed flowed smoothly around the internal battery compartment and wires. It is important to manage costs downward in my efforts to raise wild quail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quail Feeder Success!

Wild Bobwhte Quail Near a White Plastic Quail Feeder
Wild Quail Using a Quail Feeder

The buzz bucket quail feeder regularly attracted wild bobwhite quail to feed.  The feed flow rate was sufficient and the feed delivery holes large enough that gravity and wind continued to deliver feed on a daily basis.  The primary purpose of this quail feeder is to conduct ongoing quail counts of the wild bobwhite quail population.  Rains have been sufficient this year to produce very healthy stand of wild grasses and seeds that the wild bobwhite quail do not need supplemental feeding in the quail habitat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Impediments to Quail Habitat Improvement

Brown Whitetail Deer Eating From a White Quail Feeder
Whitetail Deer Raiding a Quail Feeder

I did have occasional varmit raids on the buzz bucket quail feeder.  It is my practice of raising wild quail when tending the feeder to hand scatter feed which produces an abundance of feed on the ground.  What is curious in this picture is that the electric fence that protects the buzz bucket appears not to be working.  This was my first indication that the buzz bucket feeder needed to be brought back to the shop for a rethink and redesign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Varmits Raiding Quail Feeder

Whitetail Deer Eating from an Early Model White PVC Quail Feeder
Improving Release Habitat with an Early Model Quail Feeder

The PVC tube quail feeder works very well as a post release attractant to support the newly released wild bobwhite quail.  Since it lacks any varmit protection, it is subject to varmit raids.  The PVC model quail feeder is simple, inexpensive and very easy to use.  I maintain a T post at each surrogator spot specifically for the PVC quail feeder.  Upon release of the quail from the surrogator, I take the remaining feed and put that into the PVC quail feeder.  I then fill it to the top with scratch feed and let it trickle out over a few weeks.

 

 

 

 

Improvements to the PVC Quail Feeder

Simple White PVC Quail Feeder Showing Yellow Grain Works Well
The Early Model Quail Feeder Still Works Well

The size of the feed delivery holes in the PVC quail feeder is important.  I’ve finally gotten them large enough to consistently deliver feed via gravity.  I started with a 1/2″ drill bit and then generously wiggled it around to enlarge the feed delivery holes.  This results in a slow trickle of feed via gravity and wind that takes approximately 4 weeks to empty the quail feeder. While this does not have a big impact on quail habitat, it does improve the chances of newly released wild bobwhite quail.
 

 

 

 

Summary of Quail Feeder Update – Success and Failure

The buzz bucket quail feeder worked well but needs improvement to serve it’s purpose in my quail habitat management plan.  It has problems with being water tight and protected from varmits.  The buzz bucket quail feeder also has an unreliable electric fence.  The quail feeder does deliver feed nicely and a full feeder can last as long as 4 weeks.  The PVC quail feeder also showed new promise as a specific tool to support newly released wild bobwhite quail from the surrogator.  The enlarged holes deliver feed reliably for approximately 4 weeks.  The PVC quail feeder has no varmit protection but the feed delivery is slow enough that thee varmits are usually only there for the first round of extra feed scattered on the ground after filling the quail feeder with the remains from the surrogator.  Both feeders are showing signs of value and improvement in my long term strategy to raise wild quail.  I’m making progress on my quail feeder and very pleased with the result and what I’ve learned.

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You can also read a bit about our initial experiences designing the surrogator and figuring out how to raise these chicks the most efficiently.

Newly Designed Wild Quail Feeder Update

My revised model for my wild quail feeder has been in the quail habitat for several months now and it is performing well. The primary goal of using the wild quail feeder for raising wild quail was to stop the raiding of the feed by the critters. That goal has been completely met – critters almost completely avoid the wild quail feeder now – possibly due to the small electric fence built into the quail feeder itself. However, there has not been any wild quail traffic at the feeder – probably for two reasons. It has been a very wet and rainy Spring in Central Texas and there is no shortage of wild available quail feed. Second, while the wild quail feeder is located in a good bobwhite quail habitat area and where I have seen coveys previously, I think it may be too exposed for them to feel comfortable coming to the wild quail feeder and I think the holes that deliver the feed may be too small for the quail feeder to be truly effective.

 

 

Wild Quail Feeder Deployed in the Field

White Bucket Wild Quail Feeder Installed in Green Pasture
Wild Quail Feeder Installed

The installation of the quail feeder was easy and went as expected. It hangs from a T post and a piece of re-bar secured with some u bolts and hose clamps. This makes the quail feeder easily portable to new areas where I am raising wild quail. It also makes it very easy to site in quail habitat locations that are accessible and then be re-sited when needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rain and Dew Protection on the Wild Quail Feeder

White Bucket Quail Feeder with Brown Dirt Splash Weathers Storms
Quail Feeder Weathers Storms

The quail feeder does have a weakness and that is that it is possible for rain to either bounce from the ground or drip down the sides and clog the feed in the quail feeder holes. I also believe that the feeder holes are too small in that they require activity to cause quail feed to drain rather than draining feed via gravity. My next step is to enlarge the holes that deliver the quail feed so that they easily respond to gravity when the wind blows the quail feeder.

 

 

 

 

 

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Drainage of Quail Feed

Partiall Empty White Bucket Bobwhite Quail Feeder Supplementing Quail Habitat
Bobwhite Quail Feeder Supplementing Quail Habitat

The first month on site in the quail habitat the quail feeder delivered most of the five gallons of feed stored in the container. Due to the battery and electronics compartment within the quail feeder, the feed needs to drain around that compartment. As long as the feed stays dry, it appears that the feed delivery works well and my efforts in raising wild quail will be supplemented.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Critter Action at the Wild Quail Feeder

White Bucket Bobwhite Quail Feeder Showing Squirrel Damage
Bobwhite Quail Feeder Damage

There appears to have been some squirrel or rat action at the quail feeder that was not caught on camera. The benefit to using an inexpensive five gallon bucket and lid combination as part of my strategy raising wild quail is that I can replace the lid on the quail feeder for about a dollar and a few minutes with a screwdriver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bobwhite Quail Predator Control

Black and White Photo of Feral Cat Wild Quail Predators at Quail Feeder
Wild Quail Predators at Quail Feeder

In the off season October to May, when I’m not actively raising wild quail, I don’t visit the ranch as much and my predator control activities in my quail habitat areas wane. A game camera is a very valuable tool to keep a reasonable count on the predator population. I’ve heard many times about the impact of feral cats on wild quail but haven’t seen any at my place until this picture in the Spring of 2012. It must be time to restart my predator control activities – especially around the wild quail feeder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Newly Designed Wild Quail Feeder Update

My newly designed wild quail feeder worked well in my selected quail habitat area. My strategy in raising wild quail is to provide sufficient feed so that I can keep a reasonably accurate population census. I invest a lot of time and money raising quail in my quail surrogator so it just makes sense to follow up to see how well I’m doing. It met the primary goal of fending off feed stealing critters. It did not meet the goal of attracting wild quail. The quail feed is draining well enough but could use some improvement with larger quail feed drainage holes. It does not seem to be effected by rain or dew. Three months into the deployment, I’ve had surprising little damage and what has occurred can be repaired for a few dollars within a few minutes. Predators are showing themselves again and it appears to be time to resume my predator control activities to protect the wild quail that may be attracted to the wild quail feeder.

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Read about the first challenge we faced when determining the best method to feed quail.