Bobwhite quail habitat management and improvement is the most important aspect of running a surrogator to raise quail. The Surrogator works like a charm if you follow the instructions and a few tips learned from those that have gone before you. However, for a 6 week old bobwhite quail chick to survive to adulthood and then successfully breed and raise young, you’re going to have to have good habitat for raising wild quail. Improving your bobwhite quail restoration habitat may prove to be even more challenging that getting the Surrogator to work for you. I recommend a studied, varied and incremental approach to bobwhite quail habitat management so that you can be successful with your efforts to raise quail.
Water for bobwhite quail restoration comes from three sources – metabolic water, dew and ground water. It is typically used in that order and as long as you have reasonably good natural feed available, your bobwhite quail will do fine and you will be successful in your efforts to raise quail. However, bobwhite quail chicks have an extremely high protein requirement that is usually met by eating small bugs. Bugs and insects need standing water to thrive. Not much, just enough to lay and hatch their eggs but nevertheless, standing water is needed. We use a simple set of rain water collectors to provide year round water for the other wildlife and also to provide small moist ground areas to promote bugs and insects for raising wild quail.
In order to raise quail in any area that is even moderately dry, you will need to manage your rain water. The size and type of the rain water holding tanks is less important than the collection area on our ranch. As long as they are reasonably sized to the collection surface, almost any type of clean container will suffice. We suffered through a tremendous drought in 2011 and dramatically increased the size of our collection surfaces to insure that our rain water collection tanks stay as full as possible with as little rain as possible. This led to a successful season in 2011 for raising wild quail. The rain water collection tanks aren’t important but including them in your bobwhite quail restoration plan is important. We’ve used expensive ones from Tractor Supply and we’ve also used cheap used blue plastic barrels. The wildlife and the rain don’t care – as long as they hold water.
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Grass control is also very important in any plan to raise quail. One of the reasons for the decline in bobwhite quail over the past 10 years is a loss of habitat and food to non-native grasses. Many places have either non-native or unsuitable grasses that need to be replaced with native grasses. How do you tell the difference? Most native grasses are “bunch” grasses that grow in bunches. Most non-native grasses are “runner” grasses that have runners that allow them to propagate easily. Non-native grasses are also thicker and almost impossible for bobwhite quail to move around in. Native grasses provide plenty of room for bobwhite quail to move on the ground and also provide a bountiful crop of seeds for quail to eat. You will need plenty of this type of area to be successful raising wild quail. There are numerous approaches to removing non-native grasses and different approaches work for different grass types. Do your research as part of your quail restoration efforts.
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Forbs, otherwise known as wildflowers, are a critical source of feed and seeds to raise quail. In Texas, there are typically sufficient forb seeds already in the soil that you only need to disturb the soil sufficiently to get them to germinate and sprout. In some cases, you might need to purchase additional native grass and forb seeds but they can be very expensive. This can easily blow your budget in your bobwhite quail restoration plan. It’s worth doing a small experiment in your experiments raising wild quail just to see if there are already a sufficient number of native grass seeds in your soil.
Rain water is a precious resource and should be conserved where possible. We identify and manage small seeps and rainwater sumps around the ranch as much as possible. This is a critical part of our bobwhite quail restoration plan to improve the bobwhite quail habitat and raise quail. Rain water collected, or even just stopped from running down the hill, forms ground water which keeps seeps and springs running for longer periods of time. The goal is to stop and capture as much rain water as possible and return it to the ground underneath your property before it has the chance to run off into a river and then eventually, to the ocean.
Rain water collection and management can be an easy way to improve your bobwhite quail habitat and should be a part of your bobwhite quail restoration plan to raise quail. Rain water collectors are easy and inexpensive to build. Managing rain water seeps and sumps is a bit more challenging but provides a very effective way to increase your year round ground water. Improving non-native grasses into native grasses and forbs is a critical aspect of habitat improvement and a requirement for habitat improvement and your plan to raise quail.