Water and Raising Texas Quail for Hunting

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

Standing Water Tank in White Texas Clay for Texas Quail
Water Tank for Texas Quail

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

Standing Water in Grey Clay Puddle for Raising Texas Quail for Hunting
Standing Water for Raising Texas Quail for Hunting

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

Green Sedges Above White Limestone Clay for Water Seepage Location for Texas Quail
Water Seepage Location for Texas Quail

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

Good Red Clay Soil for Holding Water for Texas Quail
Good Clay Soil for Holding Water for Texas Quail

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

Hole Dug in Ground with White Clay Soil for Experimenting with Water Holding Location for Raising Texas Quail for Hunting
Experimenting with Water Holding Location for Raising Texas Quail for Hunting

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

Beautiful Texas Water Spring with Green Grass and White Limestone Rocks
Beautiful Texas Spring

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

Water Retention with Rows of White Limestone Rocks on a Green Texas Hill for Raising Texas Quail for Hunting
Water Retention for Raising Texas Quail for Hunting

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.









Man in Blue Shirt and Green Hat Water Witching with White Clothes Hanger Wires to Support Raising Texas Quail for Hunting
Water Witching to Support Raising Texas Quail for Hunting

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

Silver and Green Rainwater Collector with Blue Barrels for Raising Quail
Rainwater Collector for Raising Quail

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.








Dew Collectors

Small Beads of Morning Dew on the Silver Roof of a Rainwater Collector
Morning Dew on the Rainwater Collector

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.



Bobwhite Quail Habitat Management – Two Leaved Senna

Two-Leaved Senna










Bobwhite quail need seeds in their quail habitat to survive.  Habitat management is critical to retaining wild populations of bobwhite quail.  The identification, preservation and propagation of seed bearing perennials is one of the easiest and best habitat management practices you can implement.

Two-Leaved Senna

Dry, open flats and hillsides are the home of Two-Leaved Senna.  It may have 1 or several erect stems averageing 1-2′ high.  The leaves grow up to 3″ long with petioles up to 1″ long.  Each leaf has a pair of leaflets 1-2″ long and 1/4″ wide.  Peduncles 1-2″ long rise from the axils, each with 2-5 yellow flowers 3/4 – 1″ across.  Blooms April – October.  Not to be confused with Lindheimer’s Senna which has wider leaves and blooms Sept – Nov.

Seed Bearing Plants as Quail Habitat

Two Leaved Senna (Senna Roemeriana) is Texas native perennial that grows in a mound shape up to approximately 1-2 feet tall.  It has small yellow flowers on long stalks. It grows in well drained limestone soil in dry, open flats and hill sides.  The leaves are long stalked and divided into two leaflets. Due to it’s somewhat toxic nature, it is highly deer resistant and produces seed pods that attract wild birds.

Quail Habitat Management Practices

I make it a monthly practice to identify and document a potential beneficial plant as part of my quail habitat management plan.  The goal of my quail habitat management plan is to provide a habitat and environment that is attractive to the wild bobwhite quail I release from my surrogator.  Bobwhite quail will migrate significant distances to find the most favorable habitat.  Once I’ve identified and documented the plants beneficial to bobwhite quail habitat, I then develop an easy and sustainable program to promote the continued growth of that plant.




Management of Two Leaved Senna

Since the two leaved senna prefers open, well drained limestone hillsides, my plan includes the following steps

  • identify and GPS mark areas on the ranch where two leaved senna already exists
  • trim and remove bushy plants in those areas subject to the “softball rule” for the distances between “quail houses”
  • research the best times of the year and methods for planting additional two leaved senna seeds
  • locate and purchase two leaved senna seeds
  • plan for planting

Quail Habitat Summary

Managing and improving the native plants and quail habitat on our ranch is critical to preserving and improving my investment in the quail I’m raising in the surrogator.  One of the best lessons I’ve learned from my quail habitat management mentors is “don’t start anything you can’t sustain”.  Thus, my quail habitat management plans proceed slowly but diligently each month.




Deer Pea Vetch for Quail Habitat

Deer Pea Vetch is an annual plant that grows close to the ground with long stems.  It seems to prefer areas where there is not a lot of competition for soil or sunlight.  It is also one of the first forbs we see bloom in the Spring.  It has lavender-bluish flower that are quite small.  It also slightly resembles a very young mesquite tree or sensitive briar with it’s very similar leaf sets.  Deer pea vetch leaves and seeds are very valuable and nutritious for wildlife.  It is also very valuable in improving the soil through it’s nitrogen fixation.

Quail Habitat Improvement

Approximately 50% of the ranch is covered with non-native King Ranch Bluestem which was planted in the 1950s after the invasive and non-native Ashe Juniper (Cedar) trees were cleared to prevent soil erosion.  We are in the process of taking numerous steps to improve the habitat to return it to it’s previous natural state.  Identifying and then cultivating the natural plants, trees and forbs is the first of many steps in this process.