Pre Season Raising Quail Warmup

The season for raising wild quail is just around the corner – baby chicks are usually available around mid May.  So, it’s time to get everything inspected, repaired and ready!  Surprisingly, there’s quite a bit to do to get everything ready to go for a successful season.

Rainwater Collectors and Quail

Blue and Silver Rainwater Collector for Raising Quail
Rainwater Collector for Raising Quail

Bobwhite quail don’t have a huge need for ground water.  They fulfill most of their water needs from either dew or metabolic water.  That said, the Texas Summers can be very hot and dry and providing a little water may mean the difference between life and death.  Also, a watering location provides an excellent location for a game camera to keep tabs on the wild quail population as well as their predators.

 

 

 

 

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Forbs Feed Quail

Green Forbs Feed Bobwhite Quail
Forbs Feed Bobwhite Quail

Forbs and their seeds are the primary feed for wild quail.  Forbs are essentially wild flowers and can be very abundant in Texas.  It all depends on the amout of rainfall – it doesn’t take much rainfall to get them to sprout and bloom but it does take some.  During the early Spring months, we monitor the forbs production and then make plans from there on how and if we will feed additionally in the quail feeders.

 

 

 

 

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Controlling Invasive Plants for Quail

Quail Habitat Manipulation of Brown Natural Grasses
Quail Habitat Manipulation

Non native grasses, like King Ranch Bluestem are hell on quail.  The KR Bluestem is so dense and compact that the quail can’t get around in it.  Additionally, KR Bluestem does a terrible job at producing seeds AND seems almost impossible to eliminate once it has started.  This is a picture of a small tract where we disced heavily several years ago.  The KR Bluestem has grown back in most areas except where we disced down to bare earth.  In those areas, we are seeing emergence of native grasses.  I plan to continue my experiments with the destruction of our KR Bluestem this year.

 

 

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Quail Feeders and Bobwhite Quail

Bobwhite Quail
Bobwhite Quail Pipe Feeder

I’ve built and used several different types of quail feeders over the years.  I’ve come to understand that they don’t do much except to support the wild quail during their first week after their release.  WE’ve been fortunate that most years have produced a decent crop of forbs so the bobwhite quail have sufficient feed available to the without the need for supplemental feeding.  We are currently in the middle of a 10 year drought so we’re watching carefully and are prepared to supplement the feed if needed.

 

 

 

 

Custom Quail Feeders

White Plastic Quail Bucket Feeder
Bobwhite Quail Bucket Feeder

This type of electrified bucket worked OK – it sure kept the critters off!  In the end, it wasn’t as durable as I wanted and I’ve discontinued using this design.  Honestly, I think a regular broadcast deer feeder works the best but you do have to contend with everything else in the area that likes what comes out of a deer feeder.

 

 

 

 

Quail Predators

Black and White Night Picture of Bobcat Predator
Bobcat Predator on Bobwhite Quail

Predator control is one aspect of rebuilding a wild population of bobwhite quail.  We don’t have a lot of predators but we do have some.  It’s been said that a bobcat can wreak havoc on a covey of quail by destroying all of them and only eating a few.  I’m a big fan of game cameras to monitor the wildlife population and then formulate actions based on what I see.  However, I am loath to kill every predator out there as I do believe that this upsets that balance of nature and I’ll only end up paying the price at some later date with some larger problem.

 

 

 

 

Raptors and Quail

Predator of Brown and White Hawk
Bobwhite Quail Predator

Raptors are another bobwhite quail predator and this is an interesting picture of one coming down to peer into the surrogator.  We do have several pairs of hawks on the ranch but we also have magnificent habitat in the areas where quail are being found.  So, I’m not horribly worried about the raptors taking out my quail and have been pleased with the balance.

 

 

 

 

Surrogator Repair and Maintenance

Surrogator Repairs of Black Paint and Rusted Metal
Bobwhite Quail Surrogator Repairs

Early Spring is always the time for surrogator repairs and they always need a little love and attention.  The surrogator is incredibly well built and sturdy and the repairs each year are mostly clean up and preventative maintenance.  Nothing a little buffing and painting can’t easily take care of.  I’ve been very pleased with my surrogator and hope it continues to last for many years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Reason I Raise Wild Quail

Releasing Bobwhite Quail from Surrogator while Orange and White Brittany Watches
Releasing Bobwhite Quail from Surrogator

Lastly, the reason I got started doing all of this several years ago.  I bought a hunting dog and then almost ruined her on pen raised quail.  Now, she get’s exposed to hyper training at least 3 times each Summer.  I have her sit at the end of the surrogator during the quail release and she doesn’t move.  She get’s very excited and I do turn her loose to hunt them afterward but this is an excellent training regime for steadiness.

 

 

 

 

Very Steady Hunting Dog

Well Trained Orange and White Brittany Hunting Dog
Well Trained Quail Hunting Dog

Yet another shot of Jill waiting patiently while the wild quail become even wilder.  She’s just turned 4 years old and is quite steady on command.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Pre Season Raising Quail Warmup

Spring is here and it’s time to get ready for another season of raising wild quail.  The list of things to do and check get’s longer every year as I implement more practices to improve the habitat.  This will be my 4th year of raising wild quail and I’m very much looking forward to it – Jill is too!

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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.