Finishing the Wild Bobwhite Quail Feeder

This is the second and concluding part of my post about building a wild bobwhite quail feeder that can withstand the ravages of deer, coons and other critters.  While the cost of wasted feed is a true dollar cost, the real cost is that the wild bobwhite quail don’t return to a feeder once it has been raided by critters and this makes it very difficult to have an accurate count of raising quail.  My primary purpose in building the feeders is to improve my method of counting the quail rather than to try and supplement their feed.  I will place the feeder in a primary quail habitat location.  The key difference with this wild bobwhite quail feeder is that it contains a small electric fence to keep the critters away.  This approach has worked successfully on deer feeders and I’m hoping that it will be successful on my wild bobwhite quail feeder.

On/Off Switch for the Bobwhite Quail Feeder

Switch for Bobwhite Quail Feeder
Silver Electrical Switch for Bobwhite Quail Feeder

Since the wild bobwhite quail feeder is electrified, it makes sense to have an On/Off switch to prevent getting shocked when tending the feeder.  If you’re raising quail, it is important to regularly tend the quail feeder.  I’ve seen situations where the electrical device attached to a feeder did not have a switch it the operator/tender regularly got a nasty shock.  I want to avoid that situation since the feeder will be located in a very brushy area which tend to be very good quail habitat.

 
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Wiring Harness for the Bobwhite Quail Feeder

Brown and Yellow Internal Wiring Harness for Raising Quail Feeder
Internal Wiring Harness for Raising Quail Feeder

The internal wiring harness on the wild bobwhite quail feeder is simple.  There is a line running from the solar charger into the batter case, two lines running to the On/Off switch and a single line running to the bucket handle.  The entire system is grounded to the bucket handle which hangs from a metal rod attached to a metal T Post which is driven into the ground.  As part of my quail raising process, I put a T Post at each location where I place the surrogator which is near ideal quail habitat.

 

 

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Bobwhite Quail Feeder Electric Fence

Yellow Quail Feeder Insulators
Quail Feeder Insulators

The “electric fence” on the wild bobwhite quail feeder is built using stiff electric fence wire and six electric fence insulators.  The insulators are attached equidistant around the bucket approximately 2 inches up from the bottom of the bucket.  This will allow enough room to drill feed drainage holes to allow the feed to trickle to the ground while still deterring any critters from messing with the bucket itself.  The bucket will hang freely from a piece of rebar attached to a T Post and be allowed to swing in the wind.  The electric fence should help me retain more feed and lower my cost of raising quail while also making it easy to locate and tend when it is placed in prime quail habitat.

 

 

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Electric Fence Connections and Raising Quail

Silver Quail Feeder Electrical Wiring
Quail Feeder Electrical Wiring

The most challenging part of building the wild bobwhite quail feeder was the exit and re-entrance of the electrical wire, through the insulator so that the connections would be waterproof to the inside of the bucket.  This required some careful drilling and tricky pliers work but was accomplished without drilling any additional holes.  It is important to account for quail habitat and rain water spoilage and minimize it to help reduce the costs of raising quail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Completed Feeder Ready for Placement in Quail Habitat

Assembled White Quail Feeder
Assembled Quail Feeder

The fully assembled and completed wild bobwhite quail feeder.  It consists of a solar charger to charge a 12V battery, a large Coon Zapper capacitor, a simple On/Off switch, six electric fence insulators and a couple feet of electric fence wire and a five gallon bucket.  Total cost of the materials was approximately $75.  Yes, in terms of feeding wild quail that is expensive but in terms of having an accurate and effective way to determine wild quail population easily I think it’s worth it.  None of my previous methods have worked very well due to raids by critters which leads to an inability to get an accurate count of the birds, in their quail habitat, that I’ve released from raising quail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of a Wild Bobwhite Quail Feeder

My wild bobwhite quail feeder is completed and another important milestone in my process of raising quail and improving the quail habitat.  I’ve installed an On/Off switch to prevent getting shocked and grounded the electrical system to the handle which will ground via the T Post.  I’ve used regular electrical fence building materials to install a ring of charged electrical wire around the perimeter of the bucket.  The wild bobwhite quail feeder cost approximately $75 and is now ready for it’s first field test.

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Bobwhite Quail Hunting – Finally!

It’s been two years of hard work tending 7 surrogator cycles but I finally have a large enough wild population of wild bobwhite quail for quail hunting.  The hot, dry Texas Summer has passed and the light rains and cooler temperatures are allowing the bobwhite quail habitat to improve rather quickly.  It’s also the end of the annual Summer Surrogator season and time to bring the Surrogator in for Winter rehabilitation and repairs.  Time for some “barn work” and to enjoy the fruits of our quail raising and quail hunting labors over the past few years.

 

Bobwhite Quail and Water

Bobwhite Quail Hunting Needs Rolling Creek with Green Moss and Fresh Water
Bobwhite Quail Hunting Needs Fresh Water

Most of the research on raising quail for quail hunting that I’ve read tells me that bobwhite quail only need a direct source of water for drinking as a third option.  The research tells me that their primary source of water is environmental water – rain or dew – followed by metabolic water that they metabolize from the grains that they eat.  In the Surrogator, there is no rain or dew and they are fed dry protein so it is important to have drinkable water.  In the wild, nature provides most of what they need directly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bobwhite Quail Eat Bugs and Bugs Need Water

Clean Flowing Water Provides Small Young Bugs for Quail Hunting
Water Provides Bugs for Quail Hunting

Bobwhite quail chicks have very high protein requirements.  They get most of these high protein needs met from eating small bugs.  In this case, water becomes very important as most bugs and insects needs water to reproduce.  The long hot Texas Summer drought really had a huge impact on the number of available bugs – which has a direct impact on the number of quail reproduced for quail hunting.  Now, I didn’t get on my hands and knees to count bugs bug I can tell you that my windshield stayed pretty clean and I didn’t need to buy any extra bug spray this Summer and I take that as a pretty good indicator of the local bug population.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bobwhite Quail Pairs

Male & Female Pair of Bobwhite Quail Near a Deer Feeder with Deer
Pair of Bobwhite Quail

We’ve been seeing and hearing signs of wild quail for quite a few months.  I’ve rally been itching to go quail hunting.  This game cam picture is our first real evidence of them coming to the deer feeders.  In the Spring, I estimated our population to be approximately 40 birds based on call counts in a single location.  I’ve seen them in other locations on the ranch so we estimated a 20% survival rate over the winter.  We released another 300 birds this Summer as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quail Hunting Dog

Orange and White Brittany Spaniel Quail Hunting Dog on Point
Quail Hunting Dog on Point

I originally started this project because my Brittany was getting ruined on pen-raised quail and I wanted a convenient place to put her on wild quail.  She’s covered hundreds of iles on the ranch finding and pointing wild quail.  In this case, the surrogated wild quail have become very wild.  When we do find them, they are almost always in the deepest, thickest, thorniest brush that we have on the ranch.  That’s great for their survival but is certainly going to make hunting them tough!

 

 

 

 

 

Quail Hunting Harvest

Harvested Female Quail Hunting for Fruits of my Labor
Quail Hunting for Fruits of my Labor

I’m not confident that I have a large enough population that I can go quail hunting every weekend.  I’m going to lay off this year and only hunt them with the dog and then fire blanks so she can work on steady to wing and steady to shot – which quickly goes bad if you don’t hunt enough  horunt pen-raised birds by yourself.  I did want to harvest one bird so that I could get a closer look.  This, unfortunately, is a female and I would have preferred to have harvested a male – just like duck hunting – when you kill a female you stop all forward reproduction and when you kill a male, you only jeopardize forward production.  This appears to be one of this year’s released birds rather than a mature female.  This sub species tends to be smaller and redder than the native wild bobwhite quail we have for quail hunting in Texas.  They also seem to be quite a bit wilder and flush quicker than most wild birds I’ve hunted previously.

 

 

 

 

Surrogator Repairs

Example of Annual Surrogator Repairs - Silver Hinge Broken on Camoflage Door
Example of Annual Surrogator Repairs

I can’t say enough great things about the Surrogator.  It has held up extremely well for two years and appears to have at least another 3-5 years of life.  That said, it does need occasional repairs as the smaller parts wear out.  I bring the Surrogator back into the barn each winter to make the small repairs, thoroughly clean it and re paint it to prevent rust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loading the Surrogator for Transport

Bobwhite Quail Surrogator and Equipment Loaded in the bed of a White Pickup for Transport
Bobwhite Quail Surrogator Loaded for Transport

The thing I like most about eh Surrogator XL is the fact that it is so easily transported.  My 12 year old daughter and I can load the entire contraption and all of it’s parts and pieces into the short bed of my pickup and haul it whever we need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Quail Hunting and the Surrogator

The long, hot drought has broken and the wild bobwhite quail habitat is quickly improving.  We’re seeing bobwhite quail pairs and babies on a regular basis.  I’ve been quail hunting once and harvested a young female bobwhite quail – it was very much a treat to see the fruits of my labors.  We don’t yet have a large enough wild population to support quail hunting but expect to continue the surrogator cycles and habitat improvements for another  couple of years.  The end of the surrogator season is also the start of the surrogator repair and rehabilitation season so we’ve loaded the surrogator up and brought it back to the barn for winter work.  It’s very satisfying to know that my efforts to restore a wild population of bobwhite quail is succeeding and that we will have good quail hunting in the very near future.

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Bobwhite Quail Feeder & Rainwater Collection

 

The long, hot Texas Summer is drawing to a close but the very dry weather has me continuing to work on my bobwhite quail feeder.  I’m counting on the bobwhite quail feeders to help me support the growing bird population and also provide an relatively easy place to monitor the size and health of the coveys.  Once I’ve solved the quail feeder problem, I’m going to work on providing areas with moisture to support the attraction of bugs so that the bobwhite quail chicks have a place to find the high protein food they need.

Texas Summer Drought

Dry Weather Picture of Dry River Bed Hurting Bobwhite Quail
Dry Weather Hurting Bobwhite Quail

This is a picture of the Blanco River about an hour North of San Antonio, Tx.  This river seldom runs dry and, as you can see, it is almost completely dry with only a few stagnant water holes left.  I’m sure there is some water flowing underneath because of the green vegetation in the river bed but most of the folks living in this area have had their wells run dry and their rainwater collection systems run dry as well.  This is a great indicator of why a bobwhite quail feeder is almost a requirement this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bobwhite Quail Feeder Problem

Silver Aluminum Prototype Collar with Cage on Bobwhite Quail Feeder
Prototype Collar on Bobwhite Quail Feeder

I’ve copied a bobwhite quail feeder design from another fellow who is having good success with his feeders but I hvae not yet solved the problem of keeping the other hungry critters away from the bobwhite quail feed.  I load these feeders with scratch grains and each feeder holds about 15 pounds of feed.  Between the deer, coons and hogs, they can clean me out in a week.  I tried the cage around the feeder and the critters just lifted it up.  So, I put a collar on the feeder to prevent them from lifting it up and they just tunnel underneath it.  Not mention that the coons just push right through the little 4 inch square holes.  Each of these steps has reduced the amount of feed I’m giving away but has not eliminated it.  Additionally, I seldom see quail at a feeder once it has been found and raided by the critters.  I think the quail can either smell or sense the critter activity and avoid that location.

 

Hoof Rats Raiding the Bobwhite Quail Feeder

Night Photo of a Bobwhite Quail Feeder Being Raided by Deer on It's Knees
Bobwhite Quail Feeder Raided by Deer

Deer are little more than hoof rats.  They will get into and almost destroy anything that has feed in it.  Now, I don’t mind feeding the deer as they are valuable wildlife and we do enjoy hunting them.  That said, I want them to eat at the deer feeders and not the bobwhite quail feeder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Optimum Feed Flow in a Bobwhite Quail Feeder

White Plastic Bobwhite Quail Feeder Showing Feed Flow onto Ground
Bobwhite Quail Feeder Feed Flow

The current design of the feed flow in the bobwhite quail feeder is working well.  I finally got the holes large enough that the feed will flow with gravity but not flow too much.  This was a challenging exercise and I had to bring a drill and drill bit with me each week and continue to slightly enlarge the holes until I achieved the proper feed flow.

 

 

 

 

 

Commercial Rainwater Collection System with Enhancements

Green Plastic Rainwater Collector with Increased Size of Aluminum Panel Sheeting
Rainwater Collector Increased Size

Rainwater collection systems are growing in popularity in Central Texas – especially with the recent drought.  Texas A&M is predicting that this drought will last another 7 to 10 years so we are investing in rainwater collectors to support our wildlife.  The basic unit is a 250 gallon tank which is hooked to a water hose and runs to a watering bowl with a float in it.  The basic collection area is approximately 6 feet by 8 feet and collects approximately 1 gallon of water per square foot for each 1 inch of rain.  In addition to installing more rainwater collectors, we came up with the idea of simply increasing the collection area on the existing collectors.  Rain has been sparse and increasing the amount of rain collected during each rain event has proven to be an inexpensive and valuable approach.  IN this case, we tripled the rainwater collection area and increased our collection rate from 48 gallons per inch of rain to well over 120 gallons per inch of rain.

 

DIY Rainwater Collection System

New Blue Plastic Barrel Rainwater Collector for Bobwhite Quail
New Rainwater Collector for Bobwhite Quail

While there are affordable commercial rainwater collection systems, they aren’t cheap.  They cost approximately $750 to build and install.  We invented our own with cheap plastic barrels to hold the rainwater and scrap iron.  The total dollar cost on this unit was less than $150.  However, the labor cost was higher as it required some time to thin, design, engineer, install and tune this system.  You can see the float controlled water bowl in the foreground.  The three barrels are connected via simple piping and this unit has a 150 gallon capacity.  It will be easy to expand the capacity with additional barrels if and when it might be needed.

 

 

 

Seep Muhlie and Underground Water

Dun Colored Seep Muhlie Plants Indicate Underground Water Potential for Bobwhite Quail
Seep Muhlie Plants Indicate Water for Bobwhite Quail

Seep Muhlie is a plant that occasionally indicates the presence of underground water.  Big Muhlie, a larger variety, definitely indicates the presence of an underground spring.  We’ve tried water witching or dowsing several times and always get a very positive reading over seep muhlie.  Additionally, the soil where seep muhlie grows tends to be heavy with clays which is also a good indicator of either underground water or water holding capability.

 

 

 

 

 

What Lies Under Seep Muhlie?

Shallow Excavation in Clay Soil Under Seep Muhlie Plants Showing Soil Strata
Shallow Excavation Under Seep Muhlie

We needed some extra fill dirt for a barn we recently built so we had the contractor take the dirt from underneath a small area where seep muhlie were growing.  I was hoping we’d tap right into a flowing spring (not really) but we didn’t find anything except more dry clayish dirt.  I’m not done yet as I do believe in the effectiveness of the dowsing rods.  Nevertheless, I do think this area has god water holding capacity so we also located the dig near a spot that will have good runoff if and when it does rain.

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Rainwater Collection and Bobwhite Quail Feeder

The Texas drought is drawing to a close.  We’ve had a bit of rain recently and the temperatures are cooling off.  Too little too late I think and we are doubling down on our support mechanisms for our wildlife.  I continue experimenting with my bobwhite quail feeder to reduce the feed loss due to critters.  We also continue to invest time and money in rainwater harvesting and collection.  It’s going to be a tough winter for the wildlife but early indications are that our current efforts are helping.  Our white tail deer population is maturing nicely and we are regularly seeing bobwhite quail near the bobwhite quail feeder, in small groups with babies and in larger coveys.

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