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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Texas Quail Hunt for Pen Raised Quail

If you are looking for a Texas Quail Hunt, there aren’t many wild quail in the Central Texas area. But, that doesn’t mean that you have to go without quail. You actually have three options for a Texas quail hunt – wild bobwhite quail or blue quail on a lease or land that you own, use a bobwhite quail surrogator to restore your own wild quail population or hunt pen raised bobwhite quail on a preserve.  Even the National Quail Hunting Forecast doesn’t show much promise for quail hunting in Texas.

Types of Texas Quail Hunt

Hunting wild quail can be very challenging and expensive.  The populations of wild quail have varied widely over the past few years due to both the drought and what the scientists are calling “idiopathic decline”. In addition to the difficulty of finding wild quail, the costs of quail hunting leases are increasing dramatically every year.  South Texas quail hunts and quail leases are probably some of the best examples of this type of Texas quail hunt.

Using a surrogator to restore a will ailqu population on your property is simple but it is not easy.  Raising wild quail requires a substantial investment in a surrogator and an even greater investment in time for an uncertain payoff.  The surrogators work like a charm to get the wild quail from 0 to 5 weeks.  What happens after that, and your eventual success, depends almost entirely on your ability and willingness to make and manage habitat improvements.

A Texas quail hunt for pen raised quail is the easiest option.  In fact, this is the most convenient option for a quail hunt near Austin Texas.  You can often find a very affordable option within an hour drive of where you live.  The biggest benefit of this type of quail hunt is that you KNOW there will be birds.  The drawback is that a Texas quail hunt for pen raised quail is NOT a wild quail hunt.  The birds behave differently and your dog will behave differently as well.

Texas Quail Hunt for Penraised Bobwhite Quail

Hunting Pen Raised Bobwhite Quail

Pen raised quail can offer a challenging and very social hunt or a great opportunity to do some detail work on your hunting dog.

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Teaching your dog to be steady to wing and shot can be a challenge if you have trouble finding live birds to work with. Pen raised quail offer an outstanding opportunity to know exactly where the birds are so that you can work closely with your dog – and still have the pleasure of a Texas quail hunt.

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