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
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.
Bobwhite Quail Eat Bugs and Bugs Need Water
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
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
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
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.
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
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.