I always look forward to a new season and cycle of raising wild bobwhite quail. This is my third year and I’m finally starting to see and hear the fruits of my labors. We had a terrible drought last year and I doubted that any of the approximately 700 birds I’d released had survived. I was starting to wonder if I knew how to raise quail! Although I didn’t make it out for call counts in May, every time I’ve been over to the ranch, I’ve heard wild quail calling from the tress – almost throughout the entire day. What a treat to know that my efforts to raise bobwhite quail are paying off!
10 Day Old Bobwhite Quail Chicks
I prefer 10 day old bobwhite quail chicks rather than 1 day old chicks. I like their hardiness and the fact that I don’t have to suffer that first week’s mortality. The slightly older birds seem to perform better in the surrogator and fly better when released. Some other people I talk with also use this approach to shorten their cycle from 5 weeks to 4 weeks and get another batch in over the Summer. I’m not in that much of a hurry and prefer the quality over the quantity because I think they make better wild quail.
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Heat Control and How to Raise Quail
Even though the bobwhite quail chicks are 10 days old, they still require supplemental heat – just not as much. This, I’ve come to understand, is one of the biggest and most valuable secrets of the Surrogator. Heat control is a critical element in how to raise quail. The heating unit has heat control as well as a thermostat to help regulate the internal temperatures. The little ceramic dish on top of the flame is also brilliant – it pushes the heat downward and conserves gas. When I start a cycle with 10 day old bobwhite quail chick, I start the thermostat at 3 instead of 5 which is the recommended second week temperature setting. We use less gas this way but the wild quail chicks do eat more food over 5 weeks.
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Bobwhite Quail Chicks Clumping
Even 10 day old bobwhite quail chicks clump when you first load them in the surrogator. They do this even through the heater is running. This is what would happen if there were not a heater and the chicks on the bottom would suffocate. It doesn’t take a lot to know how to raise quail but you do have to pay close attention to the basics. It doesn’t take them long to realize their new situation and begin feeding. They always seem to be hungry!
Bobwhite Quail Helper
One of the biggest benefits of raising wild bobwhite quail with a surrogator is having my daughters along to help me. It’s not always exciting and frequently involves some hard work but the time we get to spend together learning and raising bobwhite quail is precious. My daughters seem to like the loading and releasing weeks more than anything else and are developing a passion for wild quail.
Summary of A New Cycle of Raising Wild Bobwhite Quail
I’m always excited about another cycle of raising wild bobwhite quail. I’m hearing lots of birds this year that have come from previous releases or are the offspring from previous releases. I prefer 10 day old chicks instead of 1 day old chicks for their better performance and hardiness. I’ve learned a lot about how to raise quail and temperature control is critical even with 10 day old chicks. Even the slightly older birds tend to clump and this can cause suffocation. If you’re raising wild quail, take your kids with you – it is a tremendous opportunity to get to know them, teach them about our great outdoors heritage and pass on our passion for bobwhite quail.
I combined a “big trip” with my dog for quail hunting with my annual opening weekend pheasant hunting trip. Instead of flying, I loaded the pup in the truck and drove to Amarillo, Texas for pheasant hunting, then to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico for 3 days of quail hunting and then back home. It was a LONG trip and I also managed to squeeze in a little goose hunting in North Texas to go with my quail hunting.
Pheasant Hunting in the Southern Range
I had my annual pheasant hunt as a prelude to my big quail hunting trip. Pheasant hunting weather in North Texas is always a crap shoot. I think I’ve seen every different type of weather up there. This year, it was very cold with a light snow on the ground. This wasn’t a great year for pheasants in North Texas due to the drouth. Compounding this problem – or in some cases helping it – the farmers who usually leave some stubble in their fields had baled literally everything n- including the cotton stalks. This had the effect of either eliminating their cover entirely or concentrating them in the sparse cover that was available. As usual, you can’t expect to go the very farthest Southern range of pheasants in North Texas and expect to bag a limit every time. We had a lot of walking and some great dog work but getting in range of the few we saw was very challenging.
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Goose Hunting in North Texas
Instead of two days of pheasant hunting, we elected to hunt geese in North Texas near Dalhart. it was a clear cold day and there were plenty of lesser Canada geese in the area roosting on large water. Goose hunting in Texas, or goose hunting anywhere for that matter, is always a challenge. Those birds are smart! WE did manage to draw in a few birds but the majority of the geese elected to head in a different direction that day. Goose hunting tends to be all about being on the X – being where they want to be. Scouting helps a lot to improve the odds but good old fashioned luck is always a critical factor when hunting geese in Texas.
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Turkey Restoration and Hunting
As I was driving out from Amarillo on Monday morning to go to New Mexico for quail hunting, a flock of neighborhood turkeys were out on the road looking for some food. A blistering Norther had blown in overnight bringing lots of snow and freezing rain and the turkeys were hungry. I’m not a turkey hunter but I do remember when I was a kid that turkeys tended to be a myth. Congrats to all of the great associations and habitat management that has taken place over the last 25 years that has restored this amazing bird to huntable populations.
Valley of Fire
My journey from Amarillo Texas to Truth or Consequences New Mexico for quail hunting was planned over two major interstate highways. Much to my surprise, the interstates were closed in New Mexico due to the storm and I had to take the back roads. I got off the interstate, bought a paper map – imagine that – and then just kept heading South and West with the hope that I’d get to ToC without a major mishap. Turns out that it was a wonderful drive through the back roads of Eastern New Mexico with a ton of great sights to see. The Valley of Fire is an amazing place where a volcano “leaked” some lava to the surface a couple thousand years ago. New Mexico is rough country anyway but this was incredibly rough!
Quail Hunting and Tracking in the Snow
My first of 3 days of quail hunting started in the mountains east of ToC New Mexico. The goal was to bag one each of Mearns Quail, Gambels Quail and Scaled quail. On Day one we were after all or any of them. The storm over the previous few days provided us with a very unique opportunity that I’d never had before – tracking quail in the snow. New Mexico is BIG country and requires that you cover a lot of ground when you are hunting quail. It helped tremendously that we were able to see quail tracks in the snow which allowed us to spend a little more time truck scouting and a little less time foot scouting. Nevertheless, I covered about 8 miles this day.
Rain Water Collection for Wildlife
New Mexico Game and Fish have built numerous large rainfall collectors to aid the wildlife and improve the quail hunting. In Texas, we use a much smaller version that drains into a 55 gallon drum. This unit was easily 15 steps on each side and drained into a large underground cistern. These divces typically hold some quail for hunting but the drouth in the Southwest made finding birds a challenge this year.
Working the Arroyos for Quail
Day 2 of quail hunting was in the arroyos beside the Rio Grande river. There are numerous arroyos and they have been modified to retain as much rainwater as possible to minimize downstream flooding. These arroyos make perfect spots for hunting quail – I wish we had some of these, and the public land, to hunt quail in Texas. That said, hiking, working and hunting these arroyos definitely requires some great dog work. They are intricate with lots of little hiding places and you need a dog to sniff out every possible nook and cranny.
Quail Hunting on the Rio Grande River
While quail hunting, I tended to work the canyon bottoms and let my dog work the edges and tops. Sometime vice versa when I got tired of looking at the canyon walls and needed some better scenery. I logged about 8 miles/day and I know my dog logged at least 5 times that working for me to hunt quail.
Duck Hunting on the Rio Grande River
Since we were on the Rio Grande for quail hunting and there were ducks working the river, we took the opportunity in the evening to hunt ducks. I found it amazing that ducks could be found in the desert. We bagged a few ducks as they worked up and down the river feeding in the evening and then enjoyed the magnificent New Mexico sunset after hunting ducks.
Tracking and Quail Hunting
Day 3 of my quail hunting was back to the mountains east of ToC to find some blues and Mearns quail. I was mostly interested in Mearns quail so we spent the majority of the time working closely and carefully along the sandy bottoms of canyons near oak brush where Mearns quail like to hide. We saw plenty of tracks that were obviously Mearns Quail but never managed to find a covey. This was the last of 5 days of hunting for my pup and she was getting pretty tired. She never failed to answer the call but she also no longer jumped back into the truck after a swing through an area. She had the will but the energy was draining quickly.
It Is What You Experience – Not the Size of the Game Bag
I can’t say this often enough. Quail hunting or hunting ducks, makes no difference. The true benefit and enjoyment is seeing something new with your best friend. I never fail to be amazed by the desert and what has adapted to thrive there. I found this one scrub oak tree that was only about 10 feet tall but had a base and trunk that indicated that the tree was very old. How long had that tree been there and how many other quail hunters had it shaded?
Headed Home from Quail Hunting
Heading home after 5 days of pheasant, goose, duck and quail hunting is both relaxing and sad. It was an 11 hour drive from ToC back to Austin where I live and most of that drive is horribly boring through West Texas. My pup was exhausted and slept the entire way home – knocked out! She is my first quail hunting dog and I never cease to be amazed at what she can and is willing to do for me.
Summary of Pheasant, Goose, Duck and Quail Hunting
All in all it was an amazing quail hunting trip and I’m already looking forward to more in the future. We went pheasant hunting in Amarillo and goose hunting in North Texas – both with marginal results in the game bag. We braved the snow storm and back roads of New Mexico to hunt Gambel, Scaled and Mearns quail in the mountains of Southern New Mexico. We also managed to squeeze in a duck hunt along the Rio Grande River. After 5 days of hard hunting, we turned back South and headed home – two exhausted hunting buddies with some fantastic memories of some great quail hunting.
I continue on my quest to find the best and least expensive way to make a hunting quail feeder to help me count the quail population so I can improve my quail hunting opportunities. My previous posts about my first prototype quail feeder showed me learning a simple system to store and deliver the feed but that model was not adequately protected from deer and coons. We’ve had some very good experiences using electrified zappers on the deer feeders to keep the deer and coons from raiding them. I’ve also noticed that once the deer, and especially the coons, raid a quail feeder, that they quail generally won’t return to that feeder. I learned of a new method from a hunting guide in New Mexico that uses a cheap five gallon bucket. I’m testing that approach but also electrifying it to see if that improves the performance of my hunting quail feeder!
Parts to Build a Hunting Quail Feeder
The material to build the hunting quail feeder are pretty simple.
– A cheap 5 gallon bucket
– A waterproof container for the battery and zapper
– A solar charger for the battery
– A 12V Battery
– A Zapper
– Electric fence wire
– Electric fence insulators.
All in, the total price was approximately $75 in parts – the majority of which was the battery, zapper and solar charger. Quail feed for my hunting quail feeders is approximately $15/bag so if this saves me 5 bags of feed over the course of a year, then I’m ahead – not to mention actually having a quail feeder that works to help me survey the population of bobwhite quail for hunting.
Mounting the Solar Battery Charger on the Quail Feeder Lid
The purpose of the solar charger is to continually recharge the 12V battery and keep the zapper working in the hunting quail feeder. I’ve mounted the solar charger on the lid of the bucket and run the wire, with a sealing O ring down through the top of the bucket lid. This should prevent most moisture but I will add a small amount of silicone caulk to each hole in the lid just to be sure. The lid will have a tendency to hold a small amount of rainwater and I don’t want it running into the bucket and ruining the feed in the hunting quail feeder.
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Detail of a Waterproof Lid Design
I selected a durable but inexpensive solar charger from Academy Sports. It came with a sealing O ring and bracket so it was easy to use and mount on my hunting quail feeder.
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Assembling the Battery Unit in the Hunting Quail Feeder
The waterproof container is mounted inside the hunting quail feeder and contains the 12V battery and the zapper. I’ve run the wire from the solar charger into the top of the water proof container. I could just place the battery and zapper directly inside the bucket but most quail feed has some moisture and I wanted to prevent any corrosion problems with the battery terminal connection on the hunting quail feeder.
Battery Case in the Quail Feeder
I’ve place the wired 12V battery and the zapper inside of the small water proof container and will place it inside the bucket of the hunting quail feeder. These holes in the waterproof container will also need some silicone caulk to prevent any moisture from leaking into the battery case.
Summary of Assembling a Hunting Quail Feeder
My previous attempts at building a quail feeder were successful to feed the quail but unsuccessful in keeping the varmints from raiding the hunting quail feeder. I’ve learned of a new approach that appears to be simpler and easier to manage. I’ve purchased and assembled the parts I need to build the hunting quail feeder for approximately $75. The quail feeder will contain a built in battery, zapper unit and be protected by it’s own electrified fence. This should provide adequate protection at a reasonable cost from the coons and deer raiding my hunting quail feeder.