Water and Raising Texas Quail for Hunting

Water is important when you are raising Texas quail for hunting.  Quail use three types of water – ground water, dew and metabolic water.  Of the three, ground water is both the least and most important type of water.  In Texas, we’ve experienced one of history’s worst recorded droughts during 2010 and 2011.  In the Fall of 2011, it seems to be breaking a little with some slow soaking rains every week or so.  With the huge importance of water and the need to actively manage habitat to sustain and grow wild quail populations, we’ve done quite a bit of work to find and retain what little water we’ve had.  This has put extraordinary pressure on our efforts in raising Texas quail for hunting.

Large Water Ponds

Standing Water Tank in White Texas Clay for Texas Quail
Water Tank for Texas Quail

It is possible in the Texas Hill Country to find soil locations that hold runoff water in the form of tanks or ponds.  These locations require significant amounts of clay soil and the potential evaporation is great.  Stored water in a pond provides moist areas where bugs can breed and become food for baby wild bobwhite quail.  Careful brood management is very important for raising Texas quail for hunting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rainwater Runoff Collection and Retention

Standing Water in Grey Clay Puddle for Raising Texas Quail for Hunting
Standing Water for Raising Texas Quail for Hunting

Identification of and harnessing low lying areas with runoff can also be very worthwhile in improving your raising Texas quail for hunting.  Low lying areas that retain water can either be exploited by additional excavation or simply managed with additional water retention methods such as rock dams.  Additionally, these types of water retention areas are more favorable and available to wild bobwhite quail as well as being tremendous feeds to store underground water in local aquifers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Identification of Wet Spots

Green Sedges Above White Limestone Clay for Water Seepage Location for Texas Quail
Water Seepage Location for Texas Quail

Locating soil strata for run off and collection only requires some simple observation.  In this area, the presence of muhlie grasses and clay soil are very good indicators of both water holding capabilities as well as potential water run off and collection opportunities.  It is these areas that also provide runoff collection opportunities and they are frequently found near the wild quail brooding areas.  Identification of these areas also provides great opportunities for game cameras so that you can conduct a census while raising Texas quail for hunting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Determining the Viability of Clay Soils

Good Red Clay Soil for Holding Water for Texas Quail
Good Clay Soil for Holding Water for Texas Quail

Testing the water holding capacity of clay soils can be very simple.  Take the soil in your hand, add a very small amount of water and then start kneading and pinching it to see how long you can make it.  Approximately 3 inches or more is needed for any long term water holding capability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing Water Holding Capacity

Hole Dug in Ground with White Clay Soil for Experimenting with Water Holding Location for Raising Texas Quail for Hunting
Experimenting with Water Holding Location for Raising Texas Quail for Hunting

Seep Muhlie plants and a clay soil are good indicators or water holding capacity or underground water.  A small excavator or front end loader can be used to scrape test sites to determine the depth and thickness of any clay soil strata as well as the potential for underground water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harnessing Natural Springs

Beautiful Texas Water Spring with Green Grass and White Limestone Rocks
Beautiful Texas Spring

Naturally flowing springs are becoming rare in Texas due to declining rainfall and the huge demand that growing population centers are putting on the aquifers.  This is an example of a natural flowing spring that has been harnessed and directed into a small pond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enhancing Water Runoff Retention

Water Retention with Rows of White Limestone Rocks on a Green Texas Hill for Raising Texas Quail for Hunting
Water Retention for Raising Texas Quail for Hunting

One water retention device that has been in use for thousands of years are rock or dirt berms.  The purpose of the berms is simply to slow the water as it runs downhill and provide it with the opportunity to sink into the ground rather than runoff into streams and rivers.  This also serves to recharge the local aquifers and regenerate any natural springs that exist in the nearby area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dowsing

Man in Blue Shirt and Green Hat Water Witching with White Clothes Hanger Wires to Support Raising Texas Quail for Hunting
Water Witching to Support Raising Texas Quail for Hunting

Dowsing is an ancient art that can be done by almost anyone.  In this example, my Dad is using 2 bent clothes hangers to locate water and/or moisture underground.  If you don’t believe it, give it a try by searching for the water pipes in your yard – I promise you’ll be surprised!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harvesting Rainwater for Raising Texas Quail for Hunting

Silver and Green Rainwater Collector with Blue Barrels for Raising Quail
Rainwater Collector for Raising Quail

Rainwater collectors are incredibly handy devices when there is rain.  They are inexpensive, easy to build/assemble and provide an ideal opportunity to take a regular census of the wildlife in the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dew Collectors

Small Beads of Morning Dew on the Silver Roof of a Rainwater Collector
Morning Dew on the Rainwater Collector

Another potential modification to a rain water collector is a dew collector.  These are typically used in much more arid regions and have to be quite large to produce any usable water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Water and Raising Texas Quail for Hunting

Water collection and management is critical for raising Texas quail for hunting.  Large water storage tanks and ponds are good but are susceptible to evaporation.  Identification and exploitation of natural water holding and retention areas provides a much better opportunity to hold water and recharge local aquifers.  Rainwater collectors are also very good and are inexpensive to build and operate.  Dowsing can provide clues to where to look for water.  In summary, habitat, and especially water management is critical in being successful raising Texas quail for hunting.

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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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Hunting Wood Ducks in Texas

Wood Ducks are wonderful.  Not only are they beautiful, they tend to inhabit woody areas and creeks where other ducks fear to tread.  Finding a wood duck roost can be a challenge.  You’ll need to find a woody area with a creek or other shallow water nearby.  They can also be tough to find once you’ve found a likely location.  Wood ducks tend to stay on small bodies of water during the day and move to their roosts late in the afternoon as the sun is setting.  I really enjoy hunting wood ducks.

Texas Duck Hunting Dog?

Bird Dog for Duck Hunting
Duck Hunting Bird Dog

I use my trusty bird dog and add a neoprene flotation vest to keep her warm, help her float and camouflage her bright orange and white colors.  She generously tolerates my shenanigans treating her like a duck hunting dog knowing that I’ll owe her an extra bird hunt or two if she does well.

Hunting Location for Wood Ducks
Wood Duck Hunting Location

It doesn’t take many decoys for a wood duck hunt – just a few and a mojo teal can help as well.  Wood ducks typically don’t live in large flocks like coastal marsh ducks.  They also don’t usually migrate, especially in the Central Texas area.

Perfect Timing and Location for Hunting Wood Ducks

Twilight Wood Duck Hunt
Twilight in a Wood Duck Creek

Woodies are going to be most active as the sun sets and they return to their roosts.  They make a very interesting peeping sound and it doesn’t take a lot of skill to get them to decoy to a call.  Again, a little motion from a Mojo Teal and just a few small teal decoys is usually sufficient to have them come take a look.  Don’t expect them to attempt to join the decoys though.  They are going to pass by, take a look and then continue on to their evening roost in some nearby trees.  You need to be ready to shoot quickly because wood ducks can fly right past you in the fading light and they are easy to miss.

Texas Location for Wood Duck Hunting
Hunting Wood Ducks on a Wooded Creek in Texas

I like to find seasonal creeks in woody areas to hunt wood ducks.  I tend to use Google Maps and Google Earth quite a bit to find ideal locations and then ask for land owner permission to scout the area.  There won’t be a bunch of wood ducks in any one place but a little hiking and scouting can help you find a bunch of places within a mile or so radius.

Cinnamon Teal is a Rare Duck to Hunt in Texas

Cinnamon Teal from Central Texas
Central Texas Duck Hunting Rarity - Cinnamon Teal

In Central Texas, it is quite rare to see a Cinnamon Teal.  These ducks typically fly and migrate further West so it was a real treat to see this one near Houston, Texas.

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