Hunting Quail Feeder – How To Do It

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

Hunting Quail Feeder Parts Laid Out on Yellow Table for Raising Quail for Hunting
Hunting Quail Feeder Parts for Raising Quail for Hunting

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.

 

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Mounting the Solar Battery Charger on the Quail Feeder Lid

Silver and Black Hunting Quail Feeder Solar Charger Mounted on White Bucket
Quail Feeder Solar Charger

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

Detail of Hunting Quail Feeder Water Tight Seal on White Bucket Lid
Hunting Quail Feeder Water Tight Seal

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

Raising Quail for Hunting Quail Feeder Black 12V Battery with White Bucket Layout
Raising Quail for Hunting Quail Feeder Battery Layout

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

Hunting Quail Feeder Black Battery with Red Wires and Clear Waterproof Container Details
Quail Feeder Battery Details

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.

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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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Wild Bobwhite Quail Release #3

The wild bobwhite quail have been in the surrogator for 5 weeks and it is time to release them and start a new surrogator cycle. As I mentioned earlier, this is the first batch of wild quail that were started at one week of age instead of one day of age. Thus, they are six week old, one week older than the previous batches of wild bobwhite quail, and should fly and survive much better. This is the third cycle raising wild bobwhite quail in a surrogator and I have yet to find any surviving birds. It’s somewhat disappointing to go out each week and not find any survivors. All the people that I’ve talked with who are also raising wild bobwhite quail tell me that they are there – I just haven’t found any yet. That said, I haven’t done any early morning call counts to listen for birds calling to covey up. I’ve also been missing my dog and her talented nose as she’s been away at “summer camp” learning hand signals and blind retrieves. Nevertheless, I persevere on my long term strategy and do my best to ignore the small, tactical absences.

W.L. Moody’s book, “On Bobwhites“, is a great read by a noted author on wild bobwhite quail.

Wild Quail Visitor Pawprint

A funny thing happened on the way out to the surrogator location. As I was walking up the road which was muddy from a recent rain, I came across a large paw print from what I guessed was a large mountain lion that had been reported in the area for several years. I took a photo with my iPhone beside it as a measurement of relative size. Needless to say, it’s a large paw print!

 

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Wild Quail Visitor Entry Attempt

When I arrived at the Surrogator, I was surprised to find that a very valiant attempt had been made to get the birds! There was a sizable hole that had been dug underneath the surrogator and virtually every bunjee cord I have to keep the water and propane tanks in place was chewed through.

Wild Bobwhite Quail Attack Attempt

In addition to the chewed cords and hole underneath the surrogator, it was covered in muddy paw prints. It is evident that whatever animal (we’re calling it a mountain lion for now) attempted to get into the surrogator spent quite a bit of time in it’s efforts. Thankfully, I have a game camera at the quail surrogator that will have captured all of this activity.

As you can see from the wild bobwhite quail release video, the six week old quail chicks are much better feathered and fly much more strongly than previous batches. Hopefully, this will translate into a higher survival rate.

Newly Release Wild Bobwhite Quail

This is a closeup photo of a six week old wild quail chick just after release. They can’t fly very far and then tend to covey up very quickly when released. The only disadvantage I’ve been able to come up with in using a surrogator to raise wild quail is that they don’t have parents to teach them how to recognize and then evade predators.

Quail Hunting in Texas

This wild bobwhite quail chick did me the huge favor of helping me promote my other website – Bird Hunting in Texas – where I chronicle some of my quail, duck and goose hunting adventures. That leads me to a common question I receive – “will I hunt these wild quail?” The answer is “I’m not sure but certainly not for at least a few years.” Here’s why. The ranch where we’re restoring the wild bobwhite quail is approximately 180 acres. Wildlife biologists have told me that, even with ideal habitat, a stocking rate of one wild quail per acre is about as good as can be expected. Based on that, and an approximate average covey size of 20 birds, I doubt we’ll ever have more than about 9 coveys of 20 birds. While that might be sufficient for one or two hunts, it certainly doesn’t make a quail hunting paradise on par with some of the larger South Texas and West Texas ranches where wild bobwhite quail flourish. Mostly, I’m looking forward to having a place where the birds reach some sort of natural population size and that I can work my bird hunting dog and enjoy some time outdoors with my family.

Bobwhite Quail Surrogator Aftermath

Finally, this is the aftermath of a wild quail surrogator. It never ceases to amaze me how those little bitty birds can so efficiently turn 50 plus pounds of feed into this pile of stinky manure!

I have one more release cycle to chronicle this year as I’m still able to get a batch wild quail chicks – more on that next time.

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