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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.