The Critical Elements of Releasing Quail

When I was a youngster, my father and I would just go quail hunting. The culture was different then. The crop fields were generally smaller and surrounded with hedgerows. Because deer were much less abundant, residual crops left after the harvest were available to small game. A strong trapping market kept predator populations in check, and winter burning was just a normal occurrence. All these factors combined to create a “quail friendly landscape”.
Print This Post Print This Post
Just the opposite is true today. Pine plantations, development, and a proliferation of exotic sod-grasses have divided the existing quail habitat into isolated pockets. Often landowners now have to hire someone to trap predators or do the task themselves.In addition, deer populations have become so dense that food plots planted for quail become decimated before late winter. Also, there is a loss of native plant seed production due to heavy browsing. Control burning has become less frequent as well.

In fact, many areas of the southeast have been void of quail for so long that there are no birds present to respond to habitat improvements. Even if you have a few remnant quail hanging on, it is still hard to get enough reproductive output to obtain and sustain a huntable population. All these factors have caused many of us to use an annual pre-season release project to keep our quail hunting alive.

It is very important to keep in mind that a pre-season release is a management technique and not a silver bullet. It involves releasing juvenile or adult birds into functional fall quail habitat.

As with any mission, it is important to identify all the areas where problems may develop. I like to put it this way. If you were out in the ocean and your boat had several holes in it, would you fix one or two of the holes and call the repair successful? No! Naturally, you would fix the biggest holes first and then keep going until all the leaking has either stopped or slowed down enough that you could bail it out.

In the same way the goal of an early release quail project is to introduce good quality captive reared quail to your land and have them establish a home range on the property. It is important to identify the holes so you can keep your project floating in an environment that is trying to sink it. One area is habitat management.

HABITAT MANAGEMENT for a pre-season release concentrates on creating and perpetuating the habitat requirements needed during the fall and winter months. Food and cover are the basic needs during this time.

Food must be present within the bird’s range during the entire season or he will pack up and leave. Weed seeds are great, but not enough to sustain more than a few quail all winter. Feed patches (of millet or sorghum) are another approach, but these are often decimated by late winter. Supplemental feeding through the use of large spreaders or self-contained feeder systems is still another solution.

Spreading feed involves using a mechanical spreader every 10 to 14 days. It throws the feed from a hopper. It is important that the feed be scattered in areas of cover, so that your quail are not lured out into the open where they become the targets of hawks. In other words, spreading feed down mowed access roads may be disastrous, but spreading feed in cover patches located in the interior of fallow weed fields will be advantageous.

The type of feed provided is also a point of consideration. For instance, if you have a lot of deer, it is better to spread small grains such as wheat or sorghum instead of corn. The smaller grains will not be consumed by deer nearly as fast as corn. This means that you will not have to spread as often, and quail will receive more of the benefit.

Spreading of feed is more prevalent on larger tracts because it involves bulk storage facilities and equipment. Self-contained feeders are usually the method of choice for smaller tracts. It is important that these feeders be concealed and placed were the quail can approach and leave under cover.

Servicing the feeders must be done on a regular basis. DO NOT LET THEM RUN OUT OF FEED. How often you service them will depend on the size of the feeder, the amount of native food available, and the number of quail you have on the property.

Bottom line –plenty of food must be available to quail either in the form of weed seeds, planted crops, or supplements. THE BEST SOLUTION IS TO COMBINE ALL THREE. To determine an appropriate strategy for your situation, consider the size of your property, available manpower, and your budget.

Cover is a must for success but what is good fall cover? Good fall cover is made up of a mix of native grasses and a variety of “weeds”. This is the vegetation that remains standing after a killing frost has turned it from “summer green” to a “winter brown” color. Scattered clumps of “hard cover” need to be dotted throughout this area as well. An example of “Hard Cover” could be a patch of rank briars or perhaps a cluster of bushy wax myrtle about waist high. Simply put, hard cover holds up better in late winter and affords the birds a nearby place to escape when their danger index is elevated.

When managing for fall cover you have to think like a quail and a quail hunter. The cover needs to be good enough to function for the birds, but at the same time accessible for the dog and hunter. Fall strip disking, control burning, and chemical brush control are the various methods used to keep all these necessary factors in a healthy balance on your land.

Another potential sinkhole is the lack of PREDATOR CONTROL. No one wants to learn how to swim in a shark tank. Controlling varmints is important when managing wild quail on a vast plantation. It is equally important when managing quail on smaller areas using a pre-season release. I have seen great habitat yield poor results when this factor is ignored, and marginal habitat yield surprising results when taken to heart.

As we mentioned, good cover obtained through management is the first step to slow- down predation. I want any varmint after my quail to have to work for a living. Removing a surplus of predators from the hunting area is the next step. Your options vary from state to state. Some states such as Georgia and Virginia allow quail managers to obtain a permit to trap small mammals (fox, raccoon, opossum, etc.) on a year-round basis. In other states you may have to remove them during the trapping season. If you don’t have the skills or time to do the job yourself, it is sometimes best to hire a nearby neighbor that trapped back when we had a strong fur market. They usually have the equipment on hand to do the job. Some animal control companies also offer trapping services for quail managers.

QUALITY BIRDS are also important. Obtain your quail from a bird grower that knows what he is doing and has a good reputation.

The birds I use are grown in relative isolation. By this I mean that the flight pens have shade cloth around them that prevents the quail from becoming accustomed to outside traffic and people. Many of the growers also use automatic feeding systems to minimize human contact. Others fill the feeders at night to accomplish the same thing. Remember, if a quail is raised like a chicken it will act like a chicken. When the birds have good genetics and are grown in isolation they will be more able to survive the transition from the flight pen to the wild.

Our final area is RELEASE TECHNIQUE. Don’t just dump the birds out. Remember, our goal is to create a situation that allows the quail to establish a home range on your hunting area. To accomplish this I conduct a “gentle release”, using the following method. The evening prior to my release day, I have the quail grower catch up twenty-five quail and place them in a corrugated box. I hold the birds overnight in a cool and secure place. In the morning I take the quail to my release site (in my case this is a Base Camp with a nearby electronic recall bird). I then cut a flap in the side of the box, place sheet of melting ice against the flap, and leave the site. This allows the birds to exit on their own undisturbed. Since they are hungry and thirsty, they begin feeding and watering at the site.

Whatever your options may be don’t overlook plugging the sinkholes for your quail before you conduct your release project. During the 4 to 6 weeks after release these quail will be going through what I call the “Boot Camp Period”. This is where all the other elements we have discussed come into play. With good cover and abundant feed, minimal predator pressure, and quality birds released calmly, your quail project should sail right along.

For more information about conducting an early or “pre-season” quail release, see the DVD, Putting Quail Back In Your Quail Hunting”. CLICK HERE

40 thoughts on “The Critical Elements of Releasing Quail

  1. Scott Matthews

    At how many weeks of age do you release your quail?
    Also, Do you use the covey base camp and the total recall if you are releasing young quail?

    Scott Matthews

  2. Jim Evans Post author

    Scott,
    For a standard pre-season release of quail at the Covey Base Camp I usually use quail that are 12 weeks of age or a bit older. I have been doing this since the late 80’s with good success if habitat and predator management is part of the equation.
    This is my standard method of release as shown in one of our quail management videos called, Putting Quail Back in Your Quail Hunting.
    I have several customers that have our Base Camps and they also have the Surrogators. If you are releasing 5 week old quail, you are dealing with birds that will need to feed on A LOT OF PROTIEN.
    If you have good brood habitat with lots of weeds (for cover) and bugs(for food), this is what they will be feeding on.
    I have been supplying some of the Surrogator folks with a modified feed liner for their Base Camps. The modified liner can feed out 30% protien commercial gamebird feed. This liner is mainly for use in settings where the weather (droughts) has decimated the brood habitat.
    When this is done, the standard liner is removed from the Base Camp and replaced with the modified liner. The standard small grain liner is put back in the Base Camp once the age of the quail progresses and the fall season approaches. You will not find this modified liner on our website yet (qualitywildlife.com) because I have just been producing them for customers for these special cases.
    The Total Recall puts out the digital recording of a male quail’s fall covey up call. Because 5 week old quail are released during the summer months (before the fall shuffle and covey formation) I don’t know what affect the Total Recall would have.
    During this summer I did conducted a few experiments with 5 week old birds but I won’t know the results until I get some band returns this season. One thing that did seemed to help was placing an adult hen with the chicks once they where two weeks old. The hen was with the chicks for three weeks and released with the rest of the group at 5 weeks of age. (I could have used an adult male as well because either one is able to brood or tend young chicks. ) I could have placed the adult with the chicks earlier, but I didn’t have access to one till two weeks into the project.
    As I said, nothing is conclusive to me as of yet on this particular matter of 5 week old quail, but maybe some of this will help you think through your situation.

    Sincerely
    Jim Evans

  3. Austin

    what is the average acerage that qual stay in (will they stay in a few acres or will they be wide spread)

  4. Jim Evans Post author

    Austin,
    Herbert Stoddard was one of the first to study the movements of bobwhite quail in the Southeast. His work was performed in the 1930’s and this is what he found out.
    Of marked birds that were released and recaptured, 48 percent were recovered within 1/4 mile of the banding locations, 28 percent 1/4 to 1/2 mile, 14 percent within 1/2 to 1 mile, and only 9 percent from greater distances. One bird was recaptured in the original range 36 month after banding, and another only 400 yards away after 45 months.
    All the early studies basically tell us that the average seasonal range of bobwhite quail rarely exceeds a one mile radius and is usually less than half this distance.
    More recent radio tracking studies have shown ranges to be much smaller as long as the quail have adequate cover and abundant feed with winter ranges of 15 acres and summer ranges of about 40 acres.
    This information is derived from studies conducted in the Southeast. Ranges can vary greatly in different geographic regions.
    Hope this helps.

  5. Stephanie

    Mr. Evans,
    I was able to get some quail eggs from a friend of mine and decided to try to incubate them, thinking that it would flop and 16 days later I am freaking out in my house b/c I have baby quail hatching out of their eggs. It’s a long story to that one, but they are about 2 weeks right now, sitting in a box in my kitchen and they act like they could go outside already. How early is too early? I saw 5 weeks was early b/c of protein deficiency. I am feeding them a 22% diet currently. Is that enough? And I need help!! I’ve never done this before. I want to release them onto our farm, but want to make sure I am giving them the best chance possible.
    Thank you,
    Stephanie

  6. Jim Evans Post author

    Stephanie,
    These quail chicks have probably been in contact with you a lot since they first hatched. This means that they have probably imprinted on you and will always be relatively tame. This will make their survival in the wild almost impossible. It is for this reason that birds raised for release projects are always grown in isolation with minimal contact with the growers.
    To get information on growing quail I would suggest the following:
    *Go to the website (birdsofbrilliance.com)
    *Click on the side bar that is called (contacts and links)
    *Go to the bottom of that page and you will see a link to
    “How to Grow Quail”
    This will give you much information about growing quail.
    Hope this helps.
    Jim Evans

  7. Shannon

    Jim,

    I am wondering what is the success rate for reproduction of released birds. I plan to hatch and release as many birds as possible next fall, but would like to see my efforts pay off for seasons to come. I will begin trapping intensively during trapping season in my home state, and plan to do some controlled burning before releasing a single bird. Also, could you reccomend some natural food sources to introduce? Thank you for any and all help.

    Thanks,

    Shannon

  8. Jim Evans Post author

    Shannon,
    Sorry for the delay in get back to you.
    The reproductive output of released quail can vary depending on the breeding stock that is used. Some bird growers pay particular attention to using breeding stock that exhibit many of the traits attributed to wild quail. Much of this is discussed in our DVD called “Putting Quail Back In Your Quail Hunting”.
    I would suggest you look at this video and call me if you have more questions. To make my point let me use two extreme examples. I know of one bird grower that uses breeding stock that is one generation from pure wild birds. These birds are very nervous and difficult to rear in captivity , but they also will have the highest potential for reproductive output. At the other end of the spectrum – I know of people that have bred birds for meat production. In other words they have a very domesticated or watered down genetic version of the wild counterpart. These birds would have the lowest survival and reproductive potential.

    I can tell you that there have been at least 5 different studies conducted in 3 states that have documented reproduction from released quail. The question comes when we want to compare the output of released quail to that of wild birds on the same area.
    There are many variables that affect the reproductive out put of wild quail, such as habitat quality, predator density, annual weather, and geographic location. Of course, these factors would have the same influence on a release population as well.
    Hope this helps.
    Jim

  9. Naomi

    Is there any information available for when to expose bobwhite chicks, during their critical learning periods, to predators(maybe just stuffed ones) so they can learn who to avoid?

  10. Jim Evans Post author

    Naomi,

    Most of the behavior exhibited by quail to avoid predation is influenced by two main factors. These factors are genetics and rearing technique.
    Let me give you an example of the genetics end of things. I know a gamebird grower that use to maintain two separate flocks of quail. One flock was raised for meat production and the other flock for hunting preserves.
    The grower had focused on selective breeding for several years in order to maximize the breast size on the “meat birds”. He was successful, but he noticed that the birds had no evasive behavior when a hawk flew over the pen.
    The mangement of the breeding flock used to produce birds for hunting preserves was totally different. Here he selected birds that exhibited strong brooding instincts, and showed a natural desire to hide when frightened by predators. He even introduced some wild bird genetics back into this flock.
    In summary, when a hawk flew over the “meat bird” pen the quail would just stand around, but when a hawk flew over the pen of “preserve birds”, the quail would scramble for cover.
    Rearing technique is the second factor. If you have birds with good genetics and constantly
    handle them as chicks, or walk into the pen and feed them every day, you can tame them down to a large extent. In other words if you raise them like chickens they will act like chickens.
    All this said, you shouldn’t need to “teach” your quail to be afraid of predators.
    Hope this helps.
    Jim

  11. Naomi

    Thanks for your quick response. I have bobwhites, yes raised as chickens, but I have a snake problem. Blacksnakes come in the cage, “all you can eat buffet” and I was hoping to figure out how to save the quail. I certainly have been unsuccessful in keeping the snakes out.

  12. Billy D. Nichols

    Hi Jim
    I am an outfitter in the Oklahoma Panhandle. We still have a decent population of native Bobs. I started our business two years ago and have gone from two native coveys on our 700 acres to 30 native coveys on 5,000 acres. On the first day of hunting last fall, we saw around 1,000 native birds. I started putting in 5 acre food plots on every 80 to 160 acre patches that we own and lease. I mix corn, millet, milo, sunflower, soybean, and feed. These patches are fertilized also and I usually get tremendous milo, millet and 6′ tall feed growth. Luckily, the county had to cut down trees and bushes in the ditch this year and was the lucky recipient of huge piles of brush. Most of these piles are 100′ long x 30′ wide (hundreds of truckloads). I did start hauling water to cattle tanks with a drip hose dripping in a pan in the middle of cover and I believe this helped tremendously thru last summer. I also put feeders in these areas of cover and usually mix whole milo with a low protien bird feed (but will probably run high protien starter the whole way this year). I am going to hatch, brood, and flight condition (I have a 100′ x 50′ flight pen) 3,000 quail chicks this spring and summer in three different hatches. I will only mess with the chicks in the dark and have very little interaction with them until I haul water or check predator traps in the wild. I plan on releasing the chicks at 6 weeks old or when would you suggest I do it? There will be native quail present at every location. They will have feed where I release them in feeders and water from drip lines. I am constantly fighting predators and the huge brushpiles are going to help with hawks. But, I am thinking of putting 5′ tall, 4″x4″ horse panel around every pile of cover that has food and water in it. We have very few bobcat, but the coyote population really hurts me. Every place that a find a predator dig, I will place a jaw trap. Will this help or have you ever heard of that? I am trying to create some of the best native quail hunting in the U.S. and any suggestion you might have will help.

  13. Jim Evans Post author

    Billy,
    It sounds like you are well on your way to building up your quail population. Feed, proper habitat and predator control are the keys to growing a quail population. The thing that most people overlook is that the definition of these 3 elements will vary at different times of the year.
    For instance, during the colder months of fall and winter , quail need energy foods (carbs) found in seeds. Sorghum and other grains are good energy foods. These can be provided by using either feed patches, spreading feed, using feeders, or a combination of these methods. During the hot summer months, quail need less “energy food” and more protein. The best source of protein is found in the consumption of insects. Many of us are having to create quail habitat on smaller tracts of land so our options are limited, but since you have 5000 acres to manage you could create what we call “brood patches” throughout your property. Brood Patchesare created by disturbing the ground in the fall by disking. Fall disking will encourage annual weeds like ragweed. These weeds will support blooms of small insects for the growing young quail , yet have clean ground underneath for the small chicks to manuver and have cover from predators. Another way you could produce brood patches would be to rotate your feed patches. For example, if you let half your planted feed patches go “fallow”, (left undisturbed), they would function as brood patches the following summer. The next year you would plant the ones left fallow and leave the others. This back and forth process would be repeated year after year.

    The focus on predator control varies with the season as well.
    During the nesting season I focus on the egg eaters like skunks, raccoons, armadillos, snakes and the like.
    During the winter months we are more focused on other varmints that would take the juvenile and adult birds.

    Now let me address the question about your holding pen.
    I would suggest that you look at the Many Ports Feeder for flight pens. This feeder is designed to help you to raise healthier quail with less feed waste. Read the testimonials on the Many Ports information page and you will see why. (http://qualitywildlife.com/manyports.aspx)
    Three years of testing has showed us that you just need one feeder per 200 quail.
    Since you are raising 3000 quail, I would suggest that you contact Ken Schortmann about the Valco water system.
    You can reach him through his website at http://www.birdsofbrilliance.com
    Hope this helps.
    Sincerely,
    Jim Evans

  14. Jim Evans Post author

    John,
    Just as a rule of thumb, I conduct my preseason releases in early fall.
    This is the time of year that the quail are forming coveys and establishing their winter home ranges.
    When releasing quail in early fall, I generally use a quail 12 weeks old or older.
    Many people want to release birds in the spring. This is usually a disaster because the habitat still offers very little feed and cover until about mid-summer. When you combine a reverse migration of coopers hawks with scarce food and cover for the quail, it adds up to a wipe out.
    Hope this helps.
    Jim

  15. Arden

    Can you please answer 11. Naomi’s question. I am having snake problems. Should I build really tall Johnny houses? Should I put a perch 4-5 feet high on the outside for them to fly up to in order to enter the house? 6 snakes in my last house and wiped me out.

  16. Jim Evans Post author

    Sorry that I never replied to Naomi’s second question – somehow I missed that.
    Growers that are producing chicks for raising quality birds for either early release projects
    or quality birds for preserves, pay attention to breeding back with those birds that exhibit
    wild instincts. If you obtain chicks from a good stock, you don’t need to teach them about their
    enemies it will be instinctive.
    I have a video clip on our DVD (Putting quail back in your quail hunting) that shows birds feeding in
    a flight pen. The birds are scattered about the area until we made the sound of a hawk scream, at which time all of the birds ran for cover. Within seconds the pen appeared to be empty.
    This behavior is in the genetics of the bird.
    However, if you obtain good birds but raise them with too much contact, you can tame them down to
    be more like chickens than quail.
    About your snakes.
    My Johnny Houses have a shelf located about 4 feet up that forms a ledge around three sides of the house.
    This allows the birds to keep strength in their wings as they fly up to the ledge several times a day.
    This can also help them get away from a varmint if it gets into the Johnny House (until you can remove it). I put a couple of blocks of “Just one bit” bar bait under the house. This keeps the rodents down which helps keep the snakes away.
    Other than that – you may try to google “snake traps” to see what you can find.
    Thanks

  17. steve

    jim, Ihave been bird hunting for 35 years in south carolina. the wild birds are gone. Everybody i talk to says its all because of habitat loss. i dissagree that this is the main problem. in the late 80’s and early 90’s i was a guide and dog trainer on a bird hunting plantation. the owner of that plantation loved the quail and was willing to do anything to help the quail recover. the biologist that he hired came to the plantation to help us, but he had very little information for us as we had worked hard to provide the ideal habitat for quail. Control burnining, food plots, and preditor control. the one thing i think that made a magor difference was that turkeys had been retrned to the plantation 7 years earlier, and they were consuming much of the feed that we intended for the quail. i have two questions: 1 do i need to consider turkeys and the aproximate number of them on my properties when feeding my quail ? And my 2nd question is how do i convince land owners that early release projects can help restore populations on their properties. i am trying to start a business doing wildlife projects on peoples property, but when ever i tell people that they can restore them with release programs they say that biologist tell them its a waste of time and money. please help with any literature or case studies that i can show them.

  18. Jim Evans Post author

    Steve,
    To answer your first question, in most cases I don’t see turkey populations being as issue as I know of several land mark plantations in south Georgia that have some of the best quail populations in the state. They also support good turkey populations. Clay Sisson (project coordinator for the Albany Quail Project) conducts quail research on many of these plantations and has first hand knowledge of what he has seen from managing areas with both strong quail and turkey populations on the same areas. You might want to call him at the Albany office (229-734-3039).
    Quail populations in areas with good habitat has received the most impact from the rise of the Cooper’s hawk populations. Since the mid-60’s the Cooper’s hawk population has risen
    at least 800 %. Some pairs of Cooper’s are year around residents , but most of the problem takes place when the northern population migrates south for the winter. Studies have shown that as much as 75% of the winter mortality on quail are attributed to this species.
    To answer the second question about establishing quail populations with released quail would take more space that just a few sentences, but I will try to sum it up as much as I can.
    Yesterday some friends and I hunted a 2000 acre early release project that I have been working with for over 20 years. Though it was the last day of the season, we moved 37 covey that day and took 68 quail.
    Some of the birds taken were over a year old.
    For many years I have seen carry over and reproduction out of released birds that have survived the hunting season.
    Most areas I work with conduct an early release each year even though we see nesting and brood production during the summer months. This is because we cannot produce enough quail per acre to provide a the number of coveys desired for the fall hunting season.
    This is the way I look at it. If I am managing a place well enough to see some nesting success and carry over from the released population, then I have very good prospects that my early release project will produce the desired results the following year.
    All this varies with the amount of summer rainfall and the quality of the quail I use when I conduct the release.
    Hope this helps.
    Sincerely,
    Jim Evans

  19. Larry Thomas

    As strange as this sounds I love the sound of bob white during my morning run and unwinding at evening time. I live in South Florida and my house backs up to 200 acres of what I consider a perfect quail habitat. Thick in Palmettos and pine trees. Very few people in these woods but some atv’s running around. This land is just like the land I pay to hunt quail at. My question is, if I purchase 100 quail and follow instructions on raising and releasing them, why would they leave the perfect environment just to go somewhere else. Do you think they will all leave or some stay around.
    What can I do to keep them to stay?

  20. Jim Evans Post author

    Larry,
    I like to hear the quail call during the summer evenings as well.
    I conduct an early release here on my place each year. I also add a few birds during the season to keep the covey sizes good and make up for loses from predation and hunting.
    I always have a good number of the birds survive the hunting season so I get to hear them all Summer, calling in the morning and evening hours.
    If I have any birds left in my holding pen, I try to wait until mid-summer to release them.
    By mid-summer, the cover has come back enough to help conceal the quail, the migratory hawk populations have returned north, and the natural summer foods for quail (like bugs and berries) are becoming more abundant.
    My biggest concern about your habitat is this, if the palmetto-pine habitat has not been control burned in a couple of years, the ground litter will be too thick for the quail to find very accommodating.

  21. Gary

    I am looking for a quail distributor to buy wild quail from. I have close to 400 acres that is control burned and we do trap the preditors and try to kill the hawks. There is close to 100 acres of fields we plant corn,sunflowers ,sorghum , wheat for the wildlife. We love to quail hunt and shoot doves but there aren’t many wild quail in our area. We have to go to quail preserves to hunt. Please give me some information where to find go quality birds to release this fall.

  22. Jim Evans Post author

    I don’t know what state you are residing in so it is hard to say.
    I am in Waynesboro, GA. (about 25 miles south of Augusta GA). I use quail from R&W quail farm which is located just south of Waynesboro.

  23. Jim Evans Post author

    You might want to try these two growers:
    1) Bobby and Jenni Moore in Browns, AL 36759
    Phone 334-683-8039
    email: quail33@att.net
    website:briarpatchhunt.com
    2) Deese Quail Farm
    Ramer, AL 36069
    Cell Phone: 334-850-6581( Derrick Deese)

  24. Gloria Hendel

    this is the first time we have raised bobwhite quail. I only have 6 and live in Oregon in the Northwest near Portland. I’m concerned after reading on your website that the undergrowth how far old growth forest may be too soft for the Bob white and am wondering if there’s a solution to the problem? We have lots of grass is lots of trees to hide in and stay away from predators. The chicks were born on April 14th and we were planning on releasing after July 5th is this a good time?

  25. Jim Evans Post author

    If you have raised these quail like pets then they will have no chance in the wild.
    The birds we use for release projects have had minimal contact with the growers and
    are reared in flight pens fill of weeds and cover.
    The habitat needed for quail has to be predominantly made up of a mix of annual weeds and grasses.

  26. Carol

    We raised 12 Quail in a brooder pen in our yard from babies. Very little handling by humans. We released a pair at a time into the outdoors. We have released 6 so far. We only raised these to listen to their sounds. We have natural grass and weed cover right off our yard and they go their at night to sleep. Very few predators around. We keep water around and food thrown out on the ground for them. They are surviving good at the moment. i am worried about when it becomes cold. We are in MS, so our winters are not real cold. Should we plant some food plots, or will throwing out feed among their habit be enough. Will they raise their on in the wild, or is that wishful thinking on my part. My husband is not in good health and watching and listening to these birds has been his greatest pleasure. Tell me what I need to do to help them survive.

  27. Jim Evans Post author

    During summer months the quail diet contains a lot of protein, which they obtain from consuming insects and berries.
    During the cooler months quail need more carbs. which they obtain from acorn bits and grains like milo or sorghum.
    You need to keep feeding the quail through the fall and winter months. During the winter it will be important to scatter the feed into nearby cover so that your quail will not be targets for the Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned hawks
    as they feed.
    Those quail that survive the winter and are
    well fed may produce some additional birds the next summer assuming your nest predators are not out of hand ( racoons, opossum, snakes etc.)

  28. Gordon

    Hi Jim,
    Thanks for your interesting forum.
    I live in Northern New England and am interested in repopulating the Northern Bobwhite on my hill. A few years ago I picked up 2 for kicks at a chicken swap, 1 male and 1 female. I raised them in a decent sized cage out in front of my barn. I admit that I was not interested in keeping them over winter so in the fall I released them up in my woods under some ferns and walked away. I did not expect them to survive, but thought I’d give them a fighting chance and enjoy a little natural habitat before their reckoning.
    Well wouldn’t you know the following year we had a pair of bobwhites flying around the farm, checking in with us now and then. A neighbor a mile away said he spotted some on his farm, he’s in his 70’s, has lived there for 50 years and never seen them before on his farm. I do not know if ours possibly had a brood or if they may have flown over there from time to time. End of the story is come late summer they got taken out by something. The male was found on a neighbors lawn eviscerated.
    I have a relative in Kansas who was amazed by this story. That they made it through a winter. That usually they need a covey of multiple members for the heat.
    I suppose I mainly want to raise them as a hobby. I have a 12 x 5 chicken tractor with 1/2″ hardware cloth I was thinking about putting 100 in, feeding them from May til November, eating many and letting the rest go.
    I’m wondering what type of success you think we might have and how you might rate this endeavor in terms of a recipe for disaster on a scale of 1 to 10.

    Thanks for your time.

  29. Jim Evans Post author

    Gordon,
    I think you will enjoy this as a hobby.
    Raising quail in the chicken tractor will cause you to have a lot of contact with them as they
    grow. This domestication will reduce their chances to survive in the wild.

  30. Brett

    Jim,
    I truly enjoy reading about your work. I grew up in Kansas and am 48. I can remember coveys/beveys of birds sometimes 60-70 in a bunch in the 1970s. Even in the 80s and mid-90s we had good quail. Then, the bottom fell out of the population.

    I think there are a lot of contributing factors such as: improved pesticides, large monoculture crop fields farmed right up next to the fence and roads, with little edge cover, an exponential increase in hawk populations, some brutal weather events (in Eastern Kansas, in October 1996, we received heavy rain, then rain transitioning to a massive, wet, 12″ snow. I lost the 5 coveys of birds on the 80 acres behind my house. Less and less disked-fallow ground, and more and more fescue and double-cropped ground (Wheat harvested and then beans drilled/planted). In any case, I think it’s a combination of things over a period of time.

    I have collected every bit of literature I can on quail ecology from the experts (Walters, Rosene, Guthery, Stanford, Evans πŸ™‚ )and some of the new research coming out of Texas Tech. I’ve also collected some of the quail release techniques you’ve used and other ranchers have used with success.

    The common variables where there is success in releasing birds seems to be developing quality habitat, using a holding/flight-conditioning pen for a few weeks to condition/orient the birds to their surroundings, obtaining quality birds to release, and in your case using the Total Recall.

    In our case, we do have a few wild coveys on 220 acres. The property is undergoing an intense quail management makeover including nesting (converting fescue to warm season grasses), brooding (disking) loafing and winter cover (osage orange brushpiles, fencerows, and planted covey HQs), and also some strips of milo. We are establishing a feeding plan to scatter milo into some of the weedy cover. Right now the property is average for quail, with a few areas very good. That should greatly change within a year or two.

    The quail have already responded to some of the work and a covey has moved in this fall from a neighboring property. I believe the work will eventually result in a good quail population,

    BUT

    What if we wanted to fast track things and release some quail to bolster the breeding population?…
    What would your perfect scenario be for doing this. We have some funds, not unlimited, but we want to build this thing.
    I have ordered “Putting quail back into your quail hunting”.

    If you wanted to fast track this property, what would you do?
    flight pens? total recalls? age of released birds? where to buy good birds in Missouri?

    Also, one specific question: did I understand from one of your posts that you put a hen quail into a pen with 2-week chicks to help get them established? How long to condition them with the hen, etc.

    Any information would be appreciated.

    Thanks!

  31. Jon Schmitt

    Hi Jim.
    I have read thru all of your latest replies to readers about releasing quail and it does not sound promising.
    I live in Western Washington, fairly temperate climate with very little winter snow(none this winter). However it can on occaision get quite cold, teens and twentys at night.
    I am surrounded by hundreds of acres of forest/commercial tree farm. Mostly Douglas Fir and native brush and alder.
    I am currently raising button Quail and would like to release them this summer. We have all of the normal predators, fox, bobcats, cayotes, ect. But, lots of tree and ground cover, so not many hawks. So, what are my chances, or better yet, what are the birds chances ? Jon .

  32. Jim Evans Post author

    Jon,
    The natural habitat of button quail is in the grassland areas of Asia and Africa. Trying to release this species in a woodland setting would be difficult at best. I have no first hand experience with button quail so I can not be of much help to you on this.
    Sincerely,
    Jim Evans

  33. Jim Evans Post author

    Brett,
    I was replying to several comments and ran across this one from you. Good grief, I had not seen it nor replied to it.
    Sorry for just now getting back with you.
    You have several questions that would take more information in order to give you an accurate answer so I want you to e-mail me your phone number so I can call you to get more specifics. However,I would not release 2 week old chicks. Even if the field conditions are good, there are other options
    that would be more likely to yield results.
    A study conducted by Brad Muller in 1996-1997 on a South Carolina plantation concluded,”It is obvious from trapping and telemetry information that pen-raised birds are successfully breeding on our wild/ pen-raised bird study area”. Several other studies show this as well, but these studies are never promoted because they go against the “status quo montra” and bias against pen-raised quail found in much of “professional” community.
    The approach I use is to manage the property just as you would for wild quail. This means having good year round habitat requirements and leveling the playing field with a good predator control program. This is what we are doing on the successful wild quail areas. Next I would conduct a good pre-season release program to establish a fall/winter quail population.
    The quail that have survived the hunting season are much more suited to survive and have production capability than the force brooding of a hen to a few 2 wk old chicks.
    Hope this helps.
    Sincerely,
    Jim Evans

  34. Corey Woosley

    Hello Jim,

    My family has recently acquired a small piece of land about 35 acres in south west florida surrounded by non residential farm land on all sides. About 15 acres or so is pine and palmetto scrub that has been burned in the last couple of years so the palmettos are only about knee high. We have seen groups of quail on multiple occasions while visiting the property. My question is if I were to release an additional 100 or so quail on the property this fall with an intention to hunt them would it be hurtful or over crowd the current quail population in the pine scrub. Also would it even be worth it on such a small piece of property or would they all just scatter?

  35. Jim Evans Post author

    Corey,
    If your goal is to have a place to work your bird dog and enjoy a wing shooting maybe once per week, you might be able to do something with your 30 acres. You stated that you have 15 ac of pine/palmetto, but I don’t know what the remaining 20 acres of habitat is. Assuming the 35 acres is quail habitat, I would begin feeding the quail presently on the lot. This can be done by slinging a couple of pounds of sorghum each week in an area affording cover for the quail. A 2 pound feed scoop would work well for doing this. Once you have the wild quail
    regularly coming to the feed you could add one of our range feeders or a coop feeder and transition the quail to using the feeder. Once this is accomplished you could just fill the feeder once a month and to reduce the labor time and amount of feed required.
    You can increase the number of quail on the property by setting up another site some distance away and release a covey of 20 to 25 quail at this site as shown in our video,”Putting Quail Back in Your Quail Hunting”. I would not release the 100 quail that you mentioned, as this would over populate the area and attract too many predators.
    Another option for you would be to use a Johnny house to give you extra dog work and shooting opportunities.
    If you are not familiar with releasing quail or using Johnny Houses, I would suggest that you obtain our DVDs on these topics .
    Sincerely,
    Jim Evans

  36. Jamie

    Hello Jim,

    I have a group of 15 bobwhite quail and they are almost ready to be released but I was wondering if there is anything I need to do to get them ready for release. They are already off of the heat lamp. I was also wondering how to find a good place to let them go in. They are 7-8 weeks old. Thank you 😊

  37. Joseph

    Hello, I was just wandering what a good time of the year would be to release 12 week old quail chicks?

  38. Jim Evans Post author

    Joseph,
    The time of release can vary depending on what geographic region you are in. In a general sense, you want to release just prior to when you would naturally find coveys starting to form. ( In other words – during what we call the “Fall Shuffle”.) Since I am in southeast Georgia, I conduct my preseason releases from Mid-September to Mid-October.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *