Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs
Selecting a Quail Producer
In the southeast, quail used in preseason stocking projects will typically be released from September through mid-October. Immediately after release these quail will have a lot of adjustments to make.
This is the beginning of a four-week "boot camp for quail". During this time our feathered recruits are adapting to new surroundings, new foods and attempting to survive a host of air and ground attacks. All these cause STRESS on the birds. The healthier and stronger the bird, the better it can cope with stress. If we release a bird already weak from improper rearing - it would find the rigors of boot camp overwhelming. You are searching for a producer that is well aware of these factors as well as many more. Even if the grower starts out with excellent breeding stock, but does not provide such things as isolation, cover, sunlight etc., he can end up with an undesirable product.
Isolation means that the producer minimizes human contact with the birds. Many accomplish this by filling the bird feeders in the grow-out pens using remote auger systems or by manually filling the feeders at night. Visual barriers are usually placed around the pens in the form of heavy shade cloth. This prevents the quail from becoming conditioned to the outside activity of dogs, humans or vehicles.
Some form of cover is usually present in the pen to prevent the quail from losing their natural desire for concealment when frightened. This can consist of either live crops (such as sorghum) growing in the pen, or artificial cover (such as stack of pallets). Sunlight is important in the development of healthy feathering as well as a bird’s intake of vitamin D. Moisture is also important. Besides drinking water, quail need to receive a wetting down. This stimulates the birds to use their oil gland (located on their rump) as they preen their feathers. The result is better flight performance in wet weather and more protection from the elements. A good grower knows this and will usually have "misters" or "foggers" in the growout area.
If you don’t know of a local bird grower you might try contacting your local game and fish office. They should be able to supply you with a list of persons permitted to produce game birds. Another source is the North American Gamebird Association (NAGA). Their web site is www.naga.org ot call Gary Davis at (919) 782-6758. Once you obtain a list, begin calling suppliers and ask some of the following questions:
USFWS Officer holds a Bobwhite Quail
Photo by: USFWS
- How many years have you been a quail producer?
- Do you vaccinate your birds for quail pox? In the southeast, this is important. If your grower is in the drier regions of the west, this is not as critical.
- Are your birds raised on the ground or are they raised on suspended wire floors? I would not use quail raised on wire for a preseason release project.
- May I visit your operation?
- Do you have quail hunting on your property or do you hunt over your own birds?
- Please give me five or six references to contact that have used your birds either for pre-season release or put and take preserves.
The answer to these questions should give you some ideas of who has been in business long enough to know what really makes a "good bird." Form a list of quail farms you wish to visit and which ones to pass over.
I hope these pointers will help you find quail with the right stuff for your project. Remember to order your birds early. This is the best way to be sure that you won’t be caught in a panic at the last minute.