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Brae Buckner

Following up on my article about the decline of the wild quail from earlier in the week, you may be wondering; if wild quail numbers are so low, how do we continue hunting quail year after year? Well, I wanted to know more about the process myself, so I got in touch with a local quail farm that allowed me to come out and see exactly what they do to keep the quail hunting business alive.

Pen-released quail have been utilized by hunting outfitters for many years now. These quail have been watched and tended to from the moment they hatch until the moment they are released in the field. These are very large-scale operations that work tirelessly day and night to ensure the safety and survival of these game birds. They quail farm I visited was currently housing 23,000 Bobwhite chicks that were close to five weeks old. The owner explained to me that she gets day-old hatchlings from another hatchery out of state, then raises these chicks until they are fully mature at 16 weeks of age. The hatcheries that provide the chicks keep breeding pairs under light for close to 16 hours a day to encourage egg laying. The day the eggs hatch, this particular farm picks up new hatchlings and begins raising them. She explained that she goes through thousands of pounds of specially-formulated game bird feed that imitates the nutrition these birds would have access to in the wild. Another detrimental part of this operation is cleanliness. When housing so many animals together, a single disease or parasite can be absolutely devastating. Sanitizing the housing areas and more importantly, paying attention to any individuals that might be showcasing symptoms of an illness, is a 24/7 job when it comes to raising these birds.

pen-released quail - IMG 3678 225x300 - Pen-Released Quail: An Insider Look

Many people ask, “Can’t I just buy pen-raised birds and release them on my property to improve the wild quail population?” Unfortunately, the success rate of this is incredibly low. 90% of pen-released quail will die within the first month of being released in the wild. Their social structure is completely different than that of wild birds, as they were not taught survival instincts, social behaviors, or foraging patterns. While we have seen a handful of pen-released birds mate with wild birds, I would not suggest using this as a way to improve your wild population. Pen-released quail are going to be mainly used on large-scale quail hunting operations, not for the purpose of reviving a dwindling population.

Quail are a difficult species to manage for. Almost everything preys on this species; coyotes, bobcats, raptors, snakes, even bullfrogs and wild turkeys have been documented consuming chicks in the wild. By contacting your local quail farm and learning more about how they raise their birds for hunting purposes, you can keep the tradition of quail hunting alive for generations.

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