Category Archives: Quail Management

How Many Quail, Coveys?

How many quail are in a covey? That number can vary, but it’s also important to know how many coveys are on a property. Many quail managers and hunters know they have quail, but probably do not have an estimate of the total number of quail or the average number of quail per covey on their hunting grounds.

This information, data about the number of local birds, could be a major determining factor in whether the location is worth hunting this fall and winter. Completing fall covey count surveys can be a valuable tool to help resolve these difficult hunt/no-hunt that quail hunters face each fall.

Bobwhite Coveys

Bobwhite quail begin forming coveys in early August. By September, these groups communicate through early morning “wake-up” calls. The seasonal calling peaks around mid-October and offers an opportunity to for hunters and managers to collect quality data regarding the number of quail on a specific piece of property. This information can be used to determine the number of coveys that call the property home.

Fall Call

In the fall, quail make a “koi-lee” whistle which is brief call that averages around 30 seconds, or less. It’s made early in the morning, typically beginning about 30 minutes before sunrise. Depending on the number of coveys that may be present, the calling lasts only a few minutes. Get there early or you may miss it!

When it comes to estimating the number of quail coveys on a property, clear mornings with light breezes are the best time to survey. Once the calling session ends, flushing the coveys is the best way to determine the size of the covey. It will also help you get an about where the quail roosting habitat on the property is located.

Fall quail surveys can help with overall quail management decisions. They can be a valuable tool for managing quail and covey numbers and can help with harvest decisions. Completing fall covey count surveys is recommended for anyone interested in quail management. Here’s how you do it:

Setup Call Points

Establish listening call count points at least 1,000 yards from each other. This guards against coveys being counted more than once if multiple persons are listening from different locations during the same morning. It helps to printi an aerial map of the property and mark the points before hand.

Listen for Calling Quail

Observers need to arrive at the point at least 45 minutes before sunrise and listen for each covey’s call up until sunrise. Marking the time of the call and the approximate location of each calling covey on a map helps provide a clearer picture of the number of coveys which may be present. It’s best to be conservative in the number of individual coveys.

How Many Quail Coveys Do You Have?

Evaluate Covey Data

Crunch time — time to analyze the results. Enter data into a Fall Covey Count Data Sheet, an adjusted fall covey index can be determined for each survey point. In addition, if a covey/s are flushed, the number of quail per acre can be estimated with this form.

Survey accuracy is improved when numerous points are established on a property, or at least the ones that exist are counted several times. Small properties may only allow for one survey point while larger ones are only limited by size and suitable quail habitat.

So how many quail and coveys do you have? It’s an important question for folks interested in quail, but a small investment (time) can provide valuable quail hunting and management information for the fall and beyond.

Quail Habitat Restoration Takes Center Stage

As hunters look to the quail hunting season opening on October 25 across Texas, there is new hope for bobwhite quail, and for dozens of other birds and animals that share the same native grassland habitat. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has awarded grants to put $4 million worth of quail habitat conservation on the ground, using a special appropriation by the Texas Legislature to help bring back the quail.

“We chose places where quail are gone, but they haven’t been gone long, kind of the front line in the battle to restore bobwhites,” said Robert Perez, TPWD upland game bird program leader. “It’s a first out, first back in concept. Can we bring quail back? That’s the question we’re exploring in these focus areas.”

The three focus areas are the Southeast Texas area – close to a dozen counties around Columbus, Sealy, Victoria; the I-35 Corridor area in Navarro and Ellis County; and the Rolling Plains/Cross Timbers area – counties around and south of Wichita Falls

“We’re using the $4 million to concentrate efforts in certain counties, with partners, so that the funding goes on the ground, and you build up enough habitat to support viable quail populations that are visible in numbers,” Perez said. “The government will never be able to pay enough to restore millions of acres for quail habitat. The goal is to demonstrate success in various areas of the state and show that quail habitat can be restored, to inspire and guide private landowners throughout the quail range.”

Fifteen grants have been awarded and two more in process to various nonprofits, universities and others for grassland restoration in the three focus areas. The $4 million in grants comes from the sale of $7 upland game bird stamps purchased by hunters.

Grant partners include organizations like the Wildlife Habitat Federation west of Houston, the Western Navarro Bobwhite Recovery Initiative south of Dallas, and the Grassland Restoration Incentive Program (GRIP) under the Oaks & Prairies Joint Venture, which has already delivered habitat restoration projects on more than 36,000 acres of grasslands in the three focus areas.

In addition, Perez received a federal Wildlife Restoration Program grant for $200,000 over four years, to fund multi-year quail population monitoring to measure the impact that these combined restoration efforts are having on quail populations and other grassland birds in the focus areas.

“What’s different here is the monitoring,” Perez said. “That scale and quality of monitoring is often left out because there isn’t enough staff or money to do it. But this time we are counting birds carefully in new ways, before and after restoration. We’re hiring summer technicians to cover thousands of points, counting quail and other grassland birds that share this habitat and are also in decline.”

If you build it, they will come. Habitat is the cornerstone of every wildlife species that we have. Habitat is comprised of the food, cover, water and space that a species needs to survive. There is a lot of overlap between quail habitat and other grassland nesting birds, so promoting quail habitat means helping a lot of other critters, non-game ones included.

Management for Quail – Texas Field Day

Sometimes quail management plays second fiddle to deer hunting operations in Texas, but the presence of these upland game birds is always indicative of good wildlife habitat. Landowners interested in providing more for bobwhite should first consider learning more about them, and now is your chance. The Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch will host its 6th annual field day on Friday, September 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The theme for this year’s event is “Best Management Practices for Quail.” The tour will feature such relevant topics as:

  • Bermudagrass renovation for bobwhites
  • Enhancing useable space for bobwhites on post-CRP contracts
  • Brood patchesQuail oases
  • Use of “camera trapping” in quail management
  • Sculpting prickly pear habitat for quail
  • Shrub mortality response to prickly pear herbicides
  • Translocation of scaled (“blue”) quail into former ranges
  • Key plants for quail
  • Shale & quail – quail considerations in a pending oil boom
  • Updates on quail research efforts
  • And more!

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Quail Hunting in Texas – Habitat Before Regulations

Ask anyone over the age of 30 years old that grew up on a farm or ranch in and they will tell you that the quail hunting in Texas was once fairly good. There were still suitable quail numbers, people heard quail, hunters saw quail. Farming and ranching practices were different then, too. Although research has found that quail hunting has little impact on quail populations, many hunters feel that hunting regulations may need to more conservative.

One of the rationales for shortening the season and/or reducing bag limits for quail in Texas is that many people think Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) needs to “send a message” out to people. One can only presume that the people who are calling for these additional limits think this message is: “Quail numbers are so low that you should stop hunting them or drastically reduce the extent to which you hunt them.” However, I suspect many quail managers and hunters already know and heed this message. Rarely are people more conservative than a landowner when it comes to the harvest of wildlife. Continue reading

Go Native for Quail, Here’s Why

Bobwhite quail are important game bird both economically and socially. However, quail populations have declined over time because of changing habitat. As a result, persons interested in bobwhite have turned to quail habitat management practices to restore and enhance suitable areas. Exotic grasses are not the best grasses for quail. In fact, these pose a serious problem for quail and quail habitat. The three most common exotic grasses are Bermuda, bahia and fescue.

These non-native grasses were introduced for soil erosion control on many properties, but also for hay production and forage crops for livestock. While these exotic grasses work well for these purposes, they provide poor conditions for bobwhite quail and also are very invasive, often outcompeting desirable, native grasses. In addition, these introduced grasses are also planted to mononcultures, further decreasing any available quail habitat. Continue reading

Quail Habitat Management: Covey Headquarters

Habitat management really is THE key to quail management. Rainfall determines the yearly fluctuations in habitat conditions and ultimately quail numbers, but a quail population will always suffer if the necessary component’s of their habitat is missing. One aspect of bobwhite quail habitat that is often overlooked are covey headquarters. Covey headquarters are clumps of dense shrubby or woody cover with a canopy at least three feet high and little vegetation at ground level.

Bobwhite quail need and use this type of patchy escape cover on a daily basis. They use headquarters to avoid hot summer sun and seek protection from predators and harsh weather. Without this habitat component, few quail will be present on a property. This habitat component should be placed next to early-successional vegetation such as managed wildlife friendly grasses and legumes and tilled soil in order to be most effective. Continue reading

Habitat Management for Quail and Turkey

Wildlife management through habitat management has become increasingly popular in recent years for both hunters and non-hunters alike. Recreational use of natural resources are now at an all-time high thanks to education, understanding, and promotion of our valuable natural resources. Two birds that many landowners are interested in managing for are bobwhite quail and wild turkey. Both of these birds require diverse habitat, but each has very specific habitat requirements.

Native grasses are at the heart of quail and turkey management. Native grasses for better habitat can be promoted in several ways. More often than not, there is a seed bank within the soil that still contains viable seeds. Some light to moderate disking may encourage these native grass seeds to germinate. Of course, natural grass cover still will not happen over night. Immediately after disking, many low successional forbs (wild flowers and other) will flourish, then it will seem only noxious weeds, and then maybe two, three, or fours years later the manager will start to notice some new grass coming in. A big part of plant response depends on weather conditions. Continue reading