From: Dale Rollins
Subject: TeamQuail Electronic Newsletter February 2004 Issue
The TeamQuail E-covey is an every so often update of quail happenings in west Texas. Feel free to forward to your quail-addict friends, or reply with their e-mail address and I’ll add them to the e-covey. Comments, questions, or ideas for future topics? Please e-mail me at email@example.com. See the TeamQuail website (http://teamquail.tamu.edu) for additional information about quail management.
1. Texas Quail Conservation Initiative update – Maybe we’ll look back in 20 years and say the decade of the 1990s was just the pits for bobwhites. If a new strategic plan has anything to say about it, bobwhites, and Texas other 3 quail, may again be in the limelight. The TQCI is a collaborative effort of Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPW), Texas Cooperative Extension, TAMU and TAMU-K, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas Wildlife Association, USDA Natural Resources Extension Service, Quail Unlimited, and other partners (public and private). Oversight is provided by the Texas Quail Council, a statewide mix of landowners, quail hunters, and representatives of conservation organizations and related agencies. Notable progress has already been made relative to making various Farm Bill programs more quail-friendly. An article in the Feb 04 issue of TPW Magazine gives more details. Look for a series of popular articles to begin in March in The Cattleman Magazine and in April in Farmer-Stockman Magazine.
2. Upcoming Quail Events – With the season beginning to wind down, give your dogs a well deserved rest and spend some time learning more about quail management. Upcoming sessions include:
- February 11, Wichita Falls: I’ll be speaking on managing wildlife for fun and/or profit at the Texoma Farm & Ranch Show; FMI see www.farmshows.com.
- Feb. 18, Abilene: Taylor County Farm, Ranch, and Wildlife Management Expo. TAMU Research Associate Ben Taylor will be discussing what it takes to have quail (reliably) in west Texas; he’ll also update the group about ongoing research efforts in west Texas. FMI, contact Gary Bomar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Feb. 19-21, Kerrville: Annual meeting of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society. Several updates on quail research and related topics will be presented on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. FMI see www.tctws.org ; I hope to get the abstracts available from these talks online after the meeting; will keep you posted. There will also be a “Seed IQ Contest” for those who dare to confuse seeds of milkvetch with milkweed.
- March 5-6, Kingsville: Advanced Habitat Management Workshop for Lessees on King Ranch. This workshop marks a new venue for the Texas Brigades and its supporters. The 1.5 day workshop will feature “advanced” habitat management topics for those interested in deer and quail management. If this one is successful, look for the Brigades to clone the event at other places in the future. FMI e-mail Helen Holdsworth (email@example.com).
- March 7, Austin: Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers School for Successful Ranching; I’ll be wrapping up the Saturday program with exercises (mental & physical) about balancing cows and wildlife. FMI, see http://www.texascattleraisers.org/index2.htm.
- March 8, Austin: Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Annual Convention – Wildlife Committee meeting, Monday, March ; I’m slated to address this group with information on the Texas Quail Index, and summarize the first two years’ efforts.
- Mar 25-26, Kingsville: Texas Quail Shortcourse III – This 2-day symposium will be hosted by the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at TAMU-K; see http://www.ckwri.tamuk.edu for program and registration details;
- April 1-2, Graham and Throckmorton: “Range Management for Livestock and Wildlife” field day. Co-hosted by Texas Wildlife Association and Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, this program will feature tours of three area ranches. Topics to be discussed will include brush and grass sculpting, prescribed burning, and plant identification. I’ll have the assignment of “debating” Dr. Darrell Ueckert on the value (real or perceived) of prickly pear, among other topics. Contact Tamara Trail (firstname.lastname@example.org) for registration information and more details.
- April 26-27, San Angelo: Texas Quail Index workshop for new cooperators. We will be training new cooperators on the various protocols used in this demonstration. I’d especially like to add folks from (a) blue quail country, (b) the “eastern edge” of bobwhite country, and (c) south Texas. FMI, see http://teamquail.tamu.edu.
3. 2003: Year of the Confused Point. We used to call them “ghost points” or “false points”, now the politically correct term is “non-productive points.” Basically it’s when the dog(s) point, then about the time you struggle up to them, they break as if they’d just suffered a blonde moment. Studies at Auburn University suggest that the quail were there, but may have flushed wild or just skedaddled out from the dogs. Bottom line: trust your dog. Now, this season (especially before we finally got some rains about 3 weeks ago) will be remembered as the year of the “confused point.” A number of times my Setters (who I normally consider quite reliable) would point, then begin to look around as you approached, only to break and go on about their business. Then you’d walk ten steps onward and the covey flushes to your right or left, or behind you, but the dogs don’t acknowledge their presence. Go easy on that e-collar, Hank! If you think you can do better, you try it.
4. Are Bobwhites on the Atkins Diet? Low-carb diets are again the craze; too bad Dr. Atkins didn’t live long enough to see the medical profession and nutritionists admit it works. Several times this season, some of you have e-mailed to say the bobwhites you check have hardly anything in their crops (craws). I concur. The only “full” bobwhites I shot were over Thanksgiving weekend in southwestern OK; maybe it was just to celebrate the holidays, but their crops were stoked with seeds of western ragweed and quail pea (Strophostyles sp.). A quail’s crop is capable of distending to about the size of a golf ball, but aside from the Thanksgiving birds, most of the crops I’ve seen in bobwhites wouldn’t match a marble. I presume they’re getting what they need however, as the birds appear to have “normal” fat reserves. Keep in mind the crucible for bobwhites in Texas is the next 45 days, weather-wise.
5. Viva la Blues. Blue quail are back in west Texas . . . with a vengeance! Maybe not everyone gets excited about the revival, but I do. I’ve enjoyed some productive blue hunts this season in Glasscock, Pecos, Borden, Howard, and Upton counties. The Borden-Howard county jaunt involved taping a television show on hunting blue quail that will air this August on Hunting & Fishing Texas with host Wade Middleton. Have you ever hunted blues by circling the covey with 3 jeeps (or “ranch buggies”)? I went on my first such hunt last December near Garden City, and another last weekend south of Midland. It is a genuinely sporting way to hunt the tracksters. As I ruminate on an article for Quail Unlimited, I wonder who developed this strategy? Don’t be modest, if it was you or yours, please provide me some details. While on blue quail, I’d be willing to bet you that, at any given time of the day, a blue quail will have twice (or 3 times) as much food in its crop as a bobwhite from the same range. They just seem to be better hustlers when it comes to foraging; consider them a bobwhite with “a little ear” on them (ala crossbreeding British cattle with Brahmans to get a more hardy F1 cross). Major food at recent hunts near Ft. Stockton and Midland were seeds of “greasewood” (Flourensia cernua), aka tarbush or blackbrush.
6. Is This Quail Season Better than Last? I think those of you in South Texas, and along the eastern part of the Rolling Plains would scream “amen.” I’m not so sure about more western parts of the Rolling Plains. My lease in Coke County appears to have about the same, maybe fewer birds than last year. And the percent juveniles in the bag from several ranches is running only about 50 to 65%; considerably less than last year. The Texas Quail Index numbers for those ranches where we have 2 years of data suggest about the same quail abundance. My take on it is that our good numbers this year were more a result of carryover of “old” birds than from a great hatch. Comments from other areas?
7. Covey Flush Rates: What Do They Reflect? As you talk about various production measurements, flush rates invariably are brought up as the gross B&C score for quail hunting. But consider the variables in this index: are you hunting on baited roads? Feeders? From a vehicle? Horseback? Fresh big-running pointers, or kick-and-flush Setters? Do you hunt all day long, or just the golden time (e.g., 4 p.m. to dark)? Unlike two deer hunters comparing B&C scores, our bragging rights are subject to many permutations. I’ve queried several folks who have hunted various techniques and they all agree . . . “it depends.” Here’s the scenario:
Given a particular property, let’s use the Matador WMA just for sake of an example, how do you think your flush rates/day would “relate” if you hunt by: a) foot with two dogs (no substitute dogs, these are all you have), b) a “mule” and have ability to go off-road to follow your dogs, you also carry a fleet of 6 dogs and rotate every 30 minutes or so; or c) on horseback with a brace of wide-ranging pointers? Assume the same number of hours are hunted and weather is same. I realize that some of you may not have experience with all 3 types of hunting. I also realize there are umpteen caveats to such a correlation, but if you’d be willing to venture a figure, I’d appreciate it.
Flush rates may be meaningful indices of abundance, but only when the various hunting-related variables are minimized.
8. Matador WMA Gets New Manager – The Matador WMA is one of the few public hunting opportunities for quail in northwest Texas. And I look for new and improved things there as a result of the appointment of Donald “Chip” Ruthven as manager of the area. I’ve known Chip for a number of years, and have always been appreciative of (1) his research and management efforts at the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area, and (2) for his assistance with Bobwhite and Buckskin Brigade teaching efforts in South Texas. Welcome aboard Chip! How about bringing some of that 70 inch+ rainfall that you brought to South Texas the past two summers??? That would be a great start! Chip’s contact information is: Matador Wildlife Management Area, 3036 FM 3256, Paducah, TX 79248, Office: 806-492-3405; Fax: 806-492-3230; e-mail email@example.com.
9. Another Big Step for Quail in North Texas – Ricky Linex was named the new “zone wildlife biologist” for the USDA-NRCS in Weatherford several months ago. Ricky is a quail guy from way back, and is one of my “go-to” guys relative to seed identification. Ricky is also “giant” (literally and figuratively) with the Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade and North Texas Buckskin Brigade Wildlife Leadership Camps. You can contact Ricky at Natural Resources Conservation Service, 919 E. Eureka St., Suite A, Weatherford, TX 76086; telephone 817-596-2865; FAX 817-596-4054; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
10. Audubon Members Covey Up on Quail Management? There’s an old song that says “just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” Perhaps that’s why the Texas Audubon Society recently hired a quail coordinator. Jason Hardin of Kingsville is the new quail specialist. Among his charges is to develop more “quail co-ops”, especially in eastern portions of the state (i.e., east of the 98th meridian). Audubon members realize that bobwhites serve as the proverbial “canary in the coalmine”, and as goes quail, goes a whole suite of grassland songbirds. You can reach Hardin at email@example.com.
11. What’s Your Seed IQ? Got any Centaurea americanus seeds? American basketflower is one of my favorite quail forbs, but boy does it get slandered by everyone. I’ll bet 99.9% of all who gaze upon it curse it as a “thistle.” But it’s not. See http://texnat.tamu.edu/Quail_Seed/texnat.htmlfor a close-up photo of the seed; it’s a dandy for quail. Student worker Mandy Currie and I are working on a color poster that features 10 important quail seeds; look for it as a quiz to be posted at future quail functions. If you have seeds you’d like identified, send a sample to me (7887 U.S. Hwy. 87 North, San Angelo, TX 76901-9714) or better yet, e-mail a good set of jpeg images of same. If I don’t know it, I’ll farm it around until we get it identified.
12. Texas Brigades Looking for “A Few Good Men” (and Women!) – The 13th year of the Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade will muster June 19-23 at the Krooked River Lodge north of Lueders. Five other “clones” of the camp (South Texas Bobwhite Brigade, North and South Texas Buckskin Brigades, East Texas “Feathered Forces”, and coming this summer a “Bass Brigade”) are also on tap; see www.texasbrigades.org for dates and more information. We seek 3 things from you, in order of increasing importance: (a) your money, (b) your time, and (c) your kids (or grandkids). If you’d like to sponsor a cadet (tuition for this year is $300) or make a donation to help conduct the camps (it’s tax-deductible!), contact Helen Holdsworth, Texas Wildlife Association, 401 Isom Rd., Suite 237, San Antonio, TX, 78216; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications are due April 15, 2004. I offer you a personal guarantee: if you send a kid, and you’re not amazed at the product you receive in return (i.e., a changed individual), I’ll refund your money. If you’re looking for a challenge, and want to benefit from the single best 5-day quail shortcourse anywhere, sign up to apply as a “Covey Leader”. You will be tired at the end of the camp, but rejuvenated about the future.
13. Wherefore Art Thou Broomweed? With apologies to my range colleagues, I can’t help but champion the quail benefits of common broomweed. Show me a good “broomweed year” in the Rolling Plains, and I’ll show you a good quail year. The previous two years have been conformed to that pattern. But I’m not optimistic of a good broomweed year next summer. I’m afraid we missed our “broomweed” rains in November and December. Maybe it’ll be a wet spring and other more “desirable” plants will provide the cover and seeds for next fall’s coveys. Keep your eyes posted for broomweed seedlings over the nest couple of months.
14. Quail Calendar – Here’s some things that could be happening on your place over the next month or so:
a) discing to generate forb response (hint: maybe disc a couple of strips wide now, and then again 6 weeks from now to vary the species response);
b) half-cut mesquites on former CRP acreages; see http://texnat.tamu.edu/symposia/SCULPTOR/34.htm for more information.
c) conduct prescribed burning (hint: try burning a number of “small” burns, e.g., 2 to 5 acres, followed by light stocking rates of cattle to increase forb diversity); be sure and protect your “quail houses”, e.g., lotebush, by using fireguards appropriately or backfiring around them.
d) get better acquainted with quail-friendly provisions of the Farm Bill; see your local NRCS office for details.
e) enroll in the Texas Quail Index training and learn how to track quail happenings on your land or lease. And you don’t have to have a lease or land to participate; perhaps you can be the “counter” on a ranch in your area.
15. Postscript. I believe I savor each quail season a bit more than the last. Perhaps it’s my age, or maybe my reluctance to take things (i.e., good quail hunting) for granted like I used to. I’ve hunted about 30 days this year, and will likely get in another half dozen in before season’s end. I don’t carry my Wingmaster pump anymore, and I’m content with a rooster from each covey (i.e., “quail snooker”). And on half the hunts I was armed only with a digital camera in search of that elusive covey rise photograph. I had the good pleasure of hunting with pitching legend Nolan Ryan, and with a half dozen Bobwhite Brigaders. My flush counts ranged from a low of 4 to a high of 38, but I remember the hunts more than the numbers. I shot more blue quail than in any year since 1987. I trod across some of the finest quail grounds in west Texas, indeed anywhere. I have spoken to, and learned from, landowners, hunters, youths, politicians, and bird dogs who I consider to be friends and mentors. And I’m pretty sure my younger setter (“Li’l Annie”) is gong to bless me with some new students about this time next month. Is this a great country, or what? Thank God I’m a country boy, yea!
Professor & Extension Wildlife Specialist
Texas Cooperative Extension
San Angelo, TX