Dave's Commentaries

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Index of Dave's Commentaries

March 1, 2000 re: Quail numbers | March 7, 2000 re: Young dogs | March 13, 2000 re: Peanut | March 19, 2000 re: A boy, his bird dog, and Mom | March 26th, Teddy, his final days... | April 1, 2000, e-collar/pinch Vs... | Really good bird dogs and owners | May 13, The Shepherd that Points and Retrieves? | May 24 Training in the City | June 4, 2000 Rain! | June 16, an AKC Pointer trial | July 16, Training my puppy | July 23, Training my puppy II | August 5, Pressure and Shotgunning | August 12, Molly | September 21, Snakes! | White socks, white cooler, September 30 | Public vs. Private, October 21 | Kid Hunt, 2000! | Check List for a 2 to 3 Day Bird Hunt | Update on our hunting activities | Bobwhite Quail Tactics, 01-31-01 | Bobwhite Quail Season Ends, 2-25-2001 | Off season work | Texas Quail Leases, July 5, 2001 | Rocket! July 15, 2001 | Quail report for 2001 | Nubbin, Wow! Feb 26-02 | NSTRA | The Bobwhite Quail, March 03-02 | The Hawk Hunt, March 04-02 | The Bullet Dog, March 17-02 | Texas Wildlife Expo, March 26-02 | SKEETER, Good ole boy, April 16-02 | May 04-02 QUEENIE, farewell | My puppy, some personal thoughts, May 24-02 | Heat Stroke | My old bird dog, a poem, September, 2002 | The last six months, 4-2003 | Pre-season Check List July 03 | Cheap? | Sarah | Dot 3-04 | When should I...7-04 | E-collars are for punishment, right?  WRONG...12-04

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An Interesting Thought occurred to me tonight. As I was surfing the net and reading opinion from other hunting web sites, I realized that many of our visitors might just be interested in some bird hunting/training related thoughts of my own.

Here goes...

My first writing, Quail and their numbers. Some thoughts from my trips afield this year. As a guide and avid upland hunter, I averaged over 3 full hunting days afield each week over the period of our 4 month long quail season this year 99-00. On non-hunting days I am a full time Brittany gun dog trainer.

The accumulative total of hunts this year left a lasting impression in my mind, HOT weather. I logged a number of hunts in the field this year for both clients and myself. The usual question that I got was "Why are the bird numbers down so far?"

Here's what I heard from others offering their opinions: Bobwhite quail numbers are down due to fire ants, avian predators, 'possums, feral cats, bobcats, 'coons, skunks, no insects for spring food, decline of habitat, over hunting coveys, drought... Did I forget any? Maybe.

There's a lot of truth in what I've heard and what I've observed. I bought a small farm in the area known as the Big Country of Texas, which is traditional native quail habitat. Like they say, a bad year on quail hunting here is still better than what other states have to offer. Anyways (is that a word? - oh who cares - get use to it I'm gonna write the way I talk in the field) I digress.

The decline in quail populations is due to.... Everything I listed above. There you have it. One area that I would like to point out that doesn't get mentioned often, and that is ranch management.

Ranch management plays a HUGE role in quail numbers. The native grasses and vegetation supports quail around here and that's a given. But what the rancher does with his resource is critical. This year I hunted over 20,000 acres of ranch land and saw the whole gamut. I saw pastures so overgrazed you could play bumper pool off the meadow muffins! I also saw some good pastures with moderate amounts of grass and vegetation necessary to sustain large coveys.

Yes we found some quail on the overgrazed pastures but that's not the point. Some of the pastures were plum scalded. Imagine a scalded hide and you get the picture. The cows were so hungry they were eating the prickly pear, thorns and all. When that happens, you won't see many quail.

So what were the quail eating? They were eating 4 primary food sources: #1 a particular small berry that grows on a bush (we call them turkey berries), #2 a plant that grows close to the ground - is green and crimson colored and heart shaped - looks sorta like clover (name is too much for me to remember!), #3 pears from the prickly pear cactus, and #4 native grass seeds.

Bottom line is that our habitat is basically unchanged around here but our quail decline is multi-faceted. It's range, food and cover, it's varmints and avian, it's fire ants and feral cats.

No matter how the range is managed, some things won't get better. Varmints are no longer worth a dime (fur industry) in the USA. The varmints are in a population explosion. Coons, possums, cats, and skunks WILL raid nests and eat the eggs and, if we're in a drought, there won't be any insects for the hens to eat to get their high protein food source needed for reproduction.

The good news? Quail can bounce back and have in various areas such as south Texas this year. Currently we are below baseline and hope to move up. Pray for rain!

Convince your rancher to rotate pastures in the winter months. I saw pastures on some ranches that were scalded while those pastures not located close to the traditional haying area, had some great cover. If the cows were rotated, the grasses would have been acceptable in all the pastures.

One way to convince your rancher to manage for wild resources - Quail - is to encourage the rancher to hold the quail rights separate of the deer hunting rights. Will it cost you more? Maybe. However, it just may help us all in the long run. In drought years, a rancher who has managed his/her wild resources can help their decreased income by leasing separately for late season quail.

Also, consider some varmint control measures. Live traps really work. Volunteer to help your rancher decrease the varmint populations.

After all, we're not out to count bird kills are we? No, of course not. We're in the field for the hunt, the dog work, the fresh outdoors, and the camaraderie of long time hunting buddies.

Happy huntin' and give your dog a treat for me...