The population of bobwhite quail has been decreasing for many years. Texas Tech University’s Department of Natural Resources Management has been researching the reasons for the change.
Brad Dabbert, associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources Management, said there are several issues that impact the declining quail population.
“The drought has had a huge effect,” Dabbert said.
While the drought has caused a decline in the quail population, it has also impacted the insect population, a main food source for quail. Insects thrive off green and healthy plants and with the drought across the region, there are very few insects to be found. With few insects available, few bobwhite chicks have survived.
“The chicks really need insects because of the higher protein content than most of the seeds available,” Dabbert said.
Over-hunting of the bobwhite quail has not been a major influence on the quail population. Dabbert said since the weakening of the quail population, quail hunting has declined in popularity. Quail hunters can be the strongest conservationists as they want the population boosted, not diminished.
“Most hunters will shoot just one bird out of a covey, and will not go back to that covey until next year,” Dabbert said.
Texas Tech researchers have been conducting studies on approximately 26 ranches across Texas. The ranches stretch from northwest Texas to north-central Texas. One of the ranches that has participated in a study is the MT7 Ranch near Breckenridge, Texas.
By trapping and banding quail, the MT7 Ranch has helped Texas Tech researchers. The ranch has also tried to give the quail better cover and living conditions to help the chicks stay away from predators.
“Mostly the ranch has tried to make better living conditions for quail and plant certain types of food the quail like,” said Will Kittley, an MT7 Ranch employee.
The MT7 Ranch has planted specific food plots all around the ranch to attract quail, and hopefully, keep the quail well-fed and improve the population count.
“We are trying to do as much as we can to help improve the population,” Kittley said.
With the help of ranches across the state, Texas Tech researchers will continue their efforts to improve the growth of coveys of bobwhite quail to increase the population.