All this experience and observation has taught me a lot about their preferences and habits.
On our home training grounds, I buy enough bobwhites in July to fill four Johnny houses and use them until the snow stops me from training. These quail grow into extremely strong flyers that know their terrain as well as a wild bird. They even become comfortable enough to remain outside the recall pens and are healthy enough to survive on their own during winter conditions.
In August 2012, a covey disappeared from a recall pen and Dan and I couldn’t use that Johnny house all fall. In mid December we heard that a covey of 11 had been flushed not far from the pen. This covey had been on its own for four months! When I checked it out—and by then it had snowed five inches—the covey flushed wild from a hillside covered with tall oak trees. The area was covered with quail tracks, snow had been scratched away and acorn pieces were scattered everywhere. Those birds had discovered a great food supply and had thrived.
Sometimes, though, they just disappear and I don’t know why.
Here are more observations about bobwhite quail.
• Late in October 2011, Dan and I put out a covey in a likely location—a south-facing slope with lots of good cover options—and then spread feed around the area several times each week. In spite of several snow falls and sub-zero temperatures, we saw this covey into early March 2012.
• Dogs often find ruffed grouse in the vicinity of the recall houses. This might be coincidental but it does seem quail and grouse are in close proximity. In fact, I’ve seen evidence that grouse feed on the scratch grain we spread for the put-out coveys.
• Like most adult game birds, the worst predators for bobwhites are hawks and owls. Often when it’s difficult to flush them from the Johnny house, a hawk is the reason. One will swoop in after some birds have been encouraged to leave. Cooper’s hawks are especially deadly. Countless times in Tennessee I saw a Cooper’s leaving a covey location when I approached to spread feed. They even chased quail when flushed from a covey in front of a dog’s point.
• Last year, I hauled two dozen quail from our Tennessee training grounds back to Minnesota, thinking I could use them for some spring training. Even though Dan and I flushed a few, they didn’t recall back to their Johnny house. My guess is that they had started to pair up and preferred to stay out with their chosen mates. One male in particular started showing up around our house in early May. Betsy and I saw him only occasionally but heard his distinctive whistle almost daily. Later in June, our neighbor Jeff spotted a female quail with several chicks just east of our kennel. This brood turned into a small covey that was flushed occasionally in the same vicinity until late fall.
Being in a hurry.
Hopefully your dog will live a long life of 10 or more years. It’s far more important to find the puppy that meets your needs rather than one that’s currently available. In fact, the best breeders usually have a waiting list.
Not knowing what you want.
Before you even begin your search, think about what you want. What qualities—such as looks, temperament, hunting ability—are important to you? What birds do you hunt? Do you like a close-working dog or a wide-ranger? Will your puppy live in the house or the kennel?
Choosing a puppy based on price.
Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Good breeders who produce high quality dogs have invested time, effort and finances in doing so. In addition, the initial outlay is virtually inconsequential when compared to the cost of a dog over its lifetime.
Not choosing the right breeder.
Do your research and get references. How long have they been breeding? Are they personally familiar with the dogs they’re breeding? For how many generations? Then make an appointment to visit the breeder. Are the kennels clean and the dogs healthy and well cared for? Do the dogs seem happy?
Not picking from the right litter.
This should be at the top of the list. Picking the right puppy is easy if you’re picking from the right litter from the right breeder. Like tends to produce like—if the sire and dam aren’t proven on the birds you hunt and in the manner you hunt, odds are that the offspring won’t either. All puppies are cute and it’s difficult to distinguish much among 8-week-old littermates.
The MGDA is hosting a field trial April 15 - 17 near Mora, Minnesota. This multiple-course trial is run on native grouse and woodcock. The Open Shooting Dog stake will begin on Friday at 8:00 am, followed by the Open Derby, Open Puppy and Amateur Shooting Dog throughout the weekend. All are invited to attend as spectator or participant.
To enter a dog or for more information, please contact Greg Gress at 612-590-2353 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.