Quail have been tough to come by throughout the US for a few years.
During the down years it can be frustrating to head out to the field to chase a few birds.
If you're bringing a few buddies out to your property to chase quail you want to show them a good hunt. You want to make sure there are birds in the field when you arrive because it's not as enjoyable when you don't see anything.
If you're seeing that the quail population on your property has been dropping the last few seasons you're probably looking for a solution.
One solution might be release or plant quail into the fields around your property.
Here we review how you can go about doing just that as a way to improve the quality of the quail on your property.
Finding Quality Quail to Release
The first step to releasing quail is to find the right birds.
There are local bird growers throughout the US. You'll want to find one that has a good reputation for growing quality birds. Obviously this is what you'll look for but it's important to inspect the quality of the bird pens to make sure the birds aren't used to a lot of human interaction.
The bird pens should be a good distance away from any buildings and roads. Make sure the shade cloth protects the birds from the buildings.
If you can also find growers that have automatic feeders for the birds to further minimize contact with humans. The less exposure the birds have to humans and other human elements the better they will react when they are out in your field.
You can get the quail in large groups that are over 25 birds or so. The growers may put them all in a single container such as a box or a crate.
Having the birds put into one big container is not ideal for short-term hunting, but if you're planning to release them for hunting in the future this will be just fine.
Release Quail the Night Before the Hunt
There are two schools of thought on releasing birds for hunting in the short-term. This is the situation where you have hunters coming for a weekend hunt or even a single day hunt.
Some say the best time to release the birds is the early morning before you go out to hunt. You can take the birds out to the field and the cover and release them while it's still dark or just as the sun is coming up. The birds are less likely to move much during the dark and they'll still be disoriented enough to stay put until you and your party come back later in the day for the hunt.
The other school of thought is to release the birds the night before you plan on hunting. The release technique is much the same as the first method. You take the birds out just as it's getting dark. You release them in small groups and make sure to put them in cover where they will feel protected.
The birds shouldn't move much and by the next day they'll be ready to react like wild birds when you hit the field for the big hunt.
Using Crates to Create Small Coveys of Quail
We mentioned that some growers will provide large crates full of birds that contain 25 individual birds or more. If you're planning to release birds for the long-term you can release them from this crate, but for short-term hunting there are different ways to release.
The first method is to use small crates.
You can take multiple crates out into the field with a utility vehicle or a pickup truck. You can release a few birds (2-5) or so at a time in different areas of cover.
You could also use a single crate to attempt to release the birds in small groups around the cover around your property.
Using a Bird Bag
Another way to release quail is to use a bird bag. This is commonly used by folks that release birds for dog training. You can also use it to release a small number of quail for a hunt.
You can take up to about a half dozen or so at a time. Some will spin the bag around in big circles for a few swings to make the birds dizzy. Then you can release them into good cover and start over again with a new set of birds.
You can try different variations of these two methods. There is not an exact science to releasing the birds, but if you follow these basic steps you should have success when you head out to hunt.
The key is to take the birds out when it's dark. They are more likely to stay in the cover and not move much. You can get out in the field and leave quickly to make them feel safe until you come back the next day or later in the day depending on when you do the release.
Releasing Quail for Long-Term Management
If you're planning to release quail in advance of an entire season there is more preparation and work to be done to your property to make sure the quail survive.
Some take very meticulous measures to make sure the quail have the best chance to survive for the long-term.
You go through the same steps to make sure you get quality quail.
You also have to do some work on your habitat. This has been the issue for quail over the last few decades. They need plenty of cover and food. With the increase in the deer population over the years the quail have been pushed out.
Make sure there is cover and feed for your quail release.
Most that release quail this way will get them a day before the planned release. They will keep them stored in a dark, quiet place overnight and will release in the morning or the next night.
Some will take an entire crate out at a time and will not touch the birds. They will leave a small opening in the crate to let the birds exit on their own.
It should be noted that releasing pen-raised quail into the wild is not a strategy for preservation. It's a short-term solution that can work great for weekend hunts or even seasonal hunts.
You can release the birds and have great success, but without the habitat and food to survive the birds will ultimately die off. It's the reason they aren't surviving on their own in the first place.
Best of luck with your own quail release.
Quail hunting is a great pastime and something to enjoy anyway we can.