More Pen-Raised Quail, Please
By Ben Robinson
Hopefully my title piqued your interest? And why wouldn’t it? Pen-raised quail discussions are as common to quail enthusiasts as cockleburs are to a setter’s ears.
Much research has been done on this topic. And each study seems to paint the same picture. Releasing pen-raised quail to restore dwindling populations just doesn’t work. I regularly speak with landowners who swear that the 500 birds they released last year are thriving on their property. I don’t argue. I simply encourage them to stop releasing birds for a couple of years and give me a call to report their findings. The outcome is easy to predict. The birds do a poor job of replacing themselves and the landowner is back to square one.
I think we can all agree that pen-raised birds aren’t the answer to restore quail populations. But what about releasing birds to train a young pup? Or a visit to the local shooting preserve for a day afield with the kids and dog? I would argue that perhaps pen-raised birds do have a place and without them, our quail hunting culture may have died out long ago.
For many of us, quail hunting is all about camaraderie with friends, old and new. It’s about watching that young dog finally “figure it out.” Unfortunately, record low numbers of wild quail have made it tough on hunter and dog alike. Many a good bird hunter would have given up long ago if pen-raised birds weren’t available to hold their interest and get them through another dismal season.
We’re working harder than ever to reverse these declines through sound habitat management. We’ve even begun to experience some success in the form of increasing wild populations. But the declines are great and the task to restore wild quail will not happen overnight. Until it does, we need to ensure that we retain what’s left of our quail hunters so that our great sport can be passed on to the next generation … the generation that may get to experience a revitalization of the good ol’ days. And if it takes a few pen-raised birds at a shooting preserve to keep those folks interested, I say go for it!