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Vol. 15 No. 2

RPQRF Announces Sporting Ranch Training Program for Veterans by Dana Wright

Are you a veteran or do you know a veteran who’s interested in hunting and the outdoors, and turning that interest into a career?  The Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation is starting a new program this Spring for veterans called the “Sporting Ranch Training Program”. It will be a 12-week program where participants will learn skills to help them gain employment on a ranch guiding hunts, conducting wildlife and habitat management techniques and general ranch management. Courses will include: pesticide and herbicide application, prescribed burning, brush management, wildlife biology, quail surveys, operating common ranch and farming equipment, and many other hands-on activities to prepare individuals for working on a game ranch. 
Participants will live in the newly constructed Gordy Family Guest Lodge at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch, receive monthly wages and a food allowance for the duration of the program. All licensing and credential costs will be covered by RPQRF. The program is slated to start May 15, 2023 and we will only select 3 applicants for the first class. If you are interested in applying or want more information, contact Dana Wright at
RPQRF thanks Park Cities Quail Coalition for their support of this new program!

Rodent Populations Remain “Low”

Quail and rodents have many things in common–they both eat seeds, use similar vegetation for shelter from the elements and predators, and everything wants to eat them. It should be no surprise that when mice and rats are doing well, quail are as well.
As part of our monitoring efforts at the RPQRR, we set Sherman traps twice a year to monitor rodent populations. Each rodent caught gets a small aluminum ear tag and is then released back into the environment. We just finished our winter trapping session and caught 254 rodents (179 unique individuals) from 8 species. Hispid pocket mice were the most common, with 68 (43 unique) caught.

But, so what? Are there ways we can manipulate rat numbers? This was one of the questions that arose as part of our new supplemental feeding study. Supplemental feeding may directly affect quail through changes in behavior (e.g., space use, foraging strategies, etc.), survival, and reproduction either positively or negatively, depending on method of feed delivery, timing, cover, etc. Feeding may also indirectly affect quail by altering components of the ecosystem that are inextricably linked to quail numbers, like small mammal populations. Overlaying our 8 hunting courses at RPQRR are 4 feed treatment units and 4 control units. Overlaying these are our 24 small mammal trapping grids (3 grids per unit). If we can see changes in some parameters of the system (e.g., quail nesting rates, survival, small mammal numbers) but not others, this may help understand the mechanisms in which food provisioning works (directly, indirectly, or both). If no changes are seen, other hypotheses relating to cover may have more merit.
Since beginning feeding last January, we have trapped small mammals 3 times and distributed about 1.2 bushels of milo per acre on fed areas. During the first occasion (Feb 2022), we had just started our study (Jan 2022). Captures were slightly lower on non-fed pastures. During summer, we observed a 60% decrease in captures on non-fed areas and a 43% decrease on fed areas. This January, fed areas increased 75% whereas non-fed areas increased 25%. These data are to be considered preliminary, as the treatment and control units will be reversed next year. Statistical comparisons for population sizes are pending. One thing was certain, the addition of feed alone was not enough to outweigh the dry conditions last summer and give us a boost. Cover and temperature likely remained important variables in the equation.

Dr. Dale on Quail:  Snow is no winter playground for quail

When I was a kid I was always pleased to see a good snow—it made for good hunting whether my quarry was quail, cottontails or coyotes. But as I’ve aged the luster of snow per se has waned. I think quail probably share my opinion.
If you’ve ever been out quail hunting and it begins to sleet perhaps you’ve witnessed the birds going into a feeding frenzy. It’s as if they sense what may be several days of snow- or ice-covered landscapes. Such instances increase the birds’ demand for energy, decrease their opportunity to find seeds, and force the birds to use whatever fat stores they have (perhaps three days’ worth). Fortunately, we rarely experience a snow-covered landscape for more than three days at our latitude but they can happen.
In January 1983 I was attending Texas Tech University. A winter storm dumped 17” of snow, and the snow persisted for at least three weeks. I often visited the “Range & Wildlife area” just across 4th St. from the Medical School (I don’t think it’s rangeland any more). I walked the 240 acres often, as there were several coveys of bobwhite and blue quails there. At 1-week post storm the coveys still flushed “normally”; by 2-weeks post-storm their flights were noticeably shorter, and by 3 weeks the birds could be caught by hand. Their breast was about the size of a sparrow’s.
Good quail habitat should account for such inclement weather extremes. Coverts like sand plum, lotebush and catclaw acacia provide both thermal cover and escape cover from raptors. Even (or especially) the junipers that we often curse are a blessing if there’s a foot of snow on the ground. As we’ve lamented in past issues, range conditions across much of the Rolling Plains are pitiful. Such conditions make for easy pickin’s for Northern harriers and Cooper’s hawks.
You’re probably aware of the “roost circle” behavior observed in bobwhite and scaled quail, but can you name three functions for this behavior? Obviously, there’s a thermal benefit of crowding together, especially when air temperatures fall below 20 degrees F. The roost circle also aids quail in predator avoidance in two ways. First “eyes out” mean more sentinels to watch for approaching danger. Secondly, and more importantly, the birds have an unimpeded flight lane if disturbed by a predator. Imagine the confusion that would occur if they roosted with heads in and tails out!

Mark Your Calendars

Covey up! It’s been four years since the last Statewide Quail Symposium was held. So, we’re excited to announce that we’re ready for another one!  Mark your calendars for August 16-18 and make plans to attend; stay tuned for more details. If you or your organization would like to support the effort, we offer three levels of sponsorship: Gold ($2,500 minimum), Silver ($1,000), and Bronze ($500). Sponsors will receive two registrations for the symposium and display space will be available.

Social Media Milestone reached—now for a Reboot

Social media is a great way to spread the word when it comes to what’s going on at the “Quail Research Ranch.” We currently have over 10,000 followers on Facebook.  Interestingly, 76% of those followers are men and the city with the most followers is Lubbock, Texas. So, if you don’t already follow us on Facebook and Instagram, be sure to check us out! We are going to be providing more content in new ways to help spread the word about our favorite feathered bird, the bobwhite quail.  Be sure to follow our adventures by searching “Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation” on both Facebook and Instagram.

Dr. Dale on Quail podcast features Joe Don Brooks reflecting on 80 years of quail happenings in Cottle County

When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.”
                                                                      – African proverb

Have you ever lamented an opportunity to visit with some of your mentors because you waited too long? Take a trip back through time this month as Dr. Rollins hits the rewind button on quail happenings in Cottle County dating back to the 1930s. Mr. Joe Don Brooks of Paducah will soon turn 90 years old, but his recall of quail happenings in the 1950s are quite vivid. We share stories about A.S. Jackson, a renowned quail biologist and naturalist and landscape level changes that have had repercussions for bobwhites. Brooks speaks of the economic impact of quail hunting to his hometown in the 1970s, and offers tips for how to turn the quail situation back to its glory days. Join us for some reminiscing on February 20.
For previous sessions, see Thanks to Jonathan Vail (Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation) for his technical expertise, co-host Gary Joiner (Communications Director for Texas Farm Bureau), Jeffrey SoRelle with RPQRF for logistical assistance, and Gordy & Sons of Houston for funding the effort. If you have a suggestion for an interesting interviewee, please e-mail Dr. Rollins (

What do we have here?

Fellow quail hunter Cleve Wagstaff from NC submitted an interesting picture recently  of a quail he shot west of Lubbock. While cleaning the bird he noticed these two structures and sent them to me to identify—they’re the bird’s testes! What’s incredible is the size of them for this time of year (late-January). The testes of a bobwhite would normally be about the size of No. 8 shot, and as black as such shot. The testes pictured here are what I’d consider as fully developed (a status we wouldn’t expect to see at this latitude until April).

No other birds they cleaned showed such early gonadal development (hens or roosters). We hope it means some areas are in store for “early bobwhiting” and hopefully some early nesting activity.

We always appreciate our “eyes and ears” in the field and welcome your observations and photographs. Report any observations to And keep those ears cast skyward for early whistling!

From our Facebook Page

Our top Facebook post for January (garnering over 28,000 views) was Dr. Kubecka’s post on January 9 highlighting some new hunting research. Thanks to Adam Vonderschmidt for pulling together this figure.

“Have you ever “dropped a leg”, watched a bird down, and worked that area with dogs but never found the bird? While hit birds will sometimes hunker down where the bird was seen light, they will sometimes run. A few weeks ago, this exact thing happened during one of our research hunts. The area in the red circle where the bird was seen down was searched, as indicated by the hunt party tracks (yellow) and dog locations (purple and blue). After searching and not finding the bird, the hunt party moved on. The radio-marked bird was recovered dead a day later at the green star– 120 yards from where the hunt party saw the bird down. The take home message here is that birds not hit well can make considerable movements; sometimes they even survive. We can likely increase recovery rates by expanding our search area after not finding a downed bird in the immediate vicinity of its “mark.” Allow your dog(s) to work a larger area and avoid telling them to “hunt dead” in the same area if you aren’t finding your bird.

Webisode of the Month:  Quail CSI

There’s a little bit of Quincey, Horatio Cain, or Sherlock Holmes (depending on your vintage) in all of us. Inquiring minds do indeed want to know, especially when we find a pile of quail feathers. This webisode features Drs. Rollins and Kubecka as they discuss how to examine quail mortalities through the eyes of a coroner.

See our library of quail management “webisodes” (short videos on YouTube) at If you have ideas for additional webisodes, please pass your ideas along to Dr. Rollins at

By the Numbers

10,056 – that’s how many “followers” we have on our FB page.

From the Literature by Dale Rollins

Avian Influenza Virus Investigation in Wild Bobwhite Quail from Texas

Pamela J Ferro et al. Avian Dis. 2012;56:858-60.
Abstract: The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of avian influenza viruses (AIV) in bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) populations from the rolling plains of Texas, U. S. A. A total of 1320 swab samples (652 tracheal swabs and 668 cloacal swabs) and 44 serum samples were collected from wild-captured or hunter-harvested bobwhite quail from November 2009 to April 2011 at the Rolling Planes Quail Research Ranch, Fisher County, Texas, U. S. A. The presence of AIV in the swabs was determined by real-time reverse-transcription-PCR (rRT-PCR) and all samples positive or suspicious by rRT-PCR were further processed for virus isolation in embryonated chicken eggs. A total of 18 (1.4%) swab samples tested positive for AIV by rRT-PCR (cycle threshold [Ct] values < 35): 13 cloacal swabs (1.9%) and 5 tracheal swabs (0.8%). In addition, 100 (7.6%) swab samples were considered suspicious (Ct values 35.1-40): 69 cloacal swabs (10.3%) and 31 tracheal swabs (4.7%). No virus was isolated from any of the rRT-PCR-positive or suspicious samples tested. Additionally, 44 serum samples were screened for AIV antibodies and were negative. The results presented here indicate low prevalence of AIV in wild populations of bobwhite quail.
Note: This research was part of the Operation Idiopathic Decline project from 2011-13. These data from 10 years ago will prove interesting as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus (HPAIV) takes a foothold in the U.S. For current on ongoing surveillance efforts, see and check out “Detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Wild Birds.”

Support Quail Research!

The Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation greatly depends on annual donations. We hope you will consider making a contribution. You can make your donation online at our website here, or mail your check payable to Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation and mail it to:
Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation
PO Box 220
Roby, TX 79543

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