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4. Brush Management

Hernández, Fidel Texas A&M University Press ePub

Figure 4.1. This drawing shows the relationship between the amount of brush and the amount of grasses and forbs. As brush increases, herbaceous cover required by bobwhites decreases.

HOUSES WITHOUT ROOFS for people are like habitats without brush for bobwhites. Without brush, a few hardy birds may occupy the countryside in some years, but most move on to new areas, or die. How much brush do bobwhites need? What are suitable brush cover and structure? What brush-management practices are best for managing bobwhite habitat? In this chapter we describe how to provide bobwhites with the proper amounts and structure of woody cover.

Providing bobwhites with the proper amount of brush cover is a balancing act among what they need, what a landowner tolerates, and what a hunter prefers. A rancher who wants to accommodate bobwhites would like to provide the minimum amount because brush competes with forage for livestock. Hunters also do not want too much brush because it interferes with hunting. On the other end of the balance beam are bobwhites, which need sufficient brush to survive the elements and predators (including hunters).

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7. Water, Predators, and Pen-Raised Bobwhites

Hernández, Fidel Texas A&M University Press ePub

Figure 7.1. This map shows where annual precipitation averages 20, 30, and 40 inches. Although soils, length of growing season, and severity of winter affect bobwhite management, annual rainfall is the most powerful influence on much Texas rangeland. Management practices for bobwhites must be fit to rainfall zones.

IN THIS CHAPTER we discuss common practices other than food management that generate just as much interest in the bobwhite world: water, predators, and pen-raised bobwhites.

All animals need water to survive. Laboratory experiments tell us that a 160-gram bobwhite in the wild needs about 18–22 milliliters of water/day to survive. Some of this water, about 3–5 milliliters, can be obtained during the metabolism of food (metabolic water). The rest has to be obtained from outside (exogenous) sources.

Exogenous sources of water may include preformed water (water in food), free water, and dew. The amount of preformed water in food depends on the item. Preformed water may range from as low as 3% of the food-item mass (e.g., dry seeds) to as high as 90% (e.g., green vegetation). Free water may be obtained from a variety of sources such as stock ponds, puddles, and water troughs.

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11. Harvest Management

Hernández, Fidel Texas A&M University Press ePub

SEVERAL QUESTIONS OFTEN arise when discussing bobwhite harvest. “How many bobwhites can I sustainably harvest?” “Should hunting be stopped during drought?” “Is harvest later in the hunting season of more concern than harvest earlier in the season?” “Should daily bag limits and season lengths be reduced?” Many of you have probably pondered these questions.

State agencies establish harvest regulations that provide an overarching framework within which quail hunting may occur. These regulations are important from a regulatory perspective on a statewide basis, but they are not designed to manage harvest at the ranch or lease scale. That is, they do not tell you how many bobwhites you should harvest on your ranch or lease to ensure a sustainable population. Determining and managing harvest in the back 40 falls directly upon the shoulders of the bobwhite manager.

Figure 11.1. Harvest regulations set by state agencies, such as daily bag limits and season lengths, regulate hunting effort but are not designed to regulate harvest. Determining an appropriate harvest for a ranch is the responsibility of the manager. (Photograph by Ricky Linex)

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8. Cover Management

Hernández, Fidel Texas A&M University Press ePub

Figure 8.1. Woody cover generally is seldom deficient on Texas rangelands. However, in open fields, lack of woody cover can limit bobwhite use of the area. Adding woody cover to this field in the form of brush shelters or brush plantings would improve the habitat for bobwhites. (Photograph by Fidel Hernández)

THERE ARE 2 GENERAL approaches to managing bobwhite habitat: improving the quality of habitat or managing its structure. Practices such as supplemental feeding, food plots, and waterers attempt to manage quality. Other practices, such as half-cutting, grazing exclosures, and controlling nonnative grasses, attempt to manage the structure to maintain or increase usable space. In this chapter we discuss a few practices available to the manager when structural cover is deficient and nonnative grasses pose challenges in bobwhite management.

The amount of brush on southwestern grasslands has increased over the past 200 years. The prairies and savannas that settlers traveled across in the 1800s have become brushlands. Brush probably was present on the landscape—even common in some areas—as indicated by early accounts. However, it likely increased in height and density since the 1800s as a result of suppression of fire, introduction of grazing, and other factors.

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6. Food Management

Hernández, Fidel Texas A&M University Press ePub

Figure 6.1. Supplemental feeding is a common practice in bobwhite management. However, food has to be limited in order for food management to be effective. Natural foods generally are present in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of bobwhites in most years. (Photograph by Forrest S. Smith)

SO FAR WE HAVE DISCUSSED management that affects bobwhite habitat at fence-line to fence-line scales. We have decided on brush-control patterns and grazing programs. These practices have both direct and indirect effects on food supplies.

In this chapter we discuss more localized practices executed specifically to increase availability of food, including feeding, food plots, strip discing, and patch burning. Before getting into the specifics of management, though, we must set the stage by identifying circumstances that imply a need for increased food supplies. A primer on bobwhite nutrition also is in order because the nutritional needs of bobwhites vary with season and reproductive status. Obviously, food management is designed to satisfy these needs.

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