Land Management For Quail Hunting - With Dan Hinkle in South Texas

In this video, Ethan gets to sit down with Dan Hinkle about how to manage your land to create a better habitat for quail. We will also learn how this can provide a better habitat for other wildlife.


Ethan: Hello Internet today we have Dan Hinkle with us and we're going to talk a little bit about quail habitat. He's been on this lease here in kind of the edge of south Texas for just going on 16 years and we want to see, you know, kind of what you have done on this property to help build quail habitat and how that is going to help everything else.

Dan: And, and I would encourage you to manage your place for quail. I'm a big believer that if you've got good quail habitat, you're going to have good deer, Turkey, dove, whatever you want to try to have on your place. Um, let me just kind of give you a background in regards to what happened umm, and that is historically we had, had a pretty fair quail population on the ranch and clearly went into decline. Um, and I got extremely interested in what do you have to do to bring back quail? Yeah. Um, and I'm not a big fan of using pin raised quail and I wanted wild quail because there are wild birds and you get much more action, uh, both from a hunting standpoint. And from a dog standpoint, so number one is I would encourage somebody to that's interested in building their quail habitat to visit with the state conservation agent biologist and literally have them come out and do an assessment of their property.

We had that done here. Uh, in fact we brought out a couple of, uh, of the state biologist, one for the local area. Then one that was really focused on nothing but quail. Absolutely. Umm the other thing that we would do is we'd recommend that, believe it or not, there are a lot of people who develop uhh this kind of food plot and that kind of food plot, that really know a lot about quail. And we brought out some of their biologists and some of their habitat folks. And from there we developed a whole plan. Umm, one of the other things that you will hear about when it comes to quail habitat is that you have to do burns. And I'm the first to admit that if you can do burns and rotate those burns on your property, God bless you. And that's the best thing to do. But there are very few of us to have the intestinal fortitude and the insurance requirements and those kinds of things, absolutely, to strike that match.

Ethan: Now from Kansas, right, Burns is a huge thing. You know, we burn grass. I mean, ummm I think it's in a five year on most CRP, every five years, stuff's got to be burned. But that, uh, that involves an entire team. They've got three or four fire trucks. It's all volunteered team, but three, four fire trucks and a four wheeler guys with drip tubes. They're, they're starting to fire and everybody's coming out and putting out, putting out behind them. Everything had gone the wrong way and they're watching it burn out.

Dan: So you've got to pick that day that day. Exactly. Know when you got to be ready for, for that day and you're looking at the weather forecast, 10 to 14 days out in everyday you wake up praying that it works. But looking out here, I mean, if something got caught into that, there would be no way to get around it. No way to.

We've lost tens of thousands of acres in Texas because of wildfires. Absolutely. So the liability issue, the management issue, those kinds of things, working with the rancher, uh, we just consciously made a decision that we can't burn. So what we did is we came in and developed a plan to come as close to recreating a burn as we possibly can and we look at our fields, pastures, whatever you want to call those things. Uh, where, we've got, we don't have cattle, there are, we do have cattle there. Looking at each one of them differently, those kinds of things. But essentially we want to take our habitat and divided it into thirds. One third will, and I'll get back to this, one third is going to be actively worked this year. The next third is what we worked last year. And the final third is really a mature growth that you've seen.

Uh, you do not. Let me, let me also say that on a, on a habitat that we worked on actively that year, what we've come up with is a tractor with a disc, with a harrow. Okay? And on that one third, we take it down to the ground. Um, now if we see that the grass is getting too thick on that final third that has matured, we will probably run a harrow through that, uh, not a disk just to pull and open up the grasses. But let me tell you what we're trying to recreate. Ok. Let's just assume for the sake of discussion for this discussion, a hatch is eight chicks. Okay? If I do nothing, just as a general rule, I'm going to lose four of those chicks, 50 percent, 50 percent and we all know that quail are a bird is a bird born to die, you know, and we're trying to avoid that so that we can hunt them. Absolutely. Any way, uh, and thinking in these terms that if I can create a situation where I only lose two chicks rather than four, I've got a 50 percent increase in regards to total, total number of quail.

And that would make a big difference in a short amount of time. It's huge, you know, and then you just go through the geometric numbers of looking what that does to an overall place. For sure. It makes a huge difference. But let me talk about that third that we're actively working and you need to figure out and talk with your biologists. When are most of the chicks born? For us, it's, it's mid May to the last week of May. So I need to be absolute latest in regards to working that piece of ground six weeks out. Eight weeks would probably be better because what I want to have as a habitat on that one third are the weeds, grasses, whatever, in the three to five inch range so that, you know, I come in, I take it down to the ground, it starts coming back with the growth, uh, gets the three to five inches the baby chicks come. And when I'm trying to do with that is one, they're able to walk through it, yeah for sure/ so they can get to it and they can escape from predators and don't get stuck in heavy matted grass. Um, the other one is, is that they need bugs. Now if all my grass where all the bugs are, is two feet high, that doesn't help that chick that's maybe an inch and a half to two inch high, but if it's three to six inches, he's got a chance to get that bug.

Ethan: I think that, uh, you know, maybe a lot of people don't know this, but that's the number one source of moisture, right water. For those young, those young birds, they not, not only are they getting them for sustenance and proteins and everything else, but um, people talk about, oh, they've got water or the dew, but a majority of the moisture that the birds are getting, their hydration comes from the insects.

Dan: Exactly. Exactly. And you mentioned the other part, the other reason why I wanted in that three to six inch range.

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Dan: And you mentioned the other part, the other reason why I wanted in that three to six inch range. Dew. You know, I want them to be able to get little droplets of water. They don't, they need water, but they don't need a gallon of water. So not very big. They're not very big birds. But if they've got that habitat where they can move, protect themselves, mom can move them, protect them. They're getting their, their bugs, protein slash water or they're picking up dew, then I've got a higher probability of saving those two extra chicks that I want to have. Absolutely. So that's the number one thing that we do here and have done. Um, now people need to understand that you've got to... Well let me back up and say the only thing I can't do with a disc and a harrow that a fire can do is I can't take out all of the woody a trees and you know, whatever.

So I've got to work those two. And let me tell you what we do in that regard is we do what we call half cuts. So for instance, you've got a tree a, whether it's a mesquite tree for us or whatever, um, and it's an inch to three inches or whatever, you know, size. What we want to do is come up about six feet, five to six feet high. We will go all the way around. That tree will start on the top side and we will cut those limbs so that they fall over. We want it only halfway so that they stay alive. And they'll have leaves on those kinds of things, but imagine in your mind, uh, you've got a three inch tree and now when you look at that tree, you've literally created an umbrella around the base of it and what I've done by doing that and what you will do by doing that is create habitat for them to nest, avoid predators, uh, all those things while they're out there, um, and protect them against rain, uh, which is absolutely critical, especially for the chicks and stuff.

So do the, do the disk, do the harrow, keep it on a one third rotation, do the half cuts and not once have I mentioned food plots.

Ethan: Absolutely. You know, because I think that's what most people go to to begin with. Let's add some grain to the ground or something like that.

Dan: This year you will see us move to for the first time ever in nine years to actually looking at planting anything. Um, and I would encourage people to Google, quail and ragweed. Yeah. And you will be amazed if you're allergic to ragweed. Find somebody else to work with it. But in don't get the giant size, um, but it is tremendous. It's tremendous for the quail, but it's also tremendous for the other animals on your, your land that you want to raise and, and create good habitat for them. Obviously people can do the Milo, um, those kinds of things.

Um, for us it's a little bit hard on the Milo because of such a hog population that we have. And, and if you don't protect it, um, you know, the deer will, will get it pretty quick too. Uh, so having read most of the reports, looked at most of the things uhh ragweed is, is something that we're looking at and we're looking at it in strips of 50 foot wide, 100 foot long, um, you know, but whatever you put in, if it's just 50 by 50, you know, that kind of thing. And here's the last thing that I would strongly encourage people to do. Okay. Um, and if you don't have a tractor and you know, desk and you don't want to do this, do this one thing, and that is create dusting areas. And a dusting area can be as small as 25 feet by 25 feet.

You ought to have it about every 25 to 40 acres. Um, we do. We try to run it about every 40 to 60 acres and ours are about 100 feet by 100 feet. When I say dusting area, you need to come in and take it completely down to the ground and is nothing on top but fine dirt. And here's the reason why you want that. These birds, if they are allowed to dust and maintain their oils for their feathers, they're going to have a healthier life. And the same is true for the chicks. Yeah. So you want to maintain their health as much as you possibly can. And the oils in turn give them protection when it does rain. You know, the irony on quail is everybody says, I don't have quail because I didn't get rain. And then they say, I don't have quail because I got too much. Too much rain. But you've got to be able to maintain their oils and let them protect themselves and build a strong breed of bird on your land. And those dusting areas, we'll do it. A lot of people don't think about that. Uh, but like I said, if there's just one thing that you can do to help your overall quail population, that's it.

Ethan: So we've got a few things to think about here. One is disking and harrowing. Umm, bringing everything down to the dirt and rotating your fields in three sections. So you have bare dirt to, medium growth to then, or workable growth to then mature growth. Right? Um, you also mentioned the half cuts, half cuts, awesome. And then food plots as a third type of thing, right? Um, and food plots being something as simple as ragweed as opposed to milo or corn or anything else right away or some kind of the commercial product. And then last but not least, dusting areas. Probably one of the things that most of us don't even think about, you know, we think of what I need, food and water, but like you're talking about an overall health of the bird dusting is a requirement.

Dan: Yeah. And it makes all the difference in the world. That's awesome. I mean, it really makes all the difference in the world. Again, if you want good habitat for your deer, your Turkey, your doves, whatever, maintain good habitat for quail. And the last thing I will tell you is be patient. Just because you started this rotation plan, you've worked it, you've done it this year. That doesn't mean that you know, you're going to find a covey of quail every 15 minutes in the fall, the next fall, but what you will see is they start to come back and they will continue to come back as long as you continue to work that habitat

Ethan: And there are fairly large brooded and animal so they can make a rebound pretty quick.

Dan: Yes, they can. Um, and it's always funny when you see them have a second hatch. Yeah. You know, which is a very good example of what you're talking about. Uh, we affectionately refer to them as fuzzballs in September, yep yep.

Ethan: this ping pong size.

Dan: Yes, exactly, exactly.

Ethan: Awesome. Well, thank you very much for your time.

Dan: You Bet. My pleasure.

Ethan: And for all of you folks that are watching, we try and cover everything. Not only dog training, we're trying to branch out a little bit just to talk about conservation, bird hunting, all the things that we love. So if you'd like more of this, remember to like, comment and share and don't forget to hit that subscribe button. Thank you very much.