Our Quail Odyssey: the First 10 Years

By Dale Rollins, Executive Director

An odyssey is defined as 1) an extended adventurous voyage or trip, or 2) an intellectual or spiritual quest, i.e., an odyssey of discovery. Yep, that’s what we’ve experienced since our dream of a quail research ranch hatched in 2007. An odyssey is often characterized by many, often sudden, unexpected changes in fortune. While bobwhites here “on the western front” are known to be “irruptive” and characterized by “boom-bust” populations, we have witnessed, and documented, the highest (2016) and lowest (2012) populations of bobwhites in the Rolling Plains since 1978, perhaps ever.

It has been my pleasure to serve as the Foundation’s executive director since our inception. For someone like me who has treasured quail and quail hunting all my life (childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and now soon to be my “golden years”) this assignment has been exciting, intriguing, and challenging.

Birds of a feather do indeed flock together, and our flock has included a dedicated Board of Directors, an engaged Advisory Committee, a talented staff, hungry graduate students, and a covey of stakeholders who have been quick to cooperate. We especially thank the Park Cities Quail and Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service for being major partners in our endeavors.

We have trapped and leg-banded 13,343 bobwhite and scaled (“blue”) quail during our first decade, and fitted over 1,100 with radio transmitters to learn their various secrets. We have initiated ground-breaking research with our Operation Idiopathic Decline study of disease and parasites, our translocation of wild-trapped quails, and our delving into the mechanics of predator-prey relationships as they impact quail. We have counted quail every possible way; we’ve burned and disced, disced and burned, sculpting our habitat to maximize the amount of useable space on the RPQRR.

The Ranch and Foundation has served as a training ground for 14 Master’s students, 4 doctoral candidates, and 37 undergraduate interns. We’ve enjoyed some great publicity, including features in national outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Shooting Sportsman, Garden & Gun. We’ve been a regular in the Dallas Morning News and Lone Star Outdoor News. We’ve co-produced over 30 “webisodes” on Youtube.

We’ve proved that we can mobilize a research force to tackle the “big” questions. As we embark on our next ten years, we’ve identified some hurdles. Our Board will be announcing a capital campaign soon as we seek to replenish our coffers. We’ve worked hard to collect the types of data that will shape quail policy in the near future.

We appreciate your interest, participation, and support—you are the collective wind under our research wings. We look forward to what our unfolding odyssey holds.

– Dale Rollins