Summer 2010 Update
(1) Age of birds
Conventional wisdom on this is to start using birds when they are 12 to 14 weeks of age or slightly older. In my opinion there is a divergence in thought here which should be governed by what your intended use will be, i.e. will they be used for pre-season early release with goal of establishing wild (albeit not native) covies or will they be used in situations that involving housing them in johnny houses, large Davis type pens, or the like where you release birds shortly before you use them. Factors considered by most, regardless of intent, include best age for survival of birds and best age to influence the birds against just wandering away permanently. In general most feel that the older birds are more likely to survive. Quail Restoration Technologies takes the opposite position on this and says that 12 weeks is too old. David Runyon on an Alabama tract (Uphapee Plantation) has experimented releasing quail starting at 12 weeks old and has moved downward to 6 weeks; his experience supports releasing younger birds.
One of the basic foundations of my usage is the Davis Approach with attention also focused on Quail Restoration Technologies findings regarding age. I try to start with 5 week old birds which can usually be used in less than a month after I acquire them.
(2) Birds wandering off and not returning.
In my first update five years ago I mentioned the then new problem arising regarding birds not recalling and wandering away forever.
This problem remains unresolved. It has occurred to me that part of this problem might be due the land available. It could well be that if one has thousands of acres this might not be a problem at all. Except on the periphery of the tracts, coveys wandering a quarter or half mile and remaining there are still available whereas in a small parcel such a movement results in a lost covey. That sort of thing, in my opinion, is due to the poor development of the callback behavior.
(3) Time of year and pen raised birds.
One of the factors that may influence the success of introducing pen raised birds is the timing in relation to the "fall shuffle." This occurs from late summer to late fall depending n the geographical location. I have not found any studies or opinions comparing the success of introducing pen raised birds before, during, and after the "fall shuffle." If this characteristic of birds, which may contribute to genetic diversity, has been inadvertently bred out of pen-raised quail, what outcome might occur because of that?
(4) A new feed supplement for pen raised birds
In the initial article the inadequacy of most commercial rations regarding animal protein was mentioned. Since the last update an alternative to live crickets and/or mealworms has come to my attention. It is dried mealworms which are much less trouble to deal with than are live critters. Soaking them in water overnight softens them and quail go into a feeding frenzy. They are 53% protein and 28% fat so they have a great deal of promise to help with the problem of plant based commercial rations regarding producing pen-raised birds that are close to the odor of wild birds. I am using them to supplement mixed hard whole grain feed containing milo, cracked corn, soybeans, sunflower seed, millet and wheat. Vitamins, etc. are added to water and both oyster shell and granite grit are available.