Grazing Cattle Birdwell and Clark Ranch

The first time we drove on the ranch in 2003 a covey of quail flushed right in front of the pickup. You know that old line from Jerry McGuire "You had me at hello"....well, the Bryant Edwards ranch had us at the covey flush! During the earnest money contract period which happened to be in the fall, we were allowed to visit and to hunt quail on the ranch. Truly it was a love affair in the making for us as well as our beloved English pointers.

Deborah became a workshop groupie in those early years as she earnestly tried to figure out what was going on at the ranch. It just so happens that most of the workshops she attended focused on wildlife specifically bobwhite quail. Deborah says that these wildlife workshops were the portal through which she began to understand the relationship between livestock, wildlife, forbs, and grasses and the management practices that were being put into place at the ranch. She enrolled the ranch in the Texas Quail Index, graduated from the first QuailMasters course in 2005 taught by Texas quail guru, Dr. Dale Rollins, started keeping stats on spring rooster counts and fall covey counts, and documented and identified the forbs and grasses at the ranch.

Quail counts fluctuated over the past 14 years. Certainly, the drought years had a devastating impact on bobwhite quail populations at the ranch.

Quail populations in the entire region and state benefited tremendously from the past two years of wet conditions. During this time the ranch teamed up with the University of North Texas (UNT) Quail Research program under the guidance of the "nation's quail professor" Dr. Kelly Reyna. The focus of the UNT Quail Program is threefold:

  1. investigating bobwhite population size and density and how those are determined by the surrounding landscape
  2. researching the effects of heat stress on reproductive physiology of Bobwhite quail and
  3. examining the effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on quail embryonic development.

Informal discussions with the UNT researchers combined with Emry's personal observations led to the deliberate deferment of grazing from critical bobwhite nesting habitat beginning in 2014. The result of the deferred grazing along with the beneficial rains that came in 2014 was a 452 percent improvement in bobwhite quail populations at the ranch. The ranch was awarded the 2014 UNT Quail Keystone Ranch award for its focus on wildlife sustainability, sustainable grazing, and the dramatic increase in bobwhite quail populations. In 2016 Deborah was honored with the 2016 Terry Hershey Award for Audubon Texas Women in Conservation for her interests in wildlife conservation and grazing management interface.

Proof of the passion of Deborah and Emry for all-things-quail is the ever increasing population of English pointers at the ranch. A day afield may not ring with a single shot. It's the prowess, skill, and "try" of the bird dogs and the sound of the covey flush that provides the entertainment, inspiration, and satisfaction of being outdoors.

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View the embedded image gallery online at:
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The ranch also participates in conservation efforts focusing on the managed grazing plan to promote whitetail deer. As part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Managed Land Deer Permit program, census data is collected annually on whitetail deer populations. Our deer hunters take an active role in planting cover crops for food plots scattered around the ranch and in acquiring 100's of photos using the deer cams. Harvests are in accordance with the recommended plan and identifying that trophy buck.

The Ranch plays host every year to a weekend of Rio Grande Turkey hunts for youth hunters through the Texas Youth Hunting Program, a joint effort of Texas Wildlife Association and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Pro Hunt teams including Mojo Outdoors and Huntin' the World and others stay and hunt on the ranch during the annual Clay County World Championship Turkey Fest. We continue to seek the title of the World Champion. It's been elusive due to the impressive Rio Grande turkey populations in our county! In September of every year, the ranch plays host to 175 airmen from Sheppard Air Force Base for an annual dove hunt. Area ranchers and citizens support this effort to provide a quality hunt, steak dinner, and demonstrate support of our military. It's one of the highlights of our year.

All wildlife is appreciated at the Birdwell and Clark Ranch. From jackrabbits to horny toads to eagles to hawks and the seasonal populations of sandhill cranes and ducks and... yes, I gotta’ stop somewhere!