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Discussion in 'Upland Bird Hunting' started by Ridge, Jan 21, 2010.

  1. Ridge Member

    Anyone have any experience with the Surrogator? from wildlife management technologies, in helping increase populations of wild pheasants or quail? After this years difficult winter I would like to give one a try... but they are very expensive and I am afraid that predators could be a big problem. I hate to wait another 5+ years or more to recover from this weather event as we did the previous Halloween storm years back...


    Also any idea what one day old chicks would cost and where available?? How many hatches could one feasably put through a unit with 5 week cycles. Could he get 3 (15 weeks) or would 2(10 weeks) be the max?? Earliest feasable date and latest for hatch...



  2. I don't have any first hand experience but it seems like a lot of money to spend just to put a few birds on the landscape. It seems more like a band-aid approach to me because the placement of the device is irrespective of the cover you have on your property.

    If the cover is there your quail will return. I'd rather spend $2000 on habitat improvements or grazing regime changes to see some long term benefit than to spend it on a short-term solution like the surrogator.

    Does it put birds on the landscape? Yes I'm sure it does. Does it truly play the part of the parent bird and instill the same behaviors as a truly wild parent bird? No, I doubt that very much. Wild birds, with natural instincts, and learned behavior from parent birds, have a hard enough time surviving the winter; let alone a pen-raised bird. I can't imagine that survival is any better than wild birds and it costs a lot of money to get you that far. Seems like a financial gamble with a small liklihood of long-term viability.

    Farming wildlife in this fashion tends to run counter to how I think of enhancing wildlife populations so I guess I won't put in a vote for "I like the idea". I don't mean to be a downer, I just have a different idea about wildlife.
  3. brentbullets Active Member

  4. quailhunter6 Member

    Studies have shown very limited success with surrogators.
  5. Ridge Member

    What studies.....anything recent?? do you have a link or contact information???? The investment would be long term... wondering if Pheasant forever chapters have ever considered using and sharing them.... We have some large areas of CRP that should hold more birds....Just never have achieved a sustainable population after establishment of improved habitat until the last 2 or 3 years....the predator pressure... etc. Now with the severe winter I fear has impacted that breeding population once again... I know several SD operations that advocated the spring release of bred hens....claiming much success in helping establish a sustainable population...


  6. WTF New Member

    This topic has been touched on before with the NGPC/PF surragator attempt. Under most circumstances the surragators fail to produce large quantities of birds. Obviously, thier are many factors influencing the mortality of these birds but simply adding more birds to an area dosen't equal more sustainable hunting opportunities.

  7. I think the surrogator is putting the cart before the horse. I just read a publication from Missouri stating that stocking birds has been ineffective. To quote: "By the early 1990's every state wildlife agency had stopped the practice because it was ineffective in restoring quail populations and did not address the real problem - loss of habitat! New systems for releasing captive-reared quiail have been promoted and the results are the same as 30 years ago - they are expensive and ineffective...there is no quick and easy way to increase quail numbers without habitat management." - from the Covey Headquarters Vol. 8 Isssue 4 Winter 2009 by the UofM Extension and NRCS.

    If you're interested in quail management you may want to look at patch-burn grazing as a management tool. In Missouri they studied patch burn against their high intensity quail management areas and found drastically higher numbers of quail on the patch burned landscape (levels of magnitude higher).

    CRP by itself is not enough if it's traditional grass-stand plots. It provides roosting cover and some nesting but it's too grass dominant to provide much for forbs and insects in the brood rearing season and there's too much grass, which makes chick access a difficulty, increasing predation. If you have some ground in CRP and are not allowed to graze; consider a mid-contract management opportunity if you have one. Disking or burning some of the grass will change the overall appeal and usability of the property for quail.

    If you have native pasture ground consider instituting a patch-burn system on your ground. It has shown similar gains on the cattle, cattle are still grazed at moderate NRCS grazing levels, and it provides stratified and diverse forb-rich grasslands that are a boon to wildlife populations.
    Check out http://fireecology.okstate.edu/patch_burning.html for more information. The bottom line is that patch-burn mimics natural systems that Nebraska's grasslands evolved from. The same natural mechanisms that were in place 1,000 years ago are still held in the soil now (especially in native pasture) if we utilize the right mix of burning and grazing they can be realized again; to the benefit of producers and wildlife.

    I've heard this too but if they don't have a good nesting/brooding habitat the money spent will be all for naught. We tend to think of grass as "habitat" when in reality the birds need a mosaic of varying heights, densities, and varieties of grasses and forbs to fulfill their life cycles and produce young. We, as hunters, also always see our birds in the grassy fall fields, where they are utilizing the escape/protection cover that tall grasses offer. However, they only need that for 1/3 of the year or so while their spring/summer cover is drastically different than the tall grass fields used in the fall.

    I think the overarching message of all this is that if you want to see a short term influx of quail in your area you might get that with the Surrogator. If you're looking at a long-term build up of the quail population in your area you would do well to address habitat issues first and foremost. It takes longer and you don't get the instant gratification as much but you do the job right and hopefully get long term viability out of it.
  8. WTF New Member

    [FONT=ArialNarrow,BoldItalic]Results from a study using Surrogators[/FONT]
    [FONT=ArialNarrow,BoldItalic]increase pheasant numbers.[/FONT]
    [FONT=ArialNarrow,Italic]Scott Taylor, Wildlife Assistant Division[/FONT]
    [FONT=ArialNarrow,Italic]Administrator and Lynn Berggren, Commissioner,[/FONT]
    [FONT=ArialNarrow,Italic]Nebraska Game & Parks[/FONT]
    [FONT=ArialNarrow,Italic]Commission. [/FONT]A review of a 2-year study

    on the effectiveness of Surrogators
    ® in increasing
    local pheasant populations.

    This is a presentation to be given at the state habitat meeting in Kearney. PF's website has more details.

  9. AndyB New Member

    Well put duckhunternate and I agree!
    I talk to alot of guys around the eastern part of the state who release quail and pheasants (some bred hens) and they generally do not see an increase in numbers at all after the first year. From what I've read about the Surrogator it has been successful depending on where its used. Areas like Missouri where the quail habitat can be top-notch and the winters are pretty light it seems to increase covey sizes from year to year. These things look to be pretty expensive especially the fuel required to run them when its critical.
    Id also add that if a landowner was willing to do an all-out upgrade on thier existing CRP by adding some brood cover, nesting cover, food plots, greenfirebreaks, tree plantings etc...they can through the NRCS and FSA and might get some cost share just depends on what you are doing and when. Also depending on your PF chapter you might squeek some cost share out of them too! OR at least a discount on the drill rental and access to the RX-burn units available in parts of the state.
    If you had the right conditions and habitat in-place Id bet a surrogator would work OK for your area, but even with a winter like this the quail would take a hit for sure.
  10. Ridge Member

    Thanks for all the useful comments..... Naturally Habitat is key.... Habitat is why the bird hunting has improved in my neighborhood in recent years..... However, there still is a tipping point of number of nests in order to have a huntable population. You can never fully control depredation. To have enough survive you have to a degree have enough out there to feed the critters and still have some survive to reproduce. Eventually habitat alone can do that.

    Everyone says stocking is of no value. Yet, the "One Box" folks in SW Nebraska swear all the habitat improvement in the world did not help until they started using the units. I have released bred hens and 4 week old chicks. With limited success. I did experience a flush of about 30 birds on a 20 acre patch this fall the likes of which I have not seen since I was a kid. The surrogator (developed by wildlife biologists) looks like a faster way to recover from a weather event, such as we have experienced this past month, than waiting 3 seasons or more. One day old chicks are about a buck a piece vs. 5 to 9 bucks for older birds. I was hoping to hear from someone with personal experience vs. reciting the standard old lines. Another thing... Ring necks are not native to this country or to this state.... So... if introducing pen raised birds doesn't work? How did they get here? fly from China(tongue in cheek) or was it wild birds captured, floated over the pond and released.... Just wondering??

    As you can tell I have most likely made up my mind in spite of the good counsel you all have given me.. In all likely hood I will be eating crow next fall instead of pheasant under glass.... Will keep you posted..

    Kind regards,

  11. Honker Bonker Member

    STOCKING PHESANTS DOES NOT WORK!! hahaha because they are native to the United States.. oh they're not? How did they get here? Ok all jokes aside. I have been invoulved with the One Box Hunt in Broken Bow Ne. in one form or another since 1993. We have been doing habitat projects on our own, with the Game and Parks and with Pheasants Forever for 20 + years. We have created some beautiful projects that if you seen them would think that would be full of pheasants and it was dissapointing to us that there were the same number of birds 3 years after the project was put in as when we started it zero. All the biologist kept telling us if we had habitat the birds would come. (feild of dreams?) From where? If I build a $5 million house on a deserted island will it have residents?

    To give you a quick run down on the One Box it is made up of New Shooters and Past Shooters. I will only hit on the New Shooters for now. There are 7 teams of 5 hunters that share 1 box of 25 shells and have from sunrise to 4pm to to get there 15 Pheasants and if there are shells left over quail. Until just recently it seemed to be a draw match of three sets of guides and the other four had marginal hunting but, some great habitat.
    For several years with the exception of the 3 teams that had the more productive guides most teams were seeing few birds and even bringing shells that have not been shot back to checkin. Our competitive hunt had turned into a three team draw match. 2007 was the first year the One Box used surrogators. We were at the point that we need to make something happen or be in jepordy of loosing our hunt. We purchased 2 units and each of the 7 New team guides had a box for one run of pheasants. That year not only did every team shoot all there shells but, they did it by 1:30 pm. First place shoot 15 pheasants and 3 quail and last place had 9 pheasants. I have seen this hunt won many years with 10 or 11 pheasants.

    Do I beleive the surrogator is a cure all. No. If you don't have habitat first your wasting your money. Everything starts with habitat esp. nesting cover type habitat. Most places have corn feilds or another food source close by. One thing that we have learned is how to pick our spots. Near irrigated feilds is a must . Water is cruicial. This year the left helix was cut off all the chicks. With the late harvest and most of the corn still in the feilds in Nov. I don't beleive the number of surrogator birds vs wild bird was a fair test to what was actually out there. I scorekept for a team that 2 different times flushed over 30 birds at one time and they went to the standing corn not to be seen again. At the end of the day we saw over 100 pheasants and had 2 in the bag with 1 being a surrougator pheasant. Just yesterday someone ran over a hen pheasant near my driveway. I stopped to see if it was one I raised and sure enough it was. She was turned out either June 15 or July 16th. We were told by one of our state biogist they wouldn't make it through a Nebraska winter. We have had winter since the first week of October. My opinion would be if the car wouldn't of killed her she would of been a breeding hen in about 6 weeks. (She is in the care of Commissioner Lynn Bergren right now.)

    I had the opportunity to use a unit at my house and although I don't hunt pheasants alot I managed to get out 2 times. Once in mid Dec. and once in mid Jan. I hunted may be 30 min each time and got 6 roosters. Well my dog did catch one so I shot 5. Four out of the 6 roosters were surrogator birds and 2 were wild and before you jump to any conclusions the one my dog caught was wild. The only way you can tell the difference in the wild birds and the surrogator birds it the missing helix.

    The One Box continues to strive to get more acres of habitat in the ground but, still believes that the surrogator program compliments or suppliments it habiat projects.
  12. I'm just curious; what's the cost per bird to fill those limits? I actually heard Bergren's name at the PF state meeting last week. He was in favor of GPC putting out surrogators; apparently regardless of the cost per bird per his own comments. The presentation given was about a GPC study done over two years that showed something like 2-3% survival for birds raised in surrogators. If you're paying a couple thousand dollars for a surrogator, a buck apiece for day old chicks, plus food, fuel for the heaters, and water; you've got a huge investment. At those prices you might as well just go to a game farm and shoot birds there; that's the end result here anyway. 3% survival is not enough to grow a population.

    I realize this is off the topic of the original post but I think it's important to point out. There are several problems for pheasants out there and they're long term trend issues that don't bode well for pheasants. I applaud what your group is doing to put more habitat on the ground. I would anticipate it to be only a small scale local benefit though. I hope I'm wrong but that's the liklihood.

    The issues are manifold; long term conversion of crops from wheat to corn reduces habitat for game birds. Poor management of grass due to large-scale exclusion of fire. Over use of chemicals to reduce "weeds" on the landscape. Solving these issues will be the things that bring back pheasant populations to what they were in the "good ole days". My hope, and part of my work, is to push some of these ideas forward to achieve long term cultural change for the benefit of wildlife.
  13. Honker Bonker Member

    How much does it cost to raise wild birds? Do you want a population of huntable birds that don't fly like a fat chicken? After the initial cost (your surrogator is pd for) about $2.00 per bird if you can turning out 60 birds on average out of 65. It depends on what you want. Obviously in the case of the One Box, habitat on its own is not the answer. the One Box plants between 400 and 600 acres every year for the last 20 years. By using the surrogators we have established huntable populations on projects that were 3 yrs old that still have no birds. We have found our habitat projects peek at 3 years and need to be replanted every 5 to 6 years.

    Duckhunternate, I agree with you about todays farming practices. They are not wildlife friendly. I am only telling about what the One Boxes experiances are with the surrogator. We have also found the second and third year with a surrogator is where you really see the increase of what the surrogator does. I know of several guys who used to shoot 30 to 40 birds on a qtr of ground that are now shooting over 100 and they have documentation for the last several years on what they did with their habitat and surrogator projects.

    Yes may be it will only work on a local level. The One Box does not sell or get any compensation for any surrogator that Wildlife Technologies sell. The one box started out with 2 units and now either owns or is affiliated with over 30 units. I want everyone to make their own opinion. Will it work on a state level? I don't know. The state stocks fish why not pheasants? The only disadvantage I see the state having would be man power to do the project right and with the majority of the biologist against it I'm sure it would fail. After all the biologist that manages Sherman and Pressy told a commisioner that he only had a small island of land in each place and did not have enough arces to raise a large population of pheasants. Sherman Res. has 3200 acres of land not counting the lake and Pressy is right at 2000 acres and we got guys kill over 100 roosters on 165 arces.
  14. mallardslayer New Member

    Saturdays Seminar Facts: Lynn Berggren commissioner for the G&P and One Box Hunt foundation director presented both sides of the past 2 years study. In 08 Commissioner Berggren requested a study be conducted to help determine the benefits of released birds. 4 boxes were purchased and placed at 4 different sites with 55 birds in each box. At 4 weeks 35 birds were banded and released and 20 were fitted with radio collars kept another week and released. Information obtained from the study included released birds require extra water. The birds would follow a pivot through the corn field. Range distance was 1/4 to 1 mile from release site and they would home in on the box and return. Aerial predators were the reason for 75% loss from July release through Oct. There was a problem with bands falling of which lead to the helix removal in 09. The 09 study was all One Box. 9 of the 14 guides returned at least 1 clipped bird during the 09-10 season. The earliest bird harvested was 11-05 and the last 1-30-10. 395 total roosters harvested with 38 of those being clipped birds. 2-10-10 we had a road killed clipped hen delivered. Comments from Lynn on not caring what the cost per bird came from the One Box side. With approx. 85 hunters coming every year the economic impact to Broken Bow is huge. This year marks the 50th Hunt. Did you ever try to fiqure the cost per acre to raise a bird? The seminar was put on for people to draw there own conclusions. The One Box is happy with their results and plans to continue in 2010.
  15. WTF New Member

    mallard, thanks for posting that for those who could not be at the meeting. Those results are not unexpected to me. Its just a fact that stocking programs just aren't cost productive. Now there is the rare occasion were it does breakeven or have a positive result. Maybe thats whats happening there.

    What I find more interesting is the fact that this commissioner is also the director of the facility that held the study?
  16. Honker Bonker Member

    WTF, Cost seem to be an issue with you. Have you ever added up what fish, turkey, deer cost per pound by the time you buy your equiptment, permits, gas processing etc? I learned along time ago that I didn't want to know what my hobbies cost. :) I don't think the surrogator program would be a program that would work for the state. It is too labor intensive. The only way I could see the state getting involved would be to purchase the units for org. such as 4H or Boy Scouts.

    The commissioner you are refering to is only 1 director on the One Box Habitat Board. There are a total of 10. The hunt board has 11 members. The decission for the surrogator project was that of the 2 boards. This progam only works with cooperation of both boards and the 17 sets of guides. It takes alot of ppl to make our program work. As I stated earlier habitat on its own is not enough if there are not birds in the area when the habitat project is put in. They do not magically apear as some of our state biologist will tell you they will.

    Lynn Bergren is passionate about pheasants in Nebraska. Especially on state wma's. I don't know how many hours a year he spends driving all over the country talking to hunters/ farmers bout what they think we could do to get more pheasants. I know Pete Berthelson (sp?? sorry) is pushing a program called partners for habitat. This program raises money for wma's. It basically gives the local pf chapter a chance to adopt a wma. For every dollar donated the state will add 4. Basically turns $1 into $5. This program was started here in Bow By Lynn Bergren. He raised $2,200 that night and received another $600 to be spent at Pressy (14 miles south of Bow) In about 10 min he raised over 10 grand to put into 1 wma. Also just as of yesterday volunteers from the One Box finished clearing about 25 acreas of ceders at Pressy .

    People in the Broken Bow area have taken an active role in getting pheasants back in central Nebraska. You can either sit back and come up with excuses why something won't work, criticize the Game and Parks, farmers the weather ect. or you can be active and do something about it.
  17. paitz480 New Member

    i agree habitat should be the first goal in increasing your pheasant numbers. your second goal should be hunting the piss out of the preditors. then if you have the money i dont see why the surrogator wouldnt work. granted its going to cost you a little bit of money and time to establish a poplulation base. the way i see it 3% survival rate is better than not adding any to your land or shooting the ones u got. that 3% in turn breeds and produces more birds plus whatever you add with your surrogator the next year.

    The surrogator may not be cost effective for an individual who is wanting to increase his numbers on his land however it does add to your number of birds. Is there anything in the world now that is cost effective. its obviously worked in broken bow for the 1 box club. granted they probably are paid for by a group of people.

    when looking at a study you always have to look at all the underlying factors. do you have the proper habitat? what are the number of preditors in the area? what was the weather like during the study? what was the hunting pressure in the area? do you really see all the birds youve released? how do you know they didnt move down the road to another patch. study says only 3% survival rate i would bet its alot more. (unless they have heart monitors on all the birds they release they dont know if the birds are really dead or just too smart to be counted.)

    but ive rambled on long enough. it all depends on how passionate you are and if you are willing to spend your money and your time to make a difference on your property.

    If i had my own land and enough money i know i would use the surragotor but i dont and untill i win the lottery i guess its a ton of walking for a couple birds for me.
  18. WTF New Member

    I think anybody that is truly passionate about their hobbies doesn't want to know the exact price. [IMG] I know I would not want to go and total everything.

    But I believe we are on the same page about this program being broadly used across the state. And its nice to see the overall work this group doing Im sure it has been great.
  19. Honker Bonker Member

    paiz480, preditor control is a must.

    WTF, my biggest fear is that I will die and my wife will sell all my guns, decoys, and everything else I have for what I told her I paid for it. There are some things she don't need to know.
  20. tcharf New Member

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