Couple raises quail, pheasant
By: Rob Somerville
He is 50 eight years of age, old enough you would think to know better than to step into a cage with a bunch of wild critters. But, he does just that, nearly every day, and he wouldn’t have it any other way!
I am writing about my good friend, Rick Bringle, who along with his lovely wife, Karen, owns and operates K&R Quail Farm in Covington. This couple literally farms for feathers.
No, they do not plant seeds in the soil to grow quail or pheasant. But, they do take the raising of bobwhite quail and pheasant from the breeding stage, to the egg, to the incubation, to the hatchling chick, to the adult bird. The entire process amazed me. I had no idea what went into raising upland birds. Obviously, when I saw Rick being literally flogged by pheasants, while attempting to catch them, I had to ask why on earth he undertook this vocation.
Love at First Bobwhite
Rick was raised the way more American kids nowadays should be — enjoying the wonders of the great outdoors the Good Lord blessed us with, through hunting and fishing. As his beloved granddad used to say, “If you keep ’em in the woods … you are keeping ’em off the streets.”
His mother used to drop him off at the Hatchie River’s gas pipeline, which forms a narrow strip of field through wooded land, and was the perfect place to spot local wildlife. Without the luxury of a beagle or pointer, Rick would trample through the vegetation with his single shot 20-gauge or a borrowed .22 caliber rifle, attempting to bring home a quail, rabbit or squirrel for the supper part. These “self-taught” hunting adventures enabled Rick to develop woodsmanship skills early on, as well as to develop a deep appreciation for nature and its creatures.
Some of Rick’s fondest memories are when reminiscing about when he and the men of his family would often load the dogs up on a Saturday morning after chores were done, to go on what they called “a bird hunt.”
The Golden Years
Rick remembers when the idea of a “quail farm” to raise bobwhites would not only seem unnecessary, but just pretty darn ridiculous. He says, “I remember when there were quail coveys in just about every fencerow in West Tennessee. Folks didn’t get greedy back then. They only killed what they might eat that day and let the birds prosper.”
“It was nothing for us to come home with three or four quail each in our tote sacks. The biggest enjoyment for us all, was watching our bird dogs work. They lived for the hunt and when they saw us walking out the backdoor with our shotguns, they would whine and their shoulders would quiver with excitement. These dogs were bred with upland bird hunting in their hearts. It is what they lived for.”
Where Have All the Bobwhite Gone?
“Nowadays,” Rick told me, “the cost of tillable farmland per acre is at such a premium, that all of the fencerows that once supplied wild quail with food, shelter from the weather, nesting areas, and escape from predators have just about been completely cleared. This lack of cover has made quail easy prey for everything from hawks to domestic housecats.”
He continued, “I applaud the research and work that conservation organization such as Quail Unlimited (Which Rick has been a member of for his entire adult life), TWRA, the NWTF and others are putting in place to repopulate the wild quail in our state.”
He also said that the diminished population of these wild birds convinced him to begin raising bobwhite quail as a hobby. Well, that hobby has turned into a vocation. What the Pringles started seven years ago on a whim, is now one of the most successful and quality controlled upland bird farms in the state. Want proof? How about a NPIP A1 CLEAN rating from the FDA, who regularly inspects his operation.
The Early Years
K&R Quail Farm started out by purchasing 50 eggs from a company called Georgia Quail, seven years ago. The couple read everything they could about raising bobwhites, and they were not too proud to ask advice from biologists and other experts.
They purchased heat controlled incubators, and partitioned off a room in their shop. They watched over the eggs and hatchlings as closely as a couple would watch over their first born baby. It was a learning process. But, this hobby was one they both enjoyed and allowed them to spend quality time together. It wasn’t long though, before their hobby became a marketable commodity.
His wife is Rick’s anchor. He had open heart surgery five years ago, and was ready to close shop on the quail farm. But, Karen said no, that she would handle things solo, until he recuperated. I could tell that when Rick talked about Karen, that there was a deep love between the two.
The Hobby Becomes a JOB
It wasn’t long before locals began to hear about the “quail couple” and the quality birds they were raising. Soon, field trial officials began to purchase birds from Rick. Nearly overnight, quail preserves began to pop up, due to the lack of wild birds. I asked Rick what he thought about these preserves.
He said, “I support quail preserves as long as they are run in a sportsmanlike manner. They are the biggest part of our income from our farm. But, I believe that these preserves should also support the conservation organizations that are trying to bring back the wild birds. These preserves are an important tool in keeping the great traditional sport of quail hunting alive, especially with the younger generations.”
“Now, business is so strong that I have no problem selling every quail I raise.”
The Cost of Quail
The cost of raising upland birds is directly related to the cost of the feed. In their early years the Pringles purchased feed and necessary vitamins and mediation separately. It was very expensive. This problem was solved when they hooked up with Terry Walls of WestTenn Livestock Supply in Covington. Terry introduced them to a product called Pen Pals®, which is an upland bird feed manufactured by the nationally known, ADM Co. This feed combines all the food (with its necessary nutrients) along with vitamins and medicine to grow healthier birds. This discovery led to the Pringles selling their adult birds for $3.50 each, which is only one single dollar above what they sold them for seven years ago. Maybe the Pringles need to get into politics to work on inflation there?
I want to thank the Pringles for taking the time to show true “Southern Hospitality” to me as I visited them for this interview. They had over 2,800 quail and 350 pheasant on hand when I was there. Without sounding too corny, I guess you could say that the quail farming business “is for the birds.”
For more information on K&R Quail Farm, you can email them at email@example.com or call them at one of the following phone numbers:
1-901-476-3110 or 1.901-412-5247.
Published in The Messenger 1.24.08