The problem of making the best use of the partridges produced must be considered. How, when, and where should the birds be released? There are many variable factors involved and more trials can be conducted to establish the best mechanisms of releasing these birds. Pen-reared birds are somewhat dependent upon their keepers and care should be taken during the release to consider this fact.
Timing of Release
Hauling a crate of birds to a release site and then quickly releasing the birds and driving off does not accomplish the purpose for which the effort has been expended to produce and raise these birds. Portable release pens that measure approximately 10 feet long, 10 feet wide, and four feet high, and that are covered with one-inch wire mesh, should be established in the area in which the release is planned. Groups of 12-15 birds can be placed in these pens and maintained therein for a few days, with feed and water provided, to permit the birds to acquaint themselves with the type of cover and the area itself.
Once acclimation to the area has been established, one end of the pen can be opened, allowing the birds to slowly leave and drift away from the release site. Some propagators prefer to release two-thirds of the birds and maintain two or three birds in the pen for a few additional days. They feel that this tends to hold or anchor the group in the area of the release more satisfactorily than does releasing the entire group at one time. Food and water should be provided both inside and outside the pen until the last bird has been released and the pen has been removed. Release points should be at least 200 yards apart and birds should be released at intervals of about one week. Otherwise, the members of one release will tend to form a community with the birds of the next release.
Age of Release
It is wise to release birds more than ten weeks old and preferably at least 16-20 weeks of age. If the releases are strictly for hunting purposes, it has been demonstrated that shooting recoveries are usually higher from the release of older birds than from the release of younger birds.
The particular geographic and topographical conditions of each area require some study to determine the best point of release. The ideal spot is usually between two suitable feed crops. These crop areas should also provide shelter and places for sunning. The releases can be made adjacent to areas where grain or corn crops are to be planted. However, it is possible that the harvesting of these crops will disturb the established colonies of birds. Uncultivated land that offers good cover would be a suitable release site, but it should be within reasonable distance of some crop that will provide cover for the birds during the shooting season.
Small groups of adults may be released as early as February or March, but releases should be performed as late in the spring as possible to insure a satisfactory establishment of the pairs. This requires that they be able to find suitable feed and cover and yet be able to adjust themselves to the new terrain. When food and cover requirements are more adequately catered to, the pairs can be released earlier. Since the partridges are density intolerant and tend to fight if they are too numerous in a particular area, privacy is best attained by suitable vegetative cover.
Once the birds have been released it becomes difficult to determine the success of the establishing birds in the area. Observations of the number of birds in the field is a better measure than the actual recovery from the field by hunters, as the birds are extremely difficult targets for even the most experienced hunter.
However, the thrill of having bagged one of these gray "cannon balls" is worth the effort on the part of the sportsman. If sport is not the intended function in the release, the antics and pugnaciousness of these birds in the vicinity will in themselves be a reward for the efforts expended in establishing a colony of Hungarian partridge.