Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

Is Your Bird Dog Checking You Out?

Friday, October 31st, 2014


Some dogs will check in naturally, but if not, check-ins are something you and your dog can work on. Photo courtesy of Gander Mountain

One of the most important skills I teach my hunting dogs is to get them to keep an eye out for me and not the other way around.

I purchased my first gun dog in the mid-1980s and trained him myself, with the help of books and friends. I didn’t use e-collars (they first became available in the late 1960s). I wanted my dogs to obey the old fashioned way, without electronics. I’m now a regular e-collar user early season, but by mid-season my dog usually doesn’t need it and I take it off. Further, I’d rather not use it then. Going without just simplifies my life and my dog is more at ease. Those springers are sensitive.

But even with an e-collar, it’s better to get a dog to ‘fly bys’ on its own than for me to be constantly wondering if he’s running off and having to reel him in. Besides, I need to focus on other things, like looking for birds and being ready to shoot.

Fly Bys

The other day I was talking with some co-workers here at Pheasants Forever about the fly by. A fly by to me is when a dog while hunting regularly, without prompting from its owner, makes a visual run by his master. A fly by lets me know the dog is staying within shooting range and not running out too far, that he’s keeping pace with me and we are working together as a team. I suppose the dog, at least my dogs, want to keep track of me too. This is especially true when hunting in a group because it’s easy for a dog to lose track of its master. Many times my dog has run up to the wrong hunter, thinking it was me. We all pretty much look alike, after all…men with guns in blaze orange.

I’ve never taught the fly by. My dogs just do it on their own. I suppose this comes about because of earlier training to teach them to stick with me afield, be it a walk, training or hunting. Voluntary sticking in is crucial because a dog can outdistance us very easily and quickly. An out of control dog is a lost or potentially dead dog. There’s no way we can keep up with a running dog, so we must train them to stick with us.


For me, training a dog never ends. It starts with using a check cord during puppyhood. But once you turn a dog loose, it’s very tempting for them to run off. I’ll put a dog in its kennel before letting it run off and bust birds out of range. There’s no greater sin afield in my book.

A new dog is insecure about ranging too far for too long because of its early training with the lead, e-collar, whistle and his master’s voice. But once a dog is turned loose to hunt, it’s best if it realizes staying in range and checking in is routine. A relaxed dog and master hunt better when they have confidence in each other.

I’ve noticed with my springers, and I’m no professional trainer, that they do the automatic fly by after about three to four years of hunting. They understand that they can have their ‘head’ and yet stay in contact with their master and not get in trouble. Giving a dog ‘its head’ is an old horse riding term which means dropping the reins and giving a horse its head to run wide open.

I love it when a dog finally ‘gets’ the fly by because then both of us are free to focus more on the task at hand….hunting, shooting and retrieving birds. Every dog is different and therefore reacts to me, its training and hunting in a somewhat different way. I adjust to their individuality.

I also reinforce voice, whistle and check cord training with another tactic I learned from an old hunting buddy. If while working or training my dog off-leash the dog starts to get out of range or out of sight, I hide from them. I run the other way and hide. Nothing freaks out most dogs more than losing their pack mate, because that’s how dogs view us.

I’ll run the other direction and hide upwind so they have to work their nose and not their eyes or ears to find me. I climb trees to get out of scent and sight. This behavior has a very important effect on a dog: it forces him to keep an eye out for me….and not vice versa. Now, I’ve seen one of my dogs take this tactic a little too hard and stick too close to me afterwards, but after 10-15 minutes with encouragement, he’ll start ranging more appropriately. Repeat as necessary.

Pack Mates and Teammates

Of course, if a dog is doing something seriously wrong such as running into a road, chasing down young birds off-season or chasing deer, I’ll employ the e-collar tout de suite until he gets the message.

I had one hard-headed springer that didn’t take the hide-n-seek lesson too seriously, so I made greater efforts to hide from him and he eventually got the message. After all, the dog is not only facing losing his pack mate, but also its source of food and shelter. That’s a big motivation to stick in with the master.

Most of all, I just spend time with my dog and observe him closely, get to know him and how he ticks, and he does the same with me. I adjust my training according to what works best to make us ‘one’ afield. There’s nothing better than when dog and hunter work as one, seamlessly, with little talking, whistles or e-prompts. Often a look or gesture is all that’s needed with a seasoned team to get where we’re going. Such synchronicity strikes an ancient chord for me, as with the dog, a chord first played between man and dog so long ago we’ve forgotten the words, but not the tune. It’s sweet music indeed.

Mark Herwig is editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever Journal. Email Mark at

Refresh & Conserve With Pepsi-Cola of Mitchell, S.D.

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014


Pepsi-Cola of Mitchell is proud to partner with Pheasants Forever for the Refresh & Conserve program.  Pepsi will donate 5 cents to Pheasants Forever for every Pepsi 20oz bottle sold between October 1, 2014 and November 31, 2014 in the Mitchell, Pierre, Huron and Chamberlain, S.D. areas.

Pheasants are an important part of the South Dakota economy and Pheasants Forever is focused on working with state conservation policy leaders to enhance upland habitat for long-term sustainability of pheasant hunting traditions. All proceeds will be used at a local level to help improve South Dakota’s pheasant habitat.

“As an avid outdoorsman, I’m excited to help launch the Refresh & Conserve program and contribute to one of my favorite hobbies, pheasant hunting,” said Michael Shinstine, Pepsi-Cola of Mitchell. “I know pheasant hunting plays an important role in the South Dakota economy. I look forward to working with our local communities and giving back to a cause that I am so passionate about.”

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s online editor. Email Anthony at and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Top Reasons to Attend National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic 2015

Friday, September 19th, 2014

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As a jack-pine-savage (Duluth, Minn. native) living and working in Iowa for the past five years, chapters always seem to remind me of my “northern” heritage with the following joke- “What’s the best part of traveling south on I-35, Jared? Minnesota in the rearview mirror of course!”

All joking aside, if you haven’t lived in the Corn Belt of Iowa, it would be hard to understand the passion and commitment Pheasants Forever members hold for our habitat conservation mission. With this in mind, I am excited to be traveling back to Des Moines on February 20, 21 and 22 for the 2015 National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic at the Iowa Events Center.

Our national event is creating quite the buzz amongst the 105 chapters we have in the state. Iowa has hosted some of the biggest and best Pheasant Fest celebrations in the history of the organization, and those attending can expect nothing less for the coming year. Here are the top 8 reasons to attend the 2015 National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic:

Dedicated Chapters - Simply put, Iowa chapters know how to have fun. You can expect great raffles, genuine hospitality and new events at the 2015 National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic. Plus you’ll have plenty of chances to win a custom Pheasants Forever Kubota 400 and a plethora of firearms!

151 Percent Increase in August Roadside Survey - As someone who hunts a large majority of the pheasant season on public land, listen to my words of wisdom- pheasants are on the rise in Iowa. Take a few days and enjoy some late-season hunting leading up to Pheasant Fest and share your stories with us at the event!

Top 10 City - Hosting for the third time in the history of Pheasant Fest, Des Moines, Iowa has been named a top ten city for 2014 in the following categories: Best City for Young Professionals (Forbes), #1 Up-and-Coming Downtown (Fortune), Top 6 Family-Friendly Cities in America (Realty Times) and Top 10 Best States to Eat Local (Locavore). There is plenty to see and do for the whole family!

Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP) - If you enjoy hunting public property, IHAP is the state’s newest walk-in hunting program. Pheasants Forever chapters are working hard to raise $400,000 in matching funds for this program; help us support more public land by contributing at Pheasant Fest through raffles or other means.

Outstanding Banquets- The Bird Hunter’s Banquet (Friday, February 20) and National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic Banquet (Saturday, February 21) will offer unique prizes, great food and plenty of entertainment for an exceptional weekend in Des Moines. Buy an incentive table today (receive hats and ticket for a shotgun raffle) and join the celebration!

Hot Dog! - Those who have attended Pheasant Fest know bird dogs ARE NOT in short supply. If you are looking to find your future pup or learn some new techniques for training, visit Bird Dog Stage presented by Purina and SportDOG.

Become a Life Member – There is no better opportunity to support Pheasants Forever – In a weekend dedicated to the upland bird hunter, become a Life Member of Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever and have a chance to win a beautiful shotgun! Already a Life Member, I will be signing up my Black Lab, Koda, as a dog Life Member in 2015 and I urge you to do the same.

New and Expanded Vendors – The quantity and quality of vendors at Pheasant Fest continues to grow every year. No matter what you are looking for, Pheasant Fest has something to offer everyone from guns and gear to outfitters and dogs.

Wherever you might be from, I invite you to put your home state in the rearview mirror this February 20, 21, and 22, to join us for a celebration of upland wildlife conservation at the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic.

Early Bird Registration is now available and hotel space is limited, so visit today and sign-up!

-Jared Wiklund is Pheasants Forever’s public relations specialist

Dog of the Day: “River”

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Brittany Bohland and “River.” River is half golden retriever, half Lab and 100% hunting dog.

Brittany Bohland, a Pheasants Forever member in Minnesota, checked in with a report on her pup’s successful weekend.

This was River’s first qualifying score towards her Working Upland Retriever Title with the North American Hunting Retriever Association. Our local NAHRA club – Four Points Retriever Club – was the first to host the *NEW* Upland Retriever Program test, which puts focus on the use of trained hunting retrievers as conservation tools and puts a dog’s skillset to the test against a written set of field test standards. Dog and handler teams are given several realistic hunting scenarios and are scored on a scale of 0-10 against a standard of how well they complete each task. An overall minimum of 80% must be earned in order for a score to be considered “qualifying.”


Since River is non-purebred and spayed, the titles really don’t mean anything for us; we just enjoy playing the games! By participating in these hunt tests, I’ve found a way to gauge where we are in terms of our skill level and set training goals to work on so that we will be in our best form when the actual hunting season gets here. The hunt test games and training have also brought me in contact with some fantastic like-minded dog people, and I’ve developed several strong friendships through a mutual love of dogs and hunting. It’s been a fun ride so far, and I hope we’ll keep our success rolling all the way up to the Senior/Master level!

Follow Brittany & River on Twitter @gundoggal

Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s online editor, at

Don’t Miss Your Shot at Pheasants Forever’s Gun of the Year

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

The Gun of the Year features custom engraving based upon Jim Hautman's "Busting Out" Print of the Year

The Gun of the Year features custom engraving based upon Jim Hautman’s “Busting Out” Print of the Year

Each year, Pheasants Forever produces a custom engraved, limited-edition Gun of the Year. These collectible works of art are specially produced to support the organization’s habitat conservation mission and can ONLY be found at participating Pheasants Forever chapter banquets.


The 2014 Pheasants Forever Gun of the Year is a Remington 11-87 and features a beautifully engraved receiver capturing Jim Hautman’s 2014 Pheasants Forever Print of the Year, “Busting Out.”


Although we all know a gun is only as good as the person operating it, the Remington Model 11-87 offers the unquestionable reliability and versatility that you would expect from anything carrying the Remington name. Added to this, Pheasants Forever’s special Gun of the Year comes stock with a 28” barrel, 2 ¾” or 3” shell capability, and the distinction of having only 150 produced.


“We are extremely proud to add Pheasants Forever’s exclusive Remington 11-87 to the selection of items chapters use at banquets to raise funds for local conservation efforts,” states John Edstrom, Pheasants Forever’s director of merchandise. “Considering the partnership we have with Remington and the strong reputation of their brand, we are confident this gun will break clays and drop roosters for our members with both speed and style.”


With more than 600 Pheasant Forever chapters hosting banquets nationwide and only 150 guns to go around, don’t miss your shot at owning one of these exclusive collectible shotguns! Ask your local chapter if the custom Pheasants Forever 2014-2015 Gun of the Year – the reliable Remington 11-87 – will be at your upcoming banquet.

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Minnesota Continues Pheasant Country Trend, 6% Increase in Roadside Survey

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Pheasant Prospectus Map.  Courtesy of Minnesota DNR

Pheasant Prospectus Map. Courtesy of Minnesota DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced today their annual August roadside survey indicated a 6 percent increase in pheasants over last year.  The increase comes in spite of the state’s severe winter and very wet spring.  In fact, heavy rains hit Minnesota’s pheasant range in mid-June during what is normally the peak of the pheasant hatch.

Pheasants Forever joins the Minnesota DNR in its message that habitat continues to pose the biggest threat to the state’s long-term pheasant population.  According to the DNR, the 2014 pheasant index is 58 percent below the 10-year average and 71 percent below the long-term average.  Weather and habitat are the two main factors driving pheasant populations.  Weather leads to annual fluctuations in roadside indices, while available grassland habitat for nesting and brood-rearing drives the longer-term trends.

Like most states in pheasant country, Minnesota has witnessed a large conversion of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands to row crop production in recent years.  In fact, there have been 665,663 acres once enrolled in CRP in Minnesota that have expired from 2007 through 2013.  Most of those acres are no longer in grassland habitat, which is largely responsible for the precipitous decline in the state’s bird numbers from a time just a few years ago when the state set pheasant harvest milestones not experienced in some 60 years.

“Minnesota pheasant hunters should be extremely thankful to have the base of permanently protected Wildlife Management and Waterfowl Production Areas we have in this state,” reported Eran Sandquist, Pheasants Forever’s state coordinator for Minnesota.  “Add 15,380 acres of habitat improved through the Outdoor Heritage Fund and these permanently protected acres are the foundation upon which we can build up our pheasant numbers.”

Related Links

Minnesota DNR 2014 Roadside Survey Results

Minnesota DNR 2014 Prospectus Map

Information on hunting pheasants in Minnesota

Positive Pheasant Forecast Needs to Be Tempered by Reality

Monday, August 25th, 2014

A rooster pheasant flushes and glides to heavier cover on Sand Lake NWR in South Dakota. Photo credit: Tom Koerner/USFWS

A rooster pheasant flushes and glides to heavier cover on Sand Lake NWR in South Dakota. Photo credit: Tom Koerner / USFWS

The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks just recently completed their annual pheasant count. While the results won’t be available for a couple weeks, from everyone’s observations it appears as though pheasant numbers could be up from last year’s dismal count. If that’s true, that will be good news not only for South Dakota pheasant hunters but also for the countless businesses that benefit from the millions of dollars in revenue the tradition generates annually. Pheasant hunting is a true bellwether of the high quality of life South Dakotans have come to cherish. Supporting the habitat necessary to this time honored tradition benefits all South Dakotans economically, in clean waters and quality of life.

But if there indeed is an increase in pheasant numbers, that good news needs to be tempered. The “pheasant crisis” South Dakota has experienced over the past few years has not been solved. The findings will simply mean that a winter, spring and summer conducive to survival rates for adults and their broods have ticked the pheasant count upward. Next year may bring a far different set of circumstances.

The long-view for pheasant success in South Dakota calls for a stop to the upland habitat loss of recent years. Photo by Matt Morlock / Pheasants Forever

The long-view for pheasant success in South Dakota calls for a stop to the upland habitat loss of recent years. Photo by Matt Morlock / Pheasants Forever

If South Dakota truly wants to increase and stabilize its pheasant population, the issue of declines in pheasant habitat must be addressed. While tough winters and wet springs play a role in population changes, it’s the loss of habitat that’s responsible for the long-term decline of pheasants in the state. This habitat loss is the result of CRP and native prairie conversion, as well as drained wetlands and cattail sloughs. Since 2006, more than 450,000 acres of grasslands and prairies in South Dakota have been converted from wildlife habitat to row crops.

That is why I and many others are so hopeful about the upcoming recommendations of the Governor’s Pheasant Habitat Work Group. The Work Group has a unique opportunity before it to make policy recommendations that will permanently increase and stabilize pheasant populations by addressing the primary problem – habitat. There are dozens of different programs and practices that can be implemented to create higher quality habitat including: CRP, buffers, pollinator plots and cattail sloughs, as well as preserving all the areas that are difficult to farm that often have a lower cost-benefit ratio. There are also opportunities to better manage tremendous existing habitat throughout South Dakota, such as Waterfowl Production Areas, Game Production Areas, school lands, tribal lands and roadside ditches, for wildlife that is already on the ground.

Without addressing the problem of declining habitat, South Dakota will face a future of lower pheasant numbers, punctuated by population crashes as dictated by harsh winters, wet springs and/or drought. The resulting “boom-bust” cycle will not only have a negative effect on South Dakota’s time-honored family tradition of pheasant hunting, it will be devastating to businesses and their employees ranging from motels to restaurants to guide services to sporting goods stores. When populations are healthy, pheasant hunting brings $223 million into South Dakota each year and creates 4,500 jobs.

South Dakota has a unique opportunity to not only significantly improve pheasant habitat for the long-term, it can show that through creative management practices that farming and wildlife can be compatible. It does not have to be an either/or situation. Both industries are vitally important to this state and I believe South Dakota’s inherent can-do attitude will make it possible to have a strong agricultural industry and productive wildlife habitat that will not only produce an abundance of pheasants and other game, but also help assure cleaner water and healthier grasslands.

I am looking forward to seeing the official results of the road count and what I hope will be good news. I am also looking forward to the recommendations of the governor’s task force and the subsequent actions of policy makers that will hopefully help to assure that South Dakota will forever be known as the “Pheasant Capital of the World.”

-Dave Nomsen leads Pheasants Forever’s new Regional Headquarters in Brookings, S.D.

PF Names Six New Members to National Youth Leadership Council

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014


Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever announce six new members to its National Youth Leadership Council. The new participants include Jared Austin of Kansas, Kyle Holden, Donald Ogden and Hunter Spenle of Wisconsin, Travis Smith of Minnesota and Jacob Wietzema of Iowa. Established in 2006, the organization’s National Youth Leadership Council is comprised of 20 young people from around the country nominated by a local Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever chapter. Participants serve as spokespersons for their age group on hunting and conservation issues and advise PF/QF on youth programs.

“We all believe youth are the future of conservation. At Pheasants Forever, the National Youth Leadership Council is our way of putting action behind a phrase in danger of becoming a cliché,” explained Rich Wissink, the organization’s National Youth Program Manager. “I’m excited about the passion for wildlife habitat these six new council members bring to our already talented group of young conservation leaders.”

New National Youth Leadership Council members include:

Jared Austin of McPherson, Kans. – Nominated by the McPherson Area Chapter of Pheasants Forever – Austin is a 14-year-old who enjoys hunting, fishing, and World War II history. He’s active in his local church and a hard-working volunteer with the local Pheasants Forever chapter.

Kyle Holden of Boyceville, Wis. – Nominated by the Red Cedar Chapter of Pheasants Forever – Holden is an eighth grader who enjoys hunting, shooting trap, fishing, team sports, and is a member of his local FFA and 4-H. He’s also assistant vice president of the Chippewa Valley Young Guns Pheasants Forever Youth Club, which was recognized as the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation’s Conservationist Youth Group of the Year for 2013.

Donald Ogden of Irma, Wis. – Nominated by the Lincoln County Chapter of Pheasants Forever – Ogden is an avid trap shooter and enjoys hunting with his yellow Lab named “Samantha.” He also enjoys archery, fishing, FFA and is taking a leadership role in the chapter’s new pollinator habitat project.

Hunter Spenle of Colfax, Wis. – Nominated by the Red Cedar Chapter of Pheasants Forever – Like Kyle Holden, Spenle is also a member of the Chippewa Valley Young Guns Pheasants Forever Youth Club. Spenle serves as the group’s treasurer and enjoys hunting, archery, trap shooting and fishing.

Travis Smith of Cottage Grove, Minn. – Nominated by the Mississippi Longtails Chapter of Pheasants Forever – Smith is a sophomore at Park High School where he was a member and leader on the school’s inaugural trap shooting team last season. He’s also a very active Boy Scout and avid hunter.

Jacob Wietzema of Sibley, Iowa - Nominated by the Osceola County Chapter of Pheasants Forever – Witzema is a 15-year-old who enjoys the outdoors, reading and team sports. He also loves training his bird dog, a wirehaired pointing griffon named “Boomer.” Wietzema is an active member of the chapter and assists with fundraising, habitat and youth events.

“As I read these youngster’s bios and application essays, I couldn’t help but be optimistic about the future of hunting and conservation,” added Wissink. “They share the land stewardship values and passion for sharing our outdoor traditions that is found throughout Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever volunteers across the country. They aren’t just the future, they are leading today.”

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Youth Leadership Council has worked on such important issues as bringing attention to the Federal Farm Bill and its significance to wildlife habitat conservation. In fact, members of the group met with U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives during the last Farm Bill debate to voice their generation’s concerns for conservation. They have also helped pass state legislation to reduce age restrictive barriers to introduce young people to hunting.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s online editor. Email Anthony at and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Pheasants Forever Banquet Leads to New Ford Truck

Monday, August 4th, 2014


From left, Chad Pearson, Heike Zander, winner Pheasants Forever / Northland Ford Truck raffle, Brad Heidel, Pheasants Forever’s director of corporate sales and Tom Cavallin from Cavallin Ford in Pine City, Minn.

Heike Zander of Pine City, Minn., is the winner of a new 2014 Ford F-150 XLT from Northland Ford. Zander purchased her raffle ticket for the truck at her local East Central Spurs Pheasants Forever chapter banquet.

The Northland Ford Dealer group, made up Ford Dealers in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, donated a 2014 Ford F-150 XLT to be raffled off by Pheasants Forever. Tickets for the raffle were available through local Pheasants Forever chapters in the Northland Ford region in 2013-2014, and all proceeds raised were kept by each participating Pheasants Forever chapter for use in their local wildlife habitat efforts.

The Pheasants Forever / Northland Ford Truck raffle has raised thousands of dollars for local habitat efforts.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s online editor. Email Anthony at and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Action Alert: Pheasants Forever Urges Support of Sportsmen’s Act of 2014

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

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Yesterday, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly advanced the bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 (S. 2363), moving the legislation one step closer to passage. The Sportsmen’s Act, which boasts the support of many national conservation and sportsmen organizations – including Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever – representing millions of outdoorsmen and women, contains a host of provisions that stand to benefit hunters, anglers and other outdoor recreationists.

The Sportsmen’s Act will enact a variety of measures to facilitate the use of and access to federal public lands and waters for hunting, fishing, and shooting. Provisions in the bill will also help increase revenue for wildlife conservation, hunter education and shooting programs.

We urge Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever members to contact their Senators and ask them to support the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 (the House has passed a similar piece of legislation). Ask your Senator to:

  • Recognize conservation, wildlife and sportsmen and women by supporting the Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 (S. 2363)
  • Oppose amendments not related to Sportsmen’s Act legislation

Contact your U.S. Senator

We need your help in this final push for the Sportsmen’s Act of 2014. Thanks for your time and consideration, and for supporting Pheasants Forever and wildlife habitat conservation.

The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.