Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

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 ahauck@pheasantsforever.org.

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.

 Gun of the Year_2

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

2014NYLC

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 AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Pheasants Forever Banquet Leads to New Ford Truck

Monday, August 4th, 2014

NorthlandFord

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 AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

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

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Sept. 089

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.

Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologists Ready to Help Landowners Enroll in CRP

Monday, June 9th, 2014

CCRP

Last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that today, Monday, June 9th, the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) would re-open to landowners. CRP had been closed since October 2013. The new Farm Bill signed in February set the stage for the continuation of the program and today’s re-opening.

From the USDA’s Press Release:

CRP consists of a “continuous” and “general” sign-up period. Continuous sign up for the voluntary program starts June 9. Under continuous sign-up authority, eligible land can be enrolled in CRP at any time with contracts of up to 10 to 15 years in duration. In lieu of a general sign-up this year, USDA will allow producers with general CRP contracts expiring this September to have the option of a one-year contract extension.

This is big news for hunters. For nearly three decades, CRP has been the gold-standard of habitat across pheasant country. During the “good ole days” of 2007 and 2008, 32 million CRP acres were responsible for producing pheasant populations not seen since the 1960’s in many core pheasant states. We all know what’s happened in the handful of years since. Commodity prices skyrocketed and land values followed. In turn, CRP acres crashed and pheasant number tumbled.

Today, there are signs the pendulum is swinging back toward a less volatile market with commodity prices leveling off and conservation programs offering a viable alternative for many farmers and ranchers. Indeed, every farm in America could be more profitable and financially secure with a mix of conservation practices – buffers, wetlands, field borders, etc. – in harmony with row crop production. As the saying goes, “farm the best, conserve the rest.” Additionally, USDA has updated soil rental rates for Continuous CRP practices, which should help make these programs increasingly more competitive with alternative land use options.

The key to finding a successful conservation recipe for success on your land is receiving expert advice from a trusted professional. Pheasants Forever, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s NRCS and FSA, along with state natural resource agencies across the pheasant range, is proud to employ more than 100 Farm Bill Biologists. These trained experts are skilled at figuring out the variety of conservation practices your land qualifies for, while also being aware of the myriad of ways to find cost-share options to make enrolling an attractive financial and ethical opportunity.  In fact, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologists have helped landowners enroll more than 4 million acres into conservation programs since 2003.

Find the Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist in your area by following this link. If there doesn’t happen to be a PF Farm Bill Biologist near you, the folks at your local USDA Service Center should also be able to help answer your questions about CRP.

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

Sportsmen’s Act Would Create Millions of Acres of Public Hunting Lands

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Sept. 110

While the farm bill is the most important piece of federal legislation to Pheasants Forever, it’s far from the only conservation tool created in Washington, D.C. This spring, Pheasants Forever is urging Congressional leaders to consider the bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act. Included in this bill are a variety of measures influencing the creation and management of lands open to public hunting.

The Sportsman’s Act includes the following titles:

  • Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act of 2013 (S.738) authorizes the Fish and Wildlife Service to allow any state to provide federal duck stamps electronically. This measure should make it simpler to sell stamps, in turn leading to a greater pot of money for Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) acquisitions.
  • North American Wetlands Conservation Act Reauthorization (S.741) provides matching grants to organizations, state and local governments, and private landowners for the acquisition, restoration, and enhancement of wetlands critical to the habitat of migratory birds. Pheasants Forever has been a grant recipient in many states leading to thousands of acres of protected critical grassland and wetland habitat.
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Reauthorization (S.51); a non-profit that preserves and restores native wildlife species and habitats.
  • Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act (S.170); the bill also requires the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service to keep their lands open to hunting, recreational fishing, and shooting.
  • Making Public Lands Public requires 1.5% of annual Land and Water Conservation Fund for securing fishing, hunting, and recreational shooting access on federal public lands.
  • Farmer and Hunter Protection Act; authorizes USDA extension offices to determine normal agricultural practices rather than the Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act (S.1505) exempts lead fishing tackle from being regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
  • Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act (S.1212) enables states to allocate a greater proportion of federal funding to create and maintain shooting ranges on federal and non-federal lands.

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have joined a group of 40 organizations representing more than 40 million hunters and anglers asking the United States Senate to consider the Sportsmen’s Act following Memorial weekend recess.

You can help too. Contact your U.S. Senator and ask them to bring the Sportsmen’s Act to the Senate floor.

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

New USDA Program Focused on “Bullseye Benefits” for Pheasants & Wildlife

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Male ring-necked pheasant rooster 4

Photo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources / Herbert Lange

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the launch of the USDA’s new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) on Tuesday. Through RCPP, the USDA is empowered to seek partners to leverage a variety of financial resources for the protection of eight critical conservation areas – many of which are also priority regions for pheasants and quail – including:

  • Chesapeake Bay Watershed
  • Mississippi River Basin
  • Great Lakes Region
  • California Bay Delta
  • Prairie Grasslands
  • Colorado River Basin
  • Columbia River Basin
  • Longleaf Pine Range

Over the last 30 years, Pheasants Forever has taken the federal and state tools available to us and completed “random acts of conservation.” Don’t get me wrong, our projects have created millions of acres of wildlife habitat, improved water quality and protected soil resources. Those projects, however, have largely been completed as a result of an opportunity generated by willing private landowners  volunteering to enroll conservation practices on their land, whenever and wherever it presented itself. Times are a-changing.

The pressures on our lands and wildlife have never been so intense, while funding has become increasingly scarce. Conversely, our scientific understanding of the impact our land management decisions have on our natural resources has never been so deep. It is also clear that no single agency or organization can do it alone.  Partnerships are how habitat happens in 2014. We know that conservation programs that buffer streams, protect wetlands, create borders around fields, and maintain contiguous blocks of grasslands can protect water resources while also establishing habitat for pheasants, quail, and all sorts of wildlife species.  The key is finding the balance between meeting our nation’s food, fuel and fiber needs, while protecting America’s invaluable natural resources.

The USDA’s new Regional Conservation Partnership Program is the evolutionary leap forward from random acts of conservation to bullseye benefits. A great example of this concept in practice was the development of Pheasants Forever’s Farm Bill Biologist program in 2003; a partnership started between NRCS, South Dakota Game Fish & Parks and Pheasants Forever.  Our Farm Bill Biologist program, as a result of numerous partners, places an employee on the ground in an area of particular focus for the achievement of a specific result. Today, the Farm Bill Biologist model has expanded to 19 different states with unique conservation objectives in each locale.

More recently, we employed the NRCS partnership model with the Sage Grouse and Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiatives. These efforts bridge partnerships with multiple government agencies (state wildlife agencies, Joint Ventures, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, NRCS, and BLM) and fellow non-profit conservation organizations. In both initiatives, a group of stakeholders are able to bring a larger pool of resources to bear toward a common goal. This is the essence of the USDA’s new Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

While your first reaction may be to yawn at the creation of another member of conservation’s acronym soup, RCPP represents the future of highly targeted efforts to leverage partnerships for bigger wildlife and water benefits.

The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s vice president of government relations