Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category
Monday, April 15th, 2013
Last year we were happy to report hunter numbers in the United States increased from 12.5 million to 13.7 million. Now a new survey shows 79 percent of the American public approve of hunting, the highest level of support in 17 years.
Compiled by Responsive Management, an independent research firm, the nationwide scientific survey showed the public’s approval of hunting rose five points in the past year, up from 74 percent in 2011. More than half (52 percent) of those surveyed strongly approved of hunting. At the other end of the spectrum, 12 percent of Americans disapprove of hunting. Another 8 percent neither approve nor disapprove (total does not equal 100 percent due to rounding). Support for hunting has remained generally consistent during this time–73 percent in 1995; 75 percent in 2003; 78 percent in 2006; 74 percent in 2011; and a peak of 79 percent in 2013.
Public approval of hunting is critical to the long-term success of conservation efforts in the United States. Hunters remain the largest active block of conservationists in America, their passion to create and restore habitat fueled by their favorite way to enjoy the outdoors. This has been true for more than a century, and remains true today. At Pheasants Forever, which was started 30 years ago by a concerned group of pheasant hunters, 9 out of 10 current members are hunters. Responsive Management also points out shooting participation increased 18 percent since 2009 – shooting sports being another pathway to hunting and conservation.
It’s been a struggle to conserve upland habitat in recent years, but the battle will never cease, and we won’t be able to fight in the future without an engaged constituency. All recent data indicates we’re on the right track.
Friday, March 15th, 2013
As I compose this blog, there is three feet of ice on Minnesota’s lakes and the temps have barely poked above freezing since December . . . keep in mind, it’s now mid-March. “Cabin Fever,” the winter-induced need for sunshine on our skin, has gripped Midwesterners stronger than any time in recent memory.
There are lots of ways to medicate Cabin Fever. Cold beer has limited effectiveness and definite side effects. A spring break to a tropical destination is always a great short-term reprieve, but the return home to winter’s stranglehold can be more devastating than anything. My Cabin Fever antidote of choice consists of fishing daydreams and planning my summer’s destination calendar. Top on this year’s list of destinations is Driftwood Lodge & Resort on Lake Kabetogama in Northern Minnesota.
It may seem odd to be writing about fishing on a blog devoted to wildlife habitat, bird hunting, and bird dogs; but allow me to make the connection. You see, over the last few years, Pheasants Forever has been working with fishing and hunting lodges, guide services and outfitters all over the world to provide our chapters with discounted trips. In turn Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever chapters raffle or auction these trips off at banquets around the country in the hopes of raising a few more habitat bucks than they invested in the trip. Since this trip program was created, no destination has helped raise more dollars for pheasant and quail habitat than Driftwood Lodge & Resort. That’s quite a remarkable testimonial to the generosity of Driftwood managers Kent & Dawn.
I first stayed at Driftwood Lodge in September 2011 and found a quintessential Minnesota “surf & turf” heaven of walleye fishing in the morning and ruffed grouse hunting all afternoon. Lake Kabetogama is absolutely filled with “ol’ marble eyes,” as well as northern pike, smallmouth bass, jumbo perch and slab crappies. And, just a few miles away in virtually every direction are thousands of acres of public state forest lands open to ruffed grouse hunters. The good folks at Driftwood can also arrange guiding for black bear hunts during the autumn as well. Needless to say, Driftwood has achieved its lofty stature in our trip program for its wide array of outdoor activities and exceptional customer service.
I’ve already remedied my Cabin Fever by booking a family vacation to Driftwood Lodge & Resort this August. If you’d like to book a Driftwood vacation of your own, please attend one of the following Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever chapter banquets listed below. These chapters have already purchased a Driftwood trip and will have it available for raffle or auction.Otherwise, please contact Kent or Dawn at 218.875.3841 to book your own Driftwood Lodge stay. And, please let them know you appreciate their support of Pheasants Forever’s wildlife habitat conservation efforts:
3/16/2013 – Woodford County (Illinois) PF
3/16/2013 – Illinois Pioneer PF
3/23/2013 – Southern Prairie (Iowa) PF
3/23/2013 – Tri-County (Minnesota) PF
3/25/2013 – Wright County (Minnesota) PF
3/25/2013 – Hamilton County (Iowa) PF
3/29/2013 – Franklin County (Iowa) PF
4/6/2013 – Little Bluestem (Illinois) QF
4/6/2013 – Broad River (North Carolina) QF
4/6/2013 – Three Rivers (Iowa) PF
4/26/2013 – St. Louis/Carlton (Minnesota) PF
4/27/2013 – Wyota (Missouri) QF
6/1/2013 – Kingsley-Pierson (Iowa) PF
Monday, March 11th, 2013
Pheasants Forever has recognized the Carroll County Pheasants Forever chapter with the No Child Left Indoors® national award for that group’s youth focus in 2012. The distinction is presented to one PF chapter annually for efforts in introducing youth to the outdoors and bringing along the next generation of hunters and conservationists.
The Carroll County PF chapter has made a long-term commitment to getting youth and their families outdoors. It has consistently been in among the top 10 chapters, including number one for several years, in expenditures on youth conservation education.
In 2008, the chapter launched the Carroll County Longspurs, a youth group centered around shooting sports with goals that focus on developing self-confidence, initiative, commitment, responsibility, leadership and teamwork. This group of young conservation leaders works closely with the chapter on its annual banquet, fundraising events and habitat projects. The chapter awards conservation scholarships annually, and is supporting a new member to Pheasants Forever’s National Youth Leadership Council, Parker Bates.
Since its formation, the Carroll County PF chapter has underwritten and hosted the county’s hunter safety courses. Along those youth shooting lines, the chapter hosts weekly skeet shooting for six consecutive weeks open to all FFA members from the three high schools in the county. Perhaps what says most about the chapter’s devotion to youth is that it’s the only PF chapter that claims a youth mission statement: Perhaps our most important conservation project is not the native grasses and food plots we put into the ground. It is our youth who follow behind us. If they do not learn about the outdoors and how to nurture, love and enjoy it all our fields will go fallow.
Pheasants Forever’s No Child Left Indoors® initiative is carried out through youth habitat projects, youth and family community events and youth outdoor education programs hosted by chapters and volunteers across the country.
Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
Spending time with Hank Shaw was one of my personal highlights from last weekend’s Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic in Minneapolis. Hank is a genuinely good guy who cares deeply about turning wild game into phenomenally tasting food, and he’s motivated by converting wannabe chefs like me into masters of the frying pan within our own homes.
During a Friday afternoon television interview, Hank prepared Pheasant Wiener Schnitzel for the viewing audience. Since I’d just completed an interview immediately preceding his cooking demo, I was in a prime spot to taste-test his dish. Not only was it awesome, it was one of those bites that brings one back to a moment. For me, the bite brought me to Iowa’s Amana Colonies where I visited on a trip to see me brother during his PhD years at the University of Iowa. The restaurants of the Amana Colonies focus on hearty family-style dishes with lots of German influence.
Last night, I set out to accomplish Hank’s recipe on my own. What I can tell you is this dish is absolutely as easy as Hank promises. It’s also hearty and tasty to boot. I would reiterate Hank’s own message to make sure to squeeze a little lemon on the finished dish. The lemon’s sweet acidity is a must for unlocking the full flavor of Pheasant Wiener Schnitzel.
Visit Hank Shaw’s website for his full Pheasant Wiener Schnitzel recipe.
Monday, January 14th, 2013
This isn’t about pheasant or quail. It’s not even really about deer although it starts with a deer hunt.
This past fall, Rachel Rackliff, 12 years old, shot a nice 132 lb. spikehorn just minutes before legal shooting ended. She took the deer as it moved slowly between the edge of our cornfield and a swamp that’s popular with our resident moose, resident bear, and a few dozen beavers. Rachel and her father, Henry, had hiked their way down to the field in the dark both Saturday and Sunday mornings of youth weekend, back in later each afternoon. On Sunday, in between hunts, Rachel had a soccer game.
When they called to ask if we could bring the ATV to help haul the deer out, it was hard to tell who was more excited, Henry or Rachel. Then again, they’d done this before. Rachel got a doe last year down by the same swamp.
Lit by the floodlight over our garage, Henry swung the deer into the back of his truck, and we told Rachel to hop on the tailgate and lift its head. That’s when I saw an image that said it all. She tilted the heavy head into her lap and grasped the narrow horns in her hands, her glittery orange Halloween nail polish sparkling in celebration.
Many of us agree that the future of hunting lies in the next generation and in getting more women and girls involved. Too often I hear that kids don’t have time, that peer pressure and school sports make it too hard to spend time in the woods or fields. I don’t buy it. With the right role models and encouragement – be that from parents, older siblings, friends, teachers or outdoor mentors – one or two trips afield will ignite the passion that fuels an outdoorsman or outdoorswoman for life. Girls can wear flashy nail polish and still take down a deer with the best of hunters.
By the way, last year, when Rachel saw I had Photoshopped out some blood dripping from the doe’s mouth, she laughed. I explained that it seems more respectful when sharing photos of the game we kill to present it in a dignified way, like when we smooth the feathers on a downed pheasant’s back.
“But that’s the way it really was,” she replied. She was right. My editing sanitized the truth, in some ways like meat wrapped cleanly in supermarket plastic. Hunters accept the reality of killing and eating what we kill, the connection to our food source and what it means. Thanks, Rachel.
Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.
Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
I put four bottles of red wine and a few nips of brandy on the counter at our local liquor store. A voice behind me said, “That’s a good sized collection.” Turning, I saw a squirrely-looking guy, wiry, with a stubbly narrow beard and boney face, wearing a dark bandana on his head and a much-too-worn Harley t-shirt. Living in a small town, I recognize most the locals even if I don’t know their names. He wasn’t familiar.
“It’s for hunting camp,” I said.
“Oh yeah? Your husband’s heading to deer camp?” he asked with a chuckle, probably wondering why a bunch of manly men hunters would sip wine instead of bourbon or beer.
“No, it’s for girls’ hunting camp.”
“So you hang out, drink wine, take walks, stuff like that?” he continued with a smirky half smile starting on the left side of his mouth.
“No, we hunt,” I replied, loving the direction this conversation was going. He gave me a doubtful look that said, “Yeah sure.”
“Fourteen women, ages 39-73. We all have our own bird dogs that we trained ourselves. Actually, I think there’ll be about 19 dogs at the camp this year. We hunt. Hard. All day.”
His eyes lit up, “Really? What are you hunting?”
“Grouse, I mean partridge, and woodcock,” I answered, going with the local term – “partridge” – for ruffed grouse. “Up in northeastern Maine, in Eustis. Most of us have pointing dogs, but there’s a Lab or two in the group. Partridge are pretty good up there. We’re hoping some flights of woodcock come in.”
That seemed to convince him and flip a switch in his mind. He instantly pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and showed me a photo of his living room with handsome deer mounts covering the walls. I admired them. We launched into a conversation about how this year’s deer and bird seasons were looking, what the odds were he was going to get a buck during bow season, and how tough the Maine woods would be for bird hunting until more leaves came down. Then we moved on to the relative merits of duck hunting and goose hunting, my hunting dogs and his non-hunting dogs. Twenty minutes later, I picked up my double-bagged collection of bottles and turned to the door as my friend and I wished each other good luck and good times hunting. Expectations overturned, enthusiasms shared. Pretty cool.
Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.
Thursday, December 6th, 2012
I’ve spent the majority of the week in Washington, D.C. working on a variety of our conservation priorities; including the Sportsmen’s Act, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and of course the federal Farm Bill.
A few weeks ago, I watched an episode of the television news program 60 minutes focused on our political leaders’ desire to return to the statesmanship and bi-partisan cooperation of a bi-gone era. I watched those Senators on camera and felt a renewed sense of hope. This week’s visit to our nation’s capital made it clear those intentions were nothing more than a political façade.
This bill is an incredible compilation of hunter’s favorites in need of Congressional action. It contains habitat programs like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Fish & Wildlife Service’s Partners Program, and a host of other policies that would provide wildlife habitat and public hunting access.
Leading up to this week’s debate, the bill enjoyed the support of virtually every single hunting and wildlife conservation organization in the country; organizations representing millions of Americans. The measure garnered strong bi-partisan support during early procedural votes to move the measure forward through Congress. Yet, in the final hours, one single Senator raising a budget point of order brought the entire package down leaving it smoldering like a burned South Dakota cattail slough.
The point of order Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions raised focused on an increase to the price of the Federal Duck Stamp – a measure we support along with our friends at Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl. The federal duck stamp has been an incredibly successful program in place since the ‘30’s and is desperately in need of additional revenues to keep pace with skyrocketing land prices. The proposed increase in revenues from the wallets of willing waterfowlers and wetlands enthusiasts provided the ridiculously miniscule technicality allowing Senator Sessions to derail the entire bill. Last minute attempts to resolve the revenue issue by Senator Jon Tester working across the aisle with others including Senator John Thune using Thune’s sodsaver provision savings proved too little too late. Even with resolution at this point Senator Boxer was prepared to intervene as well – all of this coming after nearly unanimous votes of 84 and 92 supporting passage.
Several of our favorite Farm bill conservation programs remain closed to enrollment, pending action by Congress as well. Leadership from both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees continue to press for pathways to complete action on the full five-year bill that has passed the full Senate and House Committee. Several options remain possible including attaching the measure to end of the year legislation related to the fiscal cliff or extension of existing law for a shorter term. House leadership offices have indicated that the measure will be acted upon in some fashion.
Call on your elected Representative and both of your Senators right now. Tell them to get it done on the Sportsmen’s Act, tell them to get it done on a comprehensive five-year farm bill, and most of all tell them to get it done on the fiscal cliff. It’s time to forgo actions based upon an R or D behind names and to act together as Americans. Help us urge Congress to expedite actions before the lame duck session ends.
Wednesday, November 28th, 2012
There comes a time in your life when you’re so moved by someone’s generosity it leaves you feeling guilty. You feel ashamed for not being able to come up with the right words to properly show the gratitude deserved. But then again, sometimes the space found between the words “thank you” represent much more than the words themselves.
This autumn the father of one of my best friends passed away unexpectedly. He had just finished chemotherapy and had been cleared to go celebrate the occasion with his son out west for a bird hunt. With a heavy heart, it’s still hard to believe his boots never touched the plateau prairie as the plane he was piloting westward from Minnesota to Wyoming tragically crashed.
This came as a shock to anyone who’d ever had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Don Kundel. He was a husband, father, friend, veteran, and a mentor who loved sharing his passion of wing shooting most of all; a passion that lives on today through his son and my close friend, Donnie.
A few years back after just being hired by Pheasants Forever, Donnie lent me his father’s 12-gauge Browning Citori for a pheasant hunt. Having never shouldered anything other than the same pump scattergun my whole life, I marveled at its beauty and the way it felt so balanced the first time I swung on a bird. Donnie quickly recognized my affinity for the Citori. To my disbelief, Donnie offered the ongoing use of the over/under as long as it saw plenty of use and received its proper care.
Time went by and I kept up my end of the bargain. I folded roosters, broke clays, knocked down quail, and shot in the general direction of ruffed grouse all while feeling quite lucky to be doing so in the company of such craftsmanship. I thought the fact I respected and appreciated the gun was what counted. I was wrong. What the gun represented was what truly mattered.
Before Don’s funeral, I received a phone call from Donnie in which he said they wanted all of the charitable gifts from friends and family to be directed to a Pheasants Forever “Build a Wildlife Area” project since they knew this is what Don would have wanted. I was humbled. Before I got off the phone, Donnie also told me they wished for me to keep the Browning Citori because – this too – is what his dad would have wanted. I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t.
Every time I’ve hit the fields this fall that Citori has felt different. Sometimes you can catch yourself going through the motions, just pushing through one last cattail slough or trying to reach the top of one more ridge and you forget to be a part of the actual moment. It now only takes a quick glance at what’s in my hands to remember how lucky we all are to be able to walk fields with friends, enjoy the companionship of a good bird dog, and laugh about missed shots.
That gun is no longer fawned over for its fine wood and solid steel, but it’s cherished for representing a legacy I’m lucky enough to be continuing. And one day, someday, maybe I will be able to give back and add to this legacy. But until then, I’m not going to take for granted the moments I’m presented each fall.
One friend’s gesture has made a lasting impact on my life, one family’s generosity will help leave a lasting legacy in the outdoor world we all know and love. And for that, I have to say “thank you.”
The Over/Under blog is written by Andrew Vavra, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Marketing Specialist.
Wednesday, October 31st, 2012
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
–Excerpt from William Wordsworth’s poem “The World is Too Much with Us”
You may recall these lines of poetry from high school English class and wonder of their place in this pheasant guy’s blog. The answer to their presence begins on Saturday morning under a glorious sunny sky.
I was hunting with my dad, brother, 10-year old nephew, my dad’s Brittany and my two shorthairs. The temps were crisp and the winds were low. All the elements were in place for a memorable day afield.
Then, I began to shoot and miss. In total, I racked up a dozen misses without meat for the pot by late afternoon. My frustration mounted. My smile disappeared. My words became short. I had lost perspective.
That’s when my 7-month-old shorthair, Izzy, raced back to me with terror in her eyes and a mouth full of porcupine. Quickly, my dad and brother came to my aid, and we successfully removed more than two dozen quills mostly outside of Izzy’s muzzle. It’s no secret a bad porcupine encounter can be life threatening. Izzy and I had gotten off lucky, and in fact, that porcupine had given me perspective on my inaccuracy, in shooting and in how I’d been living life that day.
What was true in Wordsworth’s time is still true today; the world is too much with us. I often think about society’s disconnection to nature from Leopold’s perspective of food and land. However, the weekend’s porcupine added the complexity of society’s disconnection to nature that Wordsworth references. In simplest terms, life is short. A missed shot, even a box of missed shots, shouldn’t deflect your eyes from the blessing of a day afield with a healthy family, happy bird dogs and our natural world.
Perhaps today’s blog is a little too heavy, so allow me to lighten up my point. Take tomorrow off from work and go bird hunting. You only live once, so you better make the most of the trip.
Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
Although most of my favorite outdoor publications annually run the same old tired stories about “getting into shape before bird hunting season,” I don’t think the non-hunter realizes the physical demands of a walk across the prairie, or through the forest, with a shotgun in tow. Similarly, I doubt most forest grouse hunters appreciate the exertion needed for a wild pheasant hunt and vice versa. It’s along these lines the debate in the Pheasants Forever offices last week commenced.
At 5’8” tall, some consider me relatively short . . . Okay, I’m really 5’7” and a ¼” . . . Anyway, I’ve always considered pheasant hunting to be far more physically demanding than grouse hunting. The resistance of the tall prairie grasses, cattails and brush against my short legs have always led to extreme leg fatigue and cramping, while ducking in and through alder swamps and aspen thickets have been relatively easy for me.
To my surprise, my taller colleagues Andrew Vavra, Anthony Hauck and Rehan Nana complained of finding the grouse woods to be far more difficult than the pheasant fields. They find the ducking out of the way of branches, climbing over deadfalls, and squeezing through poplar thickets to be much more of a physical workout than a sojourn across a pheasant prairie. I grew up hunting ruffed grouse in Michigan’s northwoods, while all three of these guys cut their teeth on the open pheasant prairies of Minnesota and Kansas, respectively.
So the debate has got me thinking about the classic nurture versus nature debate, from a bird hunter’s perspective. Are the physical demands of pheasant hunting and ruffed grouse hunting directly related to your height or to the type of hunting one is introduced to in the beginning?
How tall are you, what kind of bird hunting did you grow up on, and what type of bird hunting is hardest on your body?