Archive for the ‘Quail’ Category
Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
Not only are certain myths about pheasant and quail populations prevalent, belief in them takes the focus away from what really has an impact on sustainable bird numbers – the creation and management of upland habitat. Here’s a closer look at five widely-held beliefs about America’s most popular upland gamebirds.
Busted: During the last half century, there has been a colossal amount of money spent on supplemental stocking programs by state and local governments, sportsman’s groups and private individuals. Countless studies have shown that stocked pheasants, no matter when they are released, have great difficulty maintaining self-sustaining populations. Predators take the main toll, accounting for 90 percent of the deaths; at the same time, predators are conditioned to the idea that pheasants are an easy target.
Pen-raised birds do provide shooting opportunities and are a good way to introduce new hunters to hunting in a controlled situation; they’re also handy for training dogs. But the bottom line is stocking pen-raised pheasants and quail will not effectively increase populations. Only by addressing the root problem that is suppressing populations – the availability and quality of upland habitat – can a long-term positive impact be made on upland bird numbers.
Busted: Yes, coyotes and fox will eat pheasants and quail, and raccoons and skunks are likely culprits when it comes to raided nests. But predators don’t eat habitat, which is far and away the biggest reason why pheasant populations decline. High annual losses to predators should not be misunderstood to mean that predation is responsible for long-term upland population declines. Landscapes with good habitat often have high numbers of pheasant numbers, as well as high numbers of many potential predators.
The impact of predators is magnified and often pinpointed as the primary problem after habitat conditions deteriorate. Confine pheasants and quail to smaller and smaller parcels of habitat, and a predator’s job gets a whole lot easier. Thankfully, well-designed habitat projects can reduce predation by up to 80 percent. Through the addition and management of habitat, not only does there tend to be a decrease in the impact predators make on existing nests, but more habitat is likely to increase the number of nests and the overall gamebird population. And habitat for pheasants and quail comes at a fraction of the cost of other intensive predator reduction methods that are cost-prohibitive across a large area.
Busted: A single Florida study from the 1930s noted an instance of turkeys destroying quail eggs. No biological study since has documented turkeys damaging quail nests or feeding on chicks. Turkey researchers have not found a single quail chick or egg fragment while examining thousands of turkey stomachs. In addition, scientists monitoring quail chicks fitted with radio transmitters and watching quail nests via remote cameras have yet to catch a turkey in the act. Given that literally hundreds of studies of wild turkey food habits and predation on quail have been conducted over the past 80 years, the lack of evidence is remarkable. The conclusion is that turkeys have no direct role in the decline of quail.
Myth: Hunting is hurting pheasant numbers.
Busted: Extensive research has shown hunting has little-to-no effect on pheasant reproduction and populations. Hens and roosters are easily distinguished in wingshooting situations, and because hens are protected through game regulations, pheasants are actually managed much more conservatively than many other gamebirds. And because roosters are polygamous – that is, they will mate with multiple hens – hunting in effect is only removing a “surplus” of males not absolutely necessary for reproduction the following spring.
Most of a pheasant season’s harvest takes place during the opening weekend, sometimes as much as 50 percent. Additionally, the majority of pheasant hunters are most active during the first two weeks of the season. Considering these factors, liberal, lengthy, roosters-only seasons do not harm populations.
Busted: Two factors affect upland bird populations above all others: habitat and weather. And while we can’t control the weather, we can influence the amount and quality of upland habitat. Habitat is what supports strong and healthy pheasant and quail populations – one need only look at how pheasant populations rose in the late 1980s, 1990s and 2000s coinciding with increases in Conservation Reserve Program upland acreage, and their subsequent decreases as those acres diminished. Historically, a lot of money has been spent trying to stock pheasants and to battle predators. Had these dollars been invested in habitat restoration, pheasants, quail and other upland wildlife would’ve benefitted.
Thursday, March 20th, 2014
Food and cover plots fit into almost any wildlife habitat management plan and, let’s face it, they are also really fun to hunt. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have expanded the line of Signature Series Food and Cover Mixes to 15 options with the 2014 additions of Cane Madness and White Lightning.
“There is a strong relationship between the location of food, thermal cover and winter survival for upland birds – so food plots are a critical factor in effective wildlife management,” says Jim Wooley, Director of Field Operations for Quail Forever, “Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Signature Series Food and Cover Mixes target a host of upland wildlife and big game species, and work all over pheasant and quail country.”
Cane Madness - Cane Madness is a phenomenal mix of high-yielding tall cane sorghums. It creates an abundant food source and cover for birds while also providing “screen habitat” for deer. This blend of the heaviest-seeded forage sorghums is designed to provide what matters most for game birds – cover that stands up to winter, and abundant high energy food. This mix enhances the character of existing winter cover when planted next to it, improves survival rates, and insures peak breeding conditions for birds. It can also provide stand-alone winter habitat and food if established in very large plots. A 25 lb. bag of Cane Madness plants 4-5 acres that can be established with standard planters, grain drills or broadcast seeders. Plant each spring at 5-6 lbs/acre when soil temperatures warm to 60 degrees. Matures in 95-110 days.
White Lightning - This is a prescription blend of white and cream-seeded sorghum proven to attract both deer and upland birds. Simply put, this special mixture of mild-flavored, light-seeded sorghums will provide great food and safe foraging for game birds, and keep local deer happy as well. Plant this mix next to your existing winter cover to enhance its character and to improve survival by minimizing bird movement. A 25 lb. bag of White Lightning plants 4-5 acres. Establish with standard planters, grain drills or broadcast seeders. Plant each spring at 5-6 lbs/acre when soil temperatures warm to 60 degrees. Matures in 95-110 days.?
Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic runs Friday, February 14th through Sunday, February 16th at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee. In addition to more than 300 exhibitors, there will be seven seminar stages with hourly presentations. The event is presented by MidwayUSA.
Antler sheds. Looking to keep your bird dog busy this offseason? Renowned trainer Tom Dokken is revolutionizing the sport of using dogs to hunt for sheds and presenting at National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic.
Benelli has introduced the new Ethos shotgun for 2014, and you can get your first look at it at National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic.
Cabela’s, World’s Foremost Outfitter, longtime Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever supporter, is presenting sponsor of Rudy’s Youth Village at the show.
Delmar Smith. “To train like a pro…you’ve got to think like a dog.” Well, Delmar has 75 years of experience thinking like a dog, and you can catch up with him on the “Ask the Experts” panel at the Bird Dog Bonanza Stage.
Expert dog trainers. When Delmar Smith, Ronnie Smith, Tom Dokken, Jim Moorehouse and Bob West form a panel for you to ask questions, that’s a combined 260 years of dog training know-how. Each day on the Bird Dog Bonanza Stage.
Free, as in wildlife habitat management plan. Stop by the Landowner Habitat Help Room at the show and you can consult with a wildlife professional about conservation options for your property from anywhere in the country.
Griffons. Wirehaired Pointing Griffons are growing in popularity perhaps faster than any other sporting breed. Learn more at the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Club of America booth.
Habitat. Pheasants Forever’s tagline is “The Habitat Organization.” If your passion is improving habitat for pheasants, quail and other wildlife, the Habitat Hall group of exhibitors is a must.
Is your mouth watering? Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are hosting their own “top chefs” at the show, including wild game chefs Tovar Cerulli, author of The Mindful Carnivore and David Draper of Field and Stream’s The Wild Chef blog.
J&L Boykins is one of the man bird dog exhibitors at the show. Check out all the bird dog breeds at the Bird Dog Alley.
K9…you can bet there are a couple of exhibitors listed under this letter/number combo.
Life Membership. Make the ultimate commitment to conservation by becoming a Pheasants Forever Life Member. Visit the Pheasants Forever booth by the show floor main entrance.
Missing. If you’re tired of it, then it’s time for a new gun. Check out all the top makers on the show floor: Benelli, Beretta, Browning…
Native grasslands can offer quality nesting cover for pheasants. Come to the Habitat Stage and learn about diversifying and improving this critical habitat.
Outdoor apparel. Start at the Pheasants Forever MarketPlace on the show floor for your Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever-logoed gear. Your product purchases here support wildlife habitat conservation.
Pollinator habitat. What does it have to do with pheasants and quail? Check out the presentations on the Habitat Stage.
Quail are Scott Linden’s favorite bird to hunt. Stop by the Wingshooting USA booth and meet the venerable television host who’s an expert on bobwhite and western quail species.
Rudy the Rooster is Pheasants Forever’s youth mascot. Visit the Youth Village area of the show and get your picture taken with him.
Smith, as in Delmar, Rick and Ronnie. National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic is a rare opportunity to see the three from this legendary dog training family at the same event.
Training. E-Collars. GPS. Pointers. Puppies. Retrievers. Spaniels. If you can name it, you’ll find a how-to on it.
U.S. Bank presents Pheasants Forever’s Visa Card. Stop by their booth, sign up for their card and receive either a hardcover wild game recipe book, a green PF shooters bag or a chance on a Tri-Star Setter 12 gauge shotgun.
Vegan-turned-hunter Tovar Cerulli, author of The Mindful Carnivore, provides a unique perspective on the Wild Game Cooking Stage.
Wingshooting from the good ‘ol days with the L.C. Smith Collectors Association and the Parker Gun Collectors Association.
X marks your next upland hunting spot, and the tourism divisions from the likes of Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, plus regional tourism representatives and guides and outfitters are here help you book your dream trip.
Yum… Hank Shaw is a hunter, chef, blogger and author of Hunt, Gather, Cook – Finding the Forgotten Feast. See him on the Wild Game Cooking Stage.
Zero-turn lawnmowers. Check out Wisconsin-based – and Pheasants Forever national sponsor, Scag Power equipment, one of more than 300 exhibitors at the show.
Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
A few minutes ago, by a vote of 251 to 166 the United States House of Representatives passed the Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the farm bill. The bill now awaits Senate action. All indications are the Senate will act on the bill shortly.
The farm bill, if signed into law, will make substantial changes to conservation policies and programs. Included are needed policy changes to conservation compliance and provisions to protect native prairies from conversion in six states (N.D., S.D., Minn., Iowa, Neb., Mont.). U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs are consolidated from 23 to 13. Included is re-authorization of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) at 24 million acres, a new agricultural conservation easement program, and working lands conservation programs. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are in support of the passage of this farm bill and look forward to using these new tools to create wildlife habitat.
The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.
Thursday, October 31st, 2013
Yesterday, Farm Bill conferees met for the first time to craft the final version of the Farm Bill that will go before the full Congress for a vote. This has been a process that has taken more than two years, so it’s critical all bird hunters contact the conferees listed below urging final passage of a Farm Bill immediately. Failure to pass a Farm Bill by year’s end would be devastating to wildlife and hunter access.
“If a Farm Bill doesn’t pass by year’s end critical programs like CRP and WRP will remain unavailable,” explained Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s vice president of government affairs.
Nomsen continued, “we saw the power of our collective voice as hunters earlier this month when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service re-opened Waterfowl Production Areas during the government shutdown. Today, it’s even more critical for all of us to raise those voices. The future of our hunting heritage hangs in the balance. It may seem like I’m over-stating the severity of the situation, but I am not. This is zero-hour for pheasants, quail, ducks, deer, turkeys, America’s water quality and hunter access.”
The following components are critical to Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s support of a new Farm Bill:
- Conservation Compliance connected to crop insurance
- National Sodsaver to protect our country’s last remaining native prairies
- A Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) with a minimum 25 million acre baseline
- A 5-year Farm Bill
The list below is the full roster of Farm Bill conferees. If you live within the districts of these individuals, it’s imperative they hear your voice as a hunter and conservationist urging for strong conservation policy in a new Farm Bill. Follow this link to Contact your elected officials. Thank you for standing up for America’s sportsmen and women!
Farm Bill Conferees
Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
“What is your ideal mixed bag hunt?” For me, it’s an easy answer: pheasant and quail in the same field. Nebraska is known for being a mixed bag state, so I’ve been anxiously waiting to get to day three of the Rooster Road Trip, where Nebraska Coordinating Wildlife Biologist Jake Holt tipped us off there had been a good quail hatch.
Unlike many hunting “tips,” Jake was dead on, and the “Cornhusker State” didn’t let us down. In fact, after nearly five days on the road, it brought us up. How did we do?
This was the best day of hunting for the Rooster Road Trip – ever.
Seventeen birds ended up in the bag today. Wild, publicly-accessed pheasants AND wild, publicly-accessed quail.
Our first field was a 30-acre parcel with the perfect amount of diverse cover, which produced a diverse mix of birds. Two munsterlanders, my red setter, and Andrew’s Lab, “Beau,” all hit the ground running. Within the first 100 yards a ringneck busted out of range, but luckily, it wasn’t the only bird. Hens were darting left and right past us.
I let Annie range down the line of hunters and she cast over to Andrew. Even though Andrew owns a Lab, he must have some pointer-owner in him somewhere, because he confidently let Annie work and then called over “Point!” No sooner than he said that, two bobs zipped past our line and our shot. Thankfully, those were only the scouts. Immediately after, a healthy 15-bird covey made the grass shake, and we scratched two down.
“Where we have grass, we have birds,” Holt said.
Pushing the field out, pheasants started flushing like grasshoppers in August. A rooster crossed right-left (my favorite shot), and thanks to well-placed Federal Prairie Storm 4’s, it ended up in the pack. Within 80 yards, we put up another covey of birds, and I dropped a cock bird. So, thirty minutes into hunting Nebraska, I had my first Cornhusker ringneck and bobwhite, a sequence I’ll play over and over again in the off-season. Thanks, Nebraska!
Shooting a Browning Citori 725, I had the opportunity to pick and choose my shells/barrel. Knowing I was officially in mixed bag country, I dropped a 7 steel in the top tube and 4 steel in the bottom. Shortly before the end of the field, I managed to bag my second rooster of the day on another right-left crossing shot (Rooster Road Trip Roadies, do you agree with this shell combo? What would you have used in this situation?).
I wish I could tell you names and other shots taken, but truthfully, there was too much shooting and too many birds to keep it straight! What I can tell you is every field we hunted produced in a big way, and these are areas open to you too. The Open Fields and Waters Program is a joint project of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Pheasants Forever.
The only thing that topped the hunting today was the company. We were joined today by Nebraska Game and Parks Commissioners Mick Jensen and Lynn Berggren. On the ride over, Commissioner Berggren and I discussed his youth growing up hunting pheasants in Nebraska and how he passed his outdoor tradition on to his children. He mentioned how important pheasant hunting has been and still is to the communities in Nebraska, both culturally and economically, and the positive things that are being done, especially with getting youth involved, to carry on the traditions.
From the dog work, to the pheasant/quail combo to the camaraderie, today will probably be one of the best days afield this season. It’s always a pleasure to share the field with people who share conservation and outdoor ethics, and today was no exception. With the last field pushed and photos wrapped up, the Nebraska commissioners and biologists heartily invited us back for a late season hunt, and after the day we had, there is no doubt we’ll be back.
Annie’s Tracks according to the Garmin Alpha: 9.61 miles
My Tracks: 6.30
Thursday, October 17th, 2013
“Hunters are increasingly motivated by meat,” that’s the headline of a report released on Wednesday by Responsive Management, an international survey research firm. According to their findings, the percentage of hunters identifying “for the meat” as the most important reason for hunting participation rose from 22 percent in 2006 up to 35 percent during this year’s study.
The report attributes the 13 percent climb to three factors; 1) the recession, 2) the locavore movement and 3) the increased participation of females in hunting. Summarizing the findings, Responsive Management concludes our country’s economic downturn has reinvigorated people’s food acquisition through hunting because of its relative affordability (they obviously haven’t accompanied me to Gander Mountain). Their research also indicates women have a slightly greater propensity to choose “for the meat” as a motivation over their male counterparts.
While I agree the economy and gender have played a role in the rise of wild game meat motivation, it’s the “locavore movement” I believe has had the most influence in this quest for game meats. As I look across “pop culture;” from television to magazines to books to restaurants. I see prime time shows featuring Andrew Zimmern on a squirrel hunt, I see Hank Shaw’s books climbing Amazon’s best sellers list, I read about Lily Raff McCaulou leading Elle magazine on a rabbit hunt and I see restaurant menus featuring quail eggs. Further, almost every episode of the hugely popular Duck Dynasty series ends with a family dinner around a plate of frog legs or mallard breasts. In fact, I believe this new embrace of wild meats is fostering a greater understanding of hunting across society.
While I’m certain Aldo Leopold never would have imagined Zimmern’s propensity for bug-eating, I do think Zimmern and today’s other locavore leaders can attribute their local food roots direct to Leopold’s 1949 philosophy from A Sand County Almanac:
“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” – Aldo Leopold
The obvious hope of organizations like Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever is today’s locavore trend will take one additional step toward Leopold’s writings – wildlife habitat conservation. Whether you favor beef or venison, chicken or pheasant, the common connector is our land. It is my belief society’s need for food and water will someday soon change our seemingly insatiable appetite to tile our uplands and drain our wetlands. Or to put it more plainly, local food will lead to local conservation.
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.
Thursday, May 16th, 2013
After months of delays and political posturing, both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives’ Agriculture Committees began work on a new Farm Bill this week. As you’d expect, I was there along with PF’s Jim Inglis to make sure the voices of our members, bird hunters and conservationists were heard. The Farm Bill remains our single most important tool for wildlife, water and hunters.
In the Senate Committee
On Tuesday, May 14th, the Senate Agriculture Committee finished the Farm Bill markup in just three hours, which may be a record! Their efficiency stems from their pretty much sticking to last year’s template. There are, however, a few amendments deserving attention due to their value for wildlife.
First, it was clearly demonstrated the Senate supports linking crop insurance to conservation compliance. Second, we were very excited to see the important Sodsaver language make it into the bill. Third, there were amendments to help USDA distribute technical assistance funding, which would give NRCS more flexibility to enter into agreements with Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever to deliver conservation programs. And lastly, there was some interesting language on increasing habitat for pollinators, especially honey bees. As we have mentioned before, great pollinator habitat can be great for all wildlife, particularly pheasants and quail.
Ultimately, the Senate Committee version of the Farm Bill passed by a vote of 15 to 5. That bill is now headed to the full Senate floor for a vote. In fact, there is a chance the Senate’s vote may happen as early as next week.
In the House Committee
On Wednesday, May 15th, the House Ag committee began work on their Farm Bill mark. There was very little action on the Conservation Title during the session, and still no language to tie crop insurance to conservation compliance. We were certainly disappointed by that omission, but remain optimistic it can be remedied in conference committee. We are also hopeful to direct more EQIP/WHIP funding for wildlife priorities, however those amendments were withdrawn. At near midnight (14 hours after the start), the House passed their version of the Bill by a vote of 36-10.
House leadership is postulating a floor vote may occur sometime in June where we hope to strengthen some of the conservation language in the Conservation Title.
A group of Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever chapter leaders, farmers, landowners and staff will be in Washington, D.C. next week meeting with our elected officials as we work to strengthen the conservation components of the bill in preparation for floor votes.
Additionally, we were excited to see the USDA open Continuous CRP practices to landowners this week and are optimistic there will be strong demand for the general CRP signup that starts on Monday, May 20th. If you are a landowner interested in learning more about CRP, please check out one of our landowner meetings taking place in coordination with the signup. A full list of landowner workshops is available at www.CRPMeetings.org and as always, your local USDA Service Center is an excellent source of CRP information.
The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.
Monday, April 29th, 2013
Last year’s list of the 25 Best Pheasant Hunting Towns in America selected locales predominately based in the Midwest where the ringneck is king. Because Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever members hail from all reaches of the United States, from Alabama to Alaska, we’ve assembled this year’s list to include pheasants as well as multiple quail species, prairie grouse and even forest birds. The main criterion was to emphasize areas capable of providing multiple species, along with destinations most-welcoming to bird hunters. In other words, there were bonus points awarded for “mixed bag” opportunities and neon signs “welcoming bird hunters” in this year’s analysis. We also avoided re-listing last year’s 25 towns, so what you now have is a good bucket list of 50 destinations for the traveling wingshooter!
What towns did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.
1. Pierre, South Dakota. This Missouri River town puts you in the heart of pheasant country, but the upland fun doesn’t stop there. In 2011 (the last year numbers were available) approximately 30 roosters per square mile were harvested in Hughes County. Cross the river and head south of Pierre and you’re into the Fort Pierre National Grassland, where sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens become the main quarry. In fact, the U.S. Forest Service manages the Fort Pierre National Grassland specifically for these native birds. Just North of Pierre also boasts some of the state’s best gray (Hungarian) partridge numbers as well.
While you’re there: Myril Arch’s Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse goes through an average of 60,000 pounds of aged, choice beef a year, so they must know what they’re doing.
2. Lewistown, Montana. Located in the geographic center of the state, Lewistown is the perfect city to home base a public land upland bird hunt. Fergus County has ring-necked pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, gray (Hungarian) partridge, as well as sage grouse. You’ll chase these upland birds with stunning buttes and mountain ranges as almost surreal backdrops, and find no shortage of publically accessible land, whether state or federally owned. Two keystone Pheasants Forever wildlife habitat projects are 45 minutes from Lewistown. Located six miles north of Denton, Montana, the 800-acre Coffee Creek BLOCK Management Area is located between a 320-acre parcel and an 880-acre parcel of land – all three areas are open to public hunting. Pheasants Forever also acquired a 1,000 acre parcel known as the Wolf Creek Property, a project which created 14,000 contiguous acres open to public walk-in hunting.
While you’re there: Once the birds have been cleaned and the dog has been fed, head over to the 87 Bar & Grill in Stanford for their house specialty smoked ribs and steaks.
3. Hettinger, North Dakota. Disregard state lines and you can’t tell the difference between southwest North Dakota and the best locales in South Dakota. Hettinger gets the nod in this region because of a few more Private Land Open to Sportsmen (P.L.O.T.S.) areas.
While you’re there: A visit north to the Pheasant Café in Mott seems like a must.
4. Huron, South Dakota. Home to the “World’s Largest Pheasant,” Huron is also home to some darn good pheasant hunting. From state Game Production Areas to federal Waterfowl Production Areas to a mix of walk-in lands, there’s enough public land in the region to never hunt the same area twice on a 5 or 10-day trip, unless of course you find a honey hole.
While you’re there: The Hwy. 14 Roadhouse in nearby Cavour has the type of good, greasy food that goes down guilt free after a long day of pheasant hunting.
5. Valentine, Nebraska. One of the most unique areas in the United States, the nearly 20,000 square mile Nebraska Sandhills region is an outdoor paradise, and Valentine, which rests at the northern edge of the Sandhills, was named one of the best ten wilderness towns and cities by National Geographic Adventure magazine in 2007. Because the Sandhills are 95 percent grassland, it remains one of the most vital areas for greater prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse in the country. Grouse can be found on the 115,000-acre Samuel McKelvie National Forest, and grouse and pheasants may be encountered on the 73,000-acre Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.
While you’re there: Head over to the Peppermill & E. K. Valentine Lounge and devour the Joseph Angus Burger, a finalist in the Nebraska Beef Council’s Best Burger Contest.
6. White Bird, Idaho. Hells Canyon is 8,000 feet of elevation, and at various levels includes pheasants, quail, gray partridge and forest grouse. Show up in shape and plan the right route up and down, and you may encounter many of these species in one day. It’s considered by many wingshooting enthusiasts to be a “hunt of a lifetime.” Nearly 40 percent of Idaho’s Hells Canyon is publically accessible, either through state-owned lands, U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands or U.S. Forest Service lands.
While you’re there: Floats and rafting adventures are popular on the Salmon River, in case your bird hunt also needs to double as a family vacation.
7. Heppner, Oregon. Nestled in the Columbia Basin, within a half-hour drive hunters have the opportunity to harvest pheasants, California quail, Huns, chukar, and in the nearby Blue Mountains, Dusky grouse, ruffed grouse and at least the chance of running into mountain quail. With the exception of the Umatilla National Forest for grouse, the hunting opportunity is mostly on private land in the area, but the state has a number of agreements in the area for private land access through its Open Fields, Upland Cooperative Access Program and Regulated Hunt Areas.
While you’re there: As you scout, make sure to drive from Highway 74, also called the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, winding south from Interstate 84 through Ione, Lexington and Heppner.
8. Winnemucca, Nevada. Winnemucca claims legendary status as the “Chukar Captial of the Country.” Long seasons (first Saturday in October through January 31), liberal bag limits (daily limit of six; possession limit of 18) and the fact that these birds are found almost exclusively on public land make chukar Nevada’s most popular game bird. The covey birds do well here in the steep, rugged canyons that mirror the original chukar habitat of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the birds’ native countries. Just know the first time you hunt chukar is for fun, the rest of your life is for revenge.
While you’re there: Nearby Orovada, 44 miles to the north of Winnemucca, is known for excellent hunting areas as well as breathtaking views of the Sawtooth Mountains.
9. Albany, Georgia. Buoyed by tradition and cemented with a local culture built upon the local quail plantation economy, Albany has a reputation as the “quail hunting capital of the world” and a citizenry that embraces “Gentleman Bob.”
While you’re there: save an hour for the 60 mile trip South to Thomasville, Georgia where you can visit Kevin’s, a landmark sporting goods retailer devoted to the bird hunter.
10. Milaca, Minnesota. There are places in Minnesota where pheasants can be found in greater abundance, ditto for ruffed grouse. But there are few places where a hunter may encounter both in such close proximity. While pheasants are found primarily on private land here, state Wildlife Management Areas in the region offer a chance at a rare pheasant/grouse double, including the 40,000-acre Mille Laces WMA. The nearby Rum River State Forest provides 40,000 acres to search for forest birds.
While you’re there: For lunch, the Rough-Cut Grill & Bar in Milaca is the place. This isn’t the type of joint with a lighter portion menu, so fill up and plan on walking it all off in the afternoon…before you come back for supper.
11. Sonoita, Arizona. Central in Arizona’s quail triangle – the Patagonia/Sonoita/Elgin tri-city area – the crossroads of U.S. Highways 82 and 83 puts you in the epicenter of Mearns’ quail country, and 90 percent of the world’s Mearns’ hunting takes place in Arizona. Surrounded by scenic mountain ranges, the pups will find the hotels dog friendly, and moderate winter temps extend through the quail hunting season. Sonoita is also close to desert grasslands (scaled quail) and desert scrub (Gambel’s quail). After your Mearns’ hunt in the oak-lined canyons, you can work toward the Triple Crown.
12. Abilene, Kansas. A gateway to the Flint Hills to the north and central Kansas to the west, the two areas in recent years that have produced the best quail hunting in the Sunflower State.
13. Eureka, South Dakota. Legend has it the town’s name stems from the first settler’s reaction to all the pheasants observed in the area – “Eureka!”
14. Wing, North Dakota. Located just northeast of Bismarck, this town’s name is a clear indication of its premiere attraction. While primarily a waterfowler’s paradise, bird hunters looking to keep their boots dry can find pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and Huns on ample public ground.
15. Redfield, South Dakota. By law, there can only be one officially trademarked “Pheasant Capital of the World” and Redfield is the owner of that distinction . . . and for good reason!
16. Tallahassee, Florida. Home to Tall Timbers, a partner non-profit focused on quail research, this north Florida town is steeped in the quail plantation culture and quail hunting tradition.
17. Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. This fisherman’s paradise also makes for an excellent October launching off point for the bird hunter. Head south toward Fergus Falls to bag your limit of roosters, then jog northeast to find ruffed grouse and timberdoodles amongst thousands of acres of public forest lands. Point straight west and you’ll find prairie chickens in nearby Clay County if you’re lucky enough to pull a Minnesota prairie chicken permit.
18. Park Falls, Wisconsin. For more than 25 years, Park Falls has staked its claim as the “Ruffed Grouse Capital of the World.” It’s more than just proclamation – more than 5,000 acres in the area are intensively managed as ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat.
19. Iron River, Michigan. Four-season recreation is Iron County’s claim to fame, and with the nearby Ottawa National Forest, it’s no coincidence the county bills itself as the woodcock capital of the world.
20. Lander, Wyoming. Wyoming is home to about 54 percent of the greater sage-grouse in the United States, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Wyoming manages millions of publically-accessible acres.
21. Miles City, Montana. Sharp-tailed grouse are well dispersed throughout southeast Montana, and the state boasts the highest daily bag limit – four birds – in the country. Thicker cover along riparian areas also provides chances at ringnecks. Did we mention there are roughly 2.5 million acres of publicly-accessible land in this region?
22. Spirit Lake, Iowa. The many Waterfowl Production Areas and their cattails make northwest Iowa a great late-season pheasant hunting option.
23. Holyoke, Colorado. Lots of Pheasants Forever and state programs – including walk-in areas – are at work in Phillips County which has made the rural, northeast Colorado town of Holyoke the state’s shining upland star.
24. Barstow, California. San Bernardino County is a top quail producer in the state, and the vast Mojave National Preserve is the most popular destination for hunters from throughout southern California, where wingshooters can also find chukar in addition to quail.
25. Anchorage, Alaska. From the regional hub of Anchorage, bird hunters can drive or fly to excellent hunting areas in all directions, which include ptarmigan, ruffed grouse and spruce grouse. To maximize your chances and stay safe here, consider hiring a guide.
Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
Your autumn and winter food and cover plot starts in the spring. Now that planting season has arrived, you may haves questions about establishing your Pheasants Forever Signature Series Food and Cover mixes.
Why do I need food plots on my farm? High-quality grain food plots play a critical role in the relationship between food, cover, movement and winter bird mortality. The logic is simple. Locating well-planned food and cover plots adjacent to heavy roosting cover provides a dependable source of high-energy food. Having food right next door to winter cover helps establish safe foraging patterns, and minimizes movements – so predation and weather losses are reduced.
What makes PF food plot mixes special? Our biologists have developed Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever grain and forage mixes to provide the food and cover that the wildlife on your farm need. Through continual improvement of our products, we have formulated very specific blends that are adaptable to most growing conditions, and that maximize benefits for your wildlife.
Are specialized mixes worth the extra cost? Seed cost will likely be the smallest expense in your overall food plot spending, yet it is the foundation of your effort to improve food resources for wildlife. Buy the very best seed that you can for your food plots. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever food plot products come to you after extensive development and research, and following years of successful establishment on farms across the country. And they come to you with the full backing of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, two of the most respected private conservation organizations in the nation.
Must I use herbicides? Weed competition is the most serious threat your food plot will face. Thus, we recommend some sort of herbicide treatment. Food plots planted without weed control will have highly variable results. Weed problems can be addressed by tillage, chemical suppression, or a combination of both. A few weeds in a food plot will actually improve the diversity of the area for wildlife. However, severe weed competition that causes the primary planting to fail can waste your food plot investment, and puts your wildlife in a bad position when winter arrives. Pay attention to weed control recommendations on the bag for best results for your planting.
Do I need fertilizer? Food plots are a crop, and you should fertilize just as you would your garden. Nutrients in your planting area are easily assessed before the planting season with a simple soil test (farm co-ops, and/or USDA offices routinely do this at low cost), and you should amend the soil accordingly before you plant. Rotating grain food plots into areas previously established in legume browse may save money on nitrogen, but nearly all food plots need some supplemental nutrients. Legume food plots do not need nitrogen, but normally require some soil supplements to optimize the stand. Several PF/QF mixes carry micronutrient seed coatings to help our seed to get a jump on early growth. Even so, primary fertilization is almost always a must-do operation.
How do I decide which mixes are right for my farm? Examine your habitat objectives for your farm, what you would like to accomplish for wildlife, and what your desires are for hunting and wildlife viewing. Look particularly at winter food and cover conditions. If this habitat is limited, you will need grain food plots to assist game birds, and may benefit other wildlife by establishing browse plots, as well.
When is the best time to plant? Take cues from agricultural operations occurring in your area. While this will give you a general idea when to plant, not all types of seed can be planted at the same time. Detailed planting instructions are on the back of each Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever food plot mix. Read those guidelines carefully and follow them exactly.
What about planting my plot? Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever grain and green browse food plot mixes can be established with standard planters, grain drills, or with broadcast seeders mounted on a tractor, ATV or pickup truck. Complete planting instructions are on each bag. If you do not have your own equipment, it can often be rented from USDA offices, local implement dealers, and wildlife agencies. Pheasants Forever habitat specialists, private contractors, or a neighbor also may be able to assist you in planting your food plot. For more information on food plot design and other considerations consult the Pheasants Forever Essential Habitat Guide.
What’s the best design for my winter food plots? Grain food plots should restrict unnecessary travel, and provide high quality food and supplemental winter cover. Birds crossing hostile territory for food invite losses from predation and weather, so two critical design factors include locating food plots next to winter cover, and adequate size (3-4 acres or larger is best). Blocks will be preferable to linear plantings, and placement on the windward side of winter cover improves that habitat. If winter cover is scarce, 10-acre plantings of grain mixes with heavy leaf structure can provide all the food and shelter that birds need. In general, green browse plots will provide no winter cover for most upland birds, but will provide foraging areas for deer.
How large should my food plot be? Unfortunately we cannot predict when wildlife will most need supplemental winter food resources, so plan grain food plots for the worst case weather scenario, each and every year. Don’t create a project that will be buried by the first blizzard. Your food plots will be used by many kinds of wildlife. Deer and turkeys consume a lot of grain and will exhaust small food patches well before winter ends. Thus, larger food plots (3-10 acres) are always most desirable. Select a food plot mix based on the cover and food values you need, and carefully assess the critical factors of size and location for your farm.
How long will my food plot last? In general, a grain based food plot will last only a single season (particularly if deer use it heavily) and almost without fail you will need to re-establish this kind of plot annually. In rare instances of low wildlife use, the grain from one year will carry over to the next on the stalks. Allowing a plot like this to grow up into annual weeds provides excellent brood habitat. Green browse food plots (blends of clovers, alfalfa, etc.) may last several years or may need to be re-planted each year (combination leafy forage/root crops like turnips).
What other factors should I consider? Food plots alone are not going to “bring back the birds.” Well-placed food patches can help bring more hens through winter in better condition. At that point, however, the other habitats you have established on your farm (nesting cover, brood rearing habitat, etc.) will play the leading role. Be sure you focus on establishing and managing those important areas for wildlife as well.