Archive for the ‘Quail’ Category
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 We are also hopeful to direct more EQIP/WHIP funding for wildlife priorities, however those amendments were withdrawn.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 19,000-acre Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and 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.
The Big Spur Blog is written by Jesse Beckers, Pheasants Forever’s Regional Wildlife Biologist for North Dakota. If you have a pheasant habitat or pheasant biology question for Jesse, email him at JBeckers@pheasantsforever.org.
Thursday, January 17th, 2013
This upland hunting season has been trying in many traditional pheasant strongholds, not the least of which is Kansas. “Upland bird hunting has been disappointing in most areas of the state as a result of below average populations due to prolonged drought and extreme summer heat,” according to a statement issued by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT).
“Expectations were quite low in west central Kansas this season due to a second year of extensive drought and excessive heat; those low expectations were warranted, as pheasant, quail and lesser prairie-chicken numbers were down substantially,” reported Mark Witecha, a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist who serves seven counties around Ness City, “Furthermore, much of the habitat was hayed, grazed or stunted by the unfavorable climatic conditions, and is in less than ideal condition. Many local hunters have long since given up for the year, and out-of-state hunters simply never came.”
In early January, some regions in Kansas received up to 8” of snow, a blessing for hunters that timed it right. “We finally had birds flushing at our feet rather than 200 yards out in front,” Witecha said.
While the snow cover has since melted, two weeks remain in the season for hunters willing to give it one final try. “There are some bright spots, and for the hunter willing to travel and work, birds are there,” the KDWPT report continued, “The late season can be especially good because fewer hunters are afield and birds will be more concentrated in heavier cover.”
Have you been pheasant and/or quail hunting in Kansas this year? If so, post your own report in the comments section below.
Thursday, December 6th, 2012
Imagine it is 1961, 51 years ago. It is early evening, the dog is still wet and you and your hunting buddies are sitting around the wood stove. You put up your gear, including the guns, to dry off. The stories of the day’s success and good natured ribbing fill the air around you. Then suddenly, the stock on your favorite firearm catches fire!
I’m not sure how my Parker 16 received the burn down the stock, but regardless, my real question is how to fix it? This begs the age old question of whether to restore a classic firearm or leave it in original condition? This same question pertains to classic cars, homes or any antique. In doing the research for this article, I can tell you the question will rage on for years.
Should you decide to restore your old trusty firearm or even enhance it, there are options. Here at Pheasants Forever we have had the pleasure to work with one of the best restorers, Doug Turnbull of Turnbull Manufacturing Co. out of Bloomfield, New York. Doug has specialized in faithful and accurate restoration of vintage firearms, as well as custom work and upgrades, for over 30 years. In those 30 years Turnbull Mfg. has repaired or restored over 25,000 firearms!
The restoration and enhancement of this shotgun was exciting, but what really excited me about this project was how it was going to be accomplished. For one, Turnbull Mfg. uses the same process and techniques used by the original makers to bring these vintage firearms back to original factory condition. All checkering and engraving is done by hand, stocks are carved to exact factory dimensions, case coloring and bluing is deep and lustrous.
When he works, Doug likes to imagine that the original old world craftsmen are smiling down upon him and his crew. “The craftsmen at Turnbull Mfg. are dedicated to continuing the great gun making tradition in this country. We hope the original gun makers would be proud to see the care and attention to detail that we put into every restoration.”
Do It Yourself
One option to hiring a company to restore your firearm is to do it yourself. Start with an Internet search, where there is plenty of information. Many of the supplies you need can be found at your local woodworking store or, better yet, from PF supporters Brownell’s or Midway USA.
I chose to keep my Parker in its original condition. Every time I carry it to the field, I think of a new way that the old burn mark came to be on my gun. Perhaps someday I’ll find the answer.
In the meantime, please be sure to attend National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic 2013 to see Turnbull’s latest restoration and enhancement of an A.H. Fox 16-gauge.
The Pheasant Fest blog is written by Brad Heidel, Pheasants Forever’s Director of Corporate and Special Event Sales. Look for Brad’s column, “The Gun Shop,” in the Pheasants Forever Journal.
Monday, November 26th, 2012
The state of Kansas is annually among the top three pheasant producing states in the country, but the devastating drought of 2012 definitely hurt this year’s ringneck crop. Kansas’ pheasant and quail hunting seasons are a couple weeks old, so are the effects of the drought and habitat loss as significant as previously advertised? Here with on-the-ground reports is a trio of Pheasants Forever staff members in Kansas:
Conditions in west central Kansas are far from ideal. Due to the drought, we had very poor reproduction and brood survival in the pheasant population. Much of the CRP has been emergency hayed or grazed, failed milo and corn has been cut for forage, and the grass that was left untouched experienced limited growth. In talking with other hunters, very few were successful in their efforts and the number of hunters in the area is down significantly. On opening day, I only saw one other group hunting, which was shocking. On a positive note, the northwest and north central part of the state is expected to have decent quail hunting this year, as quail are much more tolerant of drought and heat (but less tolerant of the cold).
- Mark Witecha, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist – West Central Kansas
I went out with two other guys and at least two dogs in each field (opening weekend). We walked three CRP fields adjacent to harvested row crops and kicked up one hen and two roosters. We knew birds were living in these CRP fields (I’d even seen eight birds moving from one of them into the neighboring cropland as I drove by to meet up with my friends at daylight). We also hunted two quail pastures and kicked up one covey of about ten birds. Those quail flew to the adjacent property where another group of hunters were, and I saw them harvest a few birds from the covey. The long and short of it is that there are some birds in the area (quail populations may be stronger than pheasants) but with the hot, dry and windy conditions, birds were not sitting tight, and the dogs couldn’t pick up scent. We got some rain Saturday night which may improve things a bit. Cooler temperatures and lower wind speeds would help too. Every person that I’ve spoken with in this area says they got about one bird for every one to two people hunting in a group. I’m optimistic, though, that there will be better days later in the season.
- Zac Eddy, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist – Central Kansas
Conditions near Marysville (in northeast Kansas) were hot, dry and windy for the Kansas opener. Our hunting party only saw a few pheasants and two coveys of quail during the day’s hunt. Overall, this area has seen a tremendous decline in quality upland habitat as CRP contracts expire and the acres go into agricultural production. The area has also seen a shift in the type of grain that is being produced, which is further limiting pheasant production. At one time, this part of northeast Kansas was known as “The milo capital of the world” and production of wheat and milo ruled the landscape. Now, the bulk of the farming is producing corn and soybeans. It should also be noted that a large percentage of the remaining CRP acres need a great deal of management before they will again be productive for upland birds. On a personal note, the CRP field where I harvested my first pheasant is now a soybean field so the only people who will see roosters rising from this field this year are those who have memories of this once great parcel of upland habitat…My how things change in 20 years.”
- Jordan Martincich, Pheasants Forever Development Officer – Ottawa, Kans.
Have you been pheasant hunting in Kansas this year? If so, post your own report in the comments section below.
Monday, November 26th, 2012
A few months back, a friend of mine opened up to me about his secret passion for woodcock hunting. I, too, have an undeniable love affair with the American timberdoodle. This migrating aspen and alder tornado is an awesome game bird for pointing dogs and an under-appreciated challenge for wingshooters.
This same anonymous friend shared with me a woodcock recipe to transform the timberdoodle from a meat equated to flying liver into a white linen delicacy. I’ve bagged 15 woodcock this season and sautéed every single one to rave reviews employing his recipe. Unfortunately, I’ve exhausted my timberdoodle freezer reserves; consequently, last evening I substituted Nebraska’s Rooster Road Trip quail for woodcock in my newfound favorite recipe. Whether you’ve got timberdoodle, quail, ruffed grouse or a pheasant breast in the freezer, I believe you’ll find this recipe easy, tasty and addictive.
- 3 de-boned quail breasts
- Olive oil
- Chef Paul Prudhommes redfish blackening seasoning
1) Brush the quail breasts generously with olive oil
2) Liberally sprinkle the breasts with Chef Paul Prudhommes blackening seasoning
3) Sauté the breasts on medium-high heat in a frying pan for 3 or 4 minutes
4) Flip the breasts over and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes
5) Serve with a side of Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and wild rice
Monday, November 5th, 2012
Having had very successful swings in southwest Nebraska the previous couple years, starting off Rooster Road Trip 2012 in the McCook area gave reason for optimism. The two big takeaways? We underestimated the impact of the historic drought on pheasant populations, and thank goodness for bobwhite quail.
There are still pheasants around – we moved at least one bird at every field – but work for our lone rooster we did. The dry weather has left quality cover scarce (and many fields were hayed or grazed under emergency guidelines from the U.S. Department of Ag to help producers) and good scenting conditions for dogs are even scarcer. Throw in the fact that birds are scattered in this second week of the season, there hasn’t been a significant weather game changer, and you’ve got a recipe for a good, old fashioned hard hunt. But when you’re a predominant public lands pheasant hunter, you get used to battling something: the crowds, a foot of snow, insert next factor here. Considering the emphasis Pheasants Forever and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission place on improving habitat in this region, southwest Nebraska is poised for a ringneck rebound once the drought breaks.
While pheasant numbers aren’t what they’ve been the previous couple years, quail in this part of the state appear to have weathered the drought in highly reproductive fashion. The local hunters we talked to corroborated our eye witness reports (and seven public lands bobs in the bag); saying covey numbers seem to be up. Jerrod Burke, the District V Commissioner with Nebraska Game and Parks, and his 14-year-old son, Logan, joined the Rooster Road Trip to highlight Nebraska’s public land hunting opportunities, and the elder Burke says the opportunity for “mixed bags” – including bobwhites and prairie chickens – is one reason this area of Nebraska should remain on the traveling pheasant hunter’s list of places to cut the dogs loose. Burke’s polished Gordon setters, 5-year-old “Abbie” and 9-year-old “Willie,” helped prove his point, holding rock steady on multiple coveys found along brushy crick beds with nearby food sources. These were all public land coveys, and we left plenty of seed for next year.
If you don’t like competing for public hunting spots, southwest Nebraska may be for you – in three consecutive years of hunting in this region, we’ve ran into three other groups of upland hunters. That’s right, three. And this year, we crashed at the brand new, fully furnished cabins the Medicine Creek State Recreation Area, an outright steal at 80 bucks per night, and a great place to grab some quick shuteye before a long drive to Iowa and the second stop for Rooster Road Trip 2012.
Monday, November 5th, 2012
The opportunity to hunt quail in Nebraska and Kansas has been one of my favorite aspects of the Rooster Road Trip over the last three years. As I’ve blogged about many times, I grew up hunting ruffed grouse in the “Northwoods,” and when I encounter a covey of bobwhites I can’t help but draw similarities to ruffs. Both birds only give you a split second opportunity and their flush is often heard before viewed.
There are definitely unique aspects of bobwhites too. A bobwhite’s covey rise is a whirl of motion challenging the wingshooter to select a single bird without falling into “flock shooting,” in which you simply look at the entire flock without properly aiming at an individual bird. “Flock shooting” will almost always result in a miss.
However, it’s the sound of a bobwhite’s covey flush I enjoy most about the bird. Unlike the chainsaw-like explosion of a ruffed grouse or the cackling bad-ass attitude of a ring-neck, a bobwhite covey sounds like twenty throwing stars whirring threw the air if an army of ninja warriors had just entered the scene to fight Chuck Norris. (Obviously, Chuck Norris could triple on bobs with one shot).
So with each visit to “quail country,” my affinity for bobwhites grows more intense. As today’s Nebraska hunt produced more coveys than ring-necks, my mind started to wonder about the public land quail hunting version of the Rooster Road Trip. I can pretty easily come up with Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas as four states on a hypothetical Quail Forever “Quail Quest,” but the fifth state is a bit debatable. Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas, Arizona, Mississippi and Alabama are all conceivably doable based upon geography, but I have not personally experienced a quail hunt in any of these states.
What do you think the fifth state on a “Quail Quest” would be for the best public lands quail hunt?
Thursday, November 1st, 2012
Drought has been the name of the weather game for most of pheasant country this year, and Nebraska is no different. The state’s summer upland surveys indicated a pheasant population decrease of 15 percent, but noted the decrease, due to dry survey conditions, may not necessarily have been that steep. Read Pheasants Forever’s Nebraska Pheasant Hunting Forecast.
Pheasants Forever has a deep network of biologists in Nebraska stemming from strong partnerships with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. A pair of biologists share on-the-ground reports from what’s typically the top pheasant producing region in Cornhusker Country:
I hunted southwest Nebraska opening weekend. The area has been in stage-four drought since July. There is no doubt the lack of insects, heat and CRP haying operations have taken a toll on pheasant numbers. It seems the average bird-per-hunter was near 1.5 late in the day on Saturday. For local farmers, the fall pheasant population analysis is the number of pheasants flushed per 1/4 section irrigation pivot of corn during harvest. In past years, this number has been in/near the hundred(s). This year? A half dozen.
There is still a considerable amount of corn in the fields in some parts of the region. Many CRP fields have been hayed and/or grazed. Cover is generally shorter and thinner than previous years. However, where high quality habitat is found, there are plenty of birds, including a high proportion of hatch-year birds. Bonus bobwhite quail and prairie chickens are possible for pheasant hunters. Hunters should look for patchy native grass interspersed with wildflowers, weeds and shrub thickets. Tall wheat and milo stubble may also be productive. Hunters can save a lot of time and gas money by scouting Open Fields and Waters Program properties remotely with Google Earth. Those willing to hunt hard and put in the time scouting should be successful.
- Andy Moore, Loess Canyons Coordinating Wildlife Biologist, Quail Forever – North Platte
I would say hunting here in southwest Nebraska was great again in areas with superior habitat. Most groups I talked to had the opportunity to shoot a limit of birds. Although the area is faced with one of our worst droughts ever, hunters were very excited to see birds and thought quail numbers were much higher than expected. My group of four – consisting of family and friends – were pleased to harvest 6 roosters and 13 quail on the morning of pheasant opener this last weekend, hunting primarily good early succession habitat adjacent to cropland. With a little frost on the ground and cool weather, the dogs worked great! Limits weren’t filled, but not due to opportunity!
- Andy Houser, Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Pheasants Forever – McCook
Have you been pheasant hunting in Nebraska this year? If so, post your own report in the comments section below.