Archive for the ‘Rooster RoadTrip’ Category
Friday, November 9th, 2012
The most impressive find during a 5-day, 5-state tour of pheasant country is the span of Pheasants Forever’s mission. Travel a few hundred miles each day, in a different direction, and you run into somebody who supports the organization’s wildlife habitat mission just as strongly as the volunteer you met the day before.
No doubt it’s disheartening to drive along and see wildlife-friendly grasslands succumbing to the plow; to see billows of smoke against an otherwise gorgeous sunset, rising from a fire churning through winter-cover cattails; to see endless pattern tiling, as if this country’s agricultural drainage systems weren’t already elaborate enough. When you consider yourself a conservationist, it feels overwhelming.
And then you remember that we’ve been here before. That in the early 70s, your dad walked around western Minnesota all day only to kick up one hen. That 30 years ago, upland habitat had so deteriorated that pheasant hunters rallied to form a group to at least stem the tide, if not turn it.
And you remember that even on this night, VFWs and banquet halls are filling up with a couple hundred good souls who’ve come out to raise a little money “for the birds.” That tomorrow, on their Saturday, PF biologists will be meeting with landowners at their kitchen tables, scouring over maps and finding places and ways to add habitat. And instead of going hunting themselves, local Pheasants Forever volunteers won’t tote a gun, but instead carefully watch over youngsters – many not even their own kin – in the hopes that one trigger pull will not only ignite a shell, but a lifetime of hunting and conservation. That on some piece of ground purchased by Pheasants Forever and now public, a new pup is searching for its first wild rooster while an owner looks on in anticipation that’s been a year in the making.
And you remember that we may lose habitat battles, but the overall cause of conservation is always worth fighting for, and Pheasants Forever will always do so. Thanks for following Pheasants Forever’s Rooster Road Trip 2012, and for supporting wildlife habitat conservation.
Friday, November 9th, 2012
When I’m in my 70s, I want to be just like Louis Kamrowski. From the instant I met Louis, he reminded me of Wayne Terwilliger, the Minnesota Twins first base coach during their Worlds Series seasons of 1987 and 1991. I had the pleasure of working with “Twig” during my time at the Saint Paul Saints Baseball Team and was always amazed at how spry Twig was into his 70s. Louis was the exact same way as he charged into cattails, willow thickets and big bluestem with more exuberance than men a quarter his age. And with Louis, smiles are free and he doles them out liberally to everyone he greets, which is pretty much anyone from the greater Fergus Falls area.
“You can’t take Louis anywhere if you’re in a hurry. Everyone knows Louis because he’s involved in everything; Pheasants Forever, VFW, Minnesota Deer Hunters; the list goes on,” explained Steve Pletta, fellow chapter officer with Kamrowski in the Otter Tail County Chapter of Pheasants Forever. “Louis is busier these days as a retired guy than he ever was while working as a state patrolman.”
It’s guys like Louis and Steve who have volunteered their time, enthusiasm and heart to Pheasants Forever over the organization’s 30 years that has made Pheasants Forever the most effective and efficient non-profit upland conservation group on the planet. The Otter Tail County Chapter epitomizes this success as a diverse group of people with a common habitat interest. Dozens of public Wildlife Management and Waterfowl Production Areas covering more than 4,000 acres open to hunters now polka-dot the county’s map along rivers and around wetlands as the chapter works diligently to acquire lands in connected corridors to provide the greatest impact for pheasants, prairie chickens, deer, turkeys and migrating waterfowl.
On this, our final day of the 2012 Rooster Road Trip, we hunted two of the chapter’s projects south of Fergus Falls with Louis, Steve and their pair of turbo-charged bird dogs. Louis runs a fantastic 9-year old named Cocoa, a German wirehair and chocolate Lab mix, and Steve’s retrieving machine is named Coal, a black Labrador and golden retriever mix.
As dark clouds gathered in preparation for the area’s first predicted winter storm of the season, we pushed into the heaviest cover of the trip; a mix of cattails and willows. According to Andrew’s Garmin Fenix watch, it took exactly 12 minutes and 51 seconds for Louis to swing on a rooster and drop it with his true second shot as we stood chest high in the middle of a cattail slough. A half hour later, Andrew’s yellow Lab, Beau, led Louis on a 200 yard sprint before Louis filled his daily limit with another true “bang” from his semi-auto.
Like I said, when I’m 70, I want to be just like Louis Kamrowski; happy, in great shape, still hunting roosters and working as hard as ever to make a difference for the future of wildlife habitat. In a nutshell . . . men and women like Louis are making Pheasants FOREVER a reality for all of us. Thanks Louis!
Friday, November 9th, 2012
“Eat your vegetables Bobby,” was the nightly ultimatum from Mom while growing up. Green beans, peas, spinach and even broccoli presented no problems in meeting her demands, but my delicate childhood palate did have one little green nemesis – Brussels sprouts.
Like most kids, I “guaranteed” vomiting if I were made to eat something as detestable as a Brussels sprout. And also like most kids, I’ve grown to love foods I scorned as a youngster. In the case of Brussels sprouts, I have a pheasant dish to thank for my new found love affair with these green little nuggets of goodness. The pheasant dish of which I speak is pheasant tortellini with Brussels sprouts and I developed it on a whim while grabbing some pre-packaged pasta fixings in the cold case of my local grocer. I also prepared this easy recipe for Anthony & Andrew while on this year’s Rooster Road Trip.
Ingredients (serves 2)
- · One pheasant breast deboned and cut into 1 inch cubes
- · Approximately two dozen Brussels sprouts cut in half
- · A package of cleaned portabella button mushrooms
- · A package of cheese tortellini
- · A package of Alfredo cream sauce
- · A half stick of butter
1. Add butter to a large frying pan and melt. When the butter is melted add pheasant meat to the frying pan and sauté till the pheasant begins to brown.
2. Sauté the mushrooms in butter in a separate frying pan.
3. Likewise sauté the Brussels sprouts in butter in a third frying pan until they begin to caramelize.
4. Combine the pheasant, mushrooms and Brussels sprouts into one large frying pan and reduce heat to low.
5. Boil the tortellini as instructed on packaging
6. Combine cooked tortellini with pheasant, mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts.
7. Pour Alfredo cream sauce over all ingredients.
8. Stir everything, so Alfredo sauce is evenly distributed and simmer uncovered for three minutes.
9. Serve & Enjoy
I realize this isn’t fine dining and some culinary purists will rip me for covering up the delightful taste of pheasant in cream sauce. I get it. Nonetheless, this is a very easy dish to make, and a really palatable dish for those folks that may be new and tentative to eating wild game. It’s a great way to walk them through the wild game door with little risk of being turned off. Or in my case, it’s a great way to learn to enjoy Brussels sprouts.
Now that I’ve tackled Brussels sprouts, I think I’m finally ready to confront lima beans. Anyone got a pheasant recipe that includes lima beans?
Thursday, November 8th, 2012
I’ve personally had North Dakota circled on my Rooster Road Trip calendar thanks to an omnipresent billboard campaign featuring the ring-necked pheasant that ran all summer in the Twin Cities. That campaign billed the state as “Legendary” and today North Dakota lived up to the slogan.
Our public land du jour were a pair of CRP tracts enrolled in North Dakota’s PLOTS program by Matt Olson, the Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist for Sargent County. PLOTS stands for Public Lands Open To Sportsmen and is a gem opening up private land to hunters.
Rachel Bush, Pheasants Forever’s Farm Bill Biologist from Jamestown also joined us today with her fantastic black Lab duo of Belle and Haley in tow. Rachel and her husband are both natural resource professionals who have relocated to North Dakota from my home state of Michigan. “We love the prairie, we love the duck hunting and we love the pheasants. North Dakota is home,” explained Rachel as we followed our dogs along a cattail slough.
The action was fast and furious out of the gates as a smattering of hens flushed a few minutes after shutting tailgates. Shortly after the hens, a pair of sharp-tailed grouse escaped my immediate species identification, but a running rooster was not so lucky. After my young shorthair Izzy tracked it for 200 yards in high winds, the bird flushed at my feet with my head camera rolling. If you look at the video closely, I almost pulled the trigger a hair early and would have missed behind the bird. Thankfully, I reset and swung through the bird for a clean connection.
Despite high winds all day long, which resulted in many birds flushing wildly, we had Rachel and Matt’s sharp shooting as the day’s secret weapon. Rachel, in particular, made THE shot of Rooster Road Trip 2012 with a rooster so high in the air you’d think it was considering migrating south as it screamed over her. But Rachel expertly swung to her right with the fluidity of the avid duck hunter she is and dropped the ringneck from the rafters. Legendary!
Thursday, November 8th, 2012
Garmin’s new Alpha merges a GPS tracking collar with an electronic dog training collar system. I have owned the Astro, Alpha’s predecessor, for two years and was excited to give Garmin’s new gizmo a field trial this week along the Rooster Road Trip.
I was, however, hesitant about one thing; there is no beeper feature with the Alpha for pointing dogs. I have religiously run a beeber / eCollar combo with my Astro for the audible comfort of knowing exactly where my pup was at any given moment. In essence, I was using Astro’s GPS tracker to ensure my ability to always find a lost dog, but in reality I was only utilizing a small percentage of the collar’s benefits. Enter the Alpha and the added comfort of eCollar control.
After three full days of running the Alpha, I can say without reservation I’ve enjoyed the silence. As I’ve become more comfortable with the easy-to-use Garmin receiver screen and control for the electronic training buttons, I’ve noticed the added quiet to our hunting. There is little doubt the added stealthiest is helping our chances in cornering wily roosters accustomed to the sound of beepers, car doors and other abnormal sounds.
The other awesome feature of the new Alpha is its ability to track other hunters with Alpha units. In other words, I’ve known exactly where Anthony & Andrew have been even when we’ve hunted some big rolling Nebraska prairies simply by looking at my handheld Alpha.
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.
Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
There’s an almost-blaze orange truck parked in front of the motel, and half the people here – even while working – sport some of the color themselves. Bird dogs are on equal footing, and probably should be counted as part of the population. And there’s more public ground to hunt than probably anywhere in pheasant country. Even in this state that bills itself as “The Pheasant Capital,” the city of Aberdeen and Brown County stand out as bird crazy.
The first stop during Pheasants Forever’s Rooster Road Trip 2012 day in South Dakota was The Airport cafe, where the only thing hotter than the coffee was the pheasant hunting talk. And that’s where our group for the day assembled, including Emmett Lenihan, Pheasants Forever’s Farm Bill Biologist in the region, Chris Goldade, resource biologist for the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks and treasurer with the local Northern South Dakota Pheasants Forever chapter, and Mike Stephenson, Pheasants Forever’s Regional Representative in South Dakota. Over the best pancakes in town and platefuls of 747 burritos, the talk naturally turned to pheasant habitat. Goldade, who has designed habitat plans for years, said he tries to create as much edge habitat as he can when drawing up property plans, and reminded us that pheasants are “edge birds.” On this day, he’d be proven right.
The first field stop was at the Casanova Wildlife Management Area, a public piece of which the Northern South Dakota chapter has been a major contributor. Grass, food plots, cattails – this place has lots of edges – and a half hour into the hunt, that’s where a rooster found himself, briefly, before being neatly tucked into Andrew Vavra’s game vest; even in pheasant rich South Dakota, a public land rooster is well earned.
The dogs got some well-deserved down time before we reassembled for “The Golden Hour” hunt, which took place on some new walk-in Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) acres north of Aberdeen. Another place with lots of edge, this in the form of grass, food plots, fence lines and old two tracks. A missed golden opportunity right at the beginning of the day’s last march looked like it would be a moment that haunts. But with just minutes left on the shooting clock, the field coming to break and the sun offering up its last glimpse of the day, the stage was set for another unforgettable hunting memory. South Dakota didn’t disappoint; it rarely does.
Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Three days into a 5-day day hunting trip, I don’t think too many people would complain about South Dakota’s 10 a.m. start time for pheasants. It’s nice to catch a few extra zzz’s, grab a hearty breakfast and not feel a rush to stake out a hunting spot.
The story goes that South Dakota’s 10 a.m. start (save for the first days of the season when it starts at noon) was instituted so farmers could have time to get the chores done before hunters came knocking at their door. It’s become tradition, but it’s also economic – with 100,000 nonresident hunters coming in, the state likes giving them a chance to spend money in the morning.
Legal shooting times for pheasants vary by state. In Nebraska, North Dakota and Kansas, you can go after ringnecks a half hour before sunset. In Iowa, shootin’ can commence at 8 a.m. And in Minnesota, hunters have to wait until 9 a.m. to hit the fields.
Each state surely has legitimate reasons for their respective shooting times; in my native Minnesota, the most repeated reason I’ve heard for its start time is so birds are more dispersed when hunting begins as to level the playing field.
Personally, I like different times in different states – it adds to the unique experience in each one. But if you had to choose just one, what would be the ideal time start time to chase roosters in the morning?
Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Hunting five states in five days as part of the 2012 Rooster Road Trip is accompanied by a lot of windshield time. Time spent traveling two-tracks, tar roads and interstate highways. Time spent looking at the landscape. And one fact is depressingly obvious through our travels; America’s wildlife habitat is disappearing.
Black tile litters fields by the mile, sloughs are burning under plumes of gray smoke, and CRP lands have already been tilled in preparation of spring planting. Our fathers’ remember the end of the Soil Bank when fencerows and ditches were removed. We’ve all heard those stories and the joy CRP brought back to America’s pheasant fields. As I drive, I can’t help but wonder how much corn the human race could possibly need and if we’re on the road to repeating our own tragic habitat loss history. On the Rooster Road, it’s painfully obvious to me that history is indeed repeating. There is too much proof beyond the windshield to deny that fact.
In the last year alone, 6.5 million acres of CRP expired from contracts with most of those acres leaving the program for the plow. 6.5 million acres of habitat homes for all varieties of wildlife. 6.5 million acres filtering our waters, mitigating flooding and keeping our under-appreciated soil in in place on the ground. Without a new Farm Bill during the last session of Congress, CRP and all of America’s federal conservation programs hang in limbo.
So as a new class of Washington leaders prepare to transition in and out of elected offices, Pheasants Forever urges the 2012 Congress to finish the job of a 2012 Farm Bill. Our nation’s wildlife is too important to our way of life for habitat to continue to hemorrhage from our landscape under this generation’s watch.
Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
We’ve all been there. Tooling down the highway with visions of flushing roosters in our minds when the realization hits . . . there are no socks packed in your duffle bag. Or maybe you’ve forgotten the dog’s eCollar. Believe it or not, I know a guy that actually forgot to pack his shotgun for a traveling bird hunt. He got to South Dakota and had to rent a shotgun from a lodge for the week. Spent the entire week shooting a gun he wasn’t comfortable shouldering. He felt “off” the entire time. What a bummer!
When it comes to the Rooster Road Trip, it literally takes me two nights of packing and I’m still wondering what I’ve left behind. Hunting five states covers a lot of miles with a wide range of weather conditions. Monday could bring temps touching the 70s in Nebraska, while snow and sub-freezing conditions may welcome us home to Minnesota by Friday. As a result, I’ve got a variety of thin heat gear as well as thick wool packed to combat the variety of elements we may encounter. As you can imagine, we don’t travel light.
We’re also planning to do some cooking videos on this year’s Road Trip, so I’ve also got groceries, pots, pans, and other cooking essentials packed for that purpose. Speaking of video, we’ve got all kinds of communications gear too. Video cameras, still cameras, tripods, computers, and disc readers. Add it all up and it’s a lot to remember.
So far, it appears our packing skills have been up to the task. We almost forgot the video camera’s microphones, but we were only a few miles away from the Pheasants Forever offices when we realized that mistake. We did forget to put PF stickers on the rental trucks this year, but other than that, we seem to have all the essentials.
So what’s was the most painful item you forgot to pack on your own Rooster Road Trip?
Tuesday, November 6th, 2012
Wind. There’s plenty of it in northwest Iowa, and those extremely blustery days never seem to produce high quality rooster opportunities quite like they should. Still, it’s better to have seen roosters and lost than never have seen them at all, right?
The second stop on Pheasants Forever’s Rooster Road Trip 2012 was Osceola County, Iowa, and the Devil’s Ridge Wildlife Management Area, which is about 10 minutes east of Sibley. The local Osceola County Pheasants Forever chapter helped out with a prescribed grassland management burn on the property last year, and also with a food plot on the northwest side of the property. Come midmorning, our group found some roosters hanging out in that food plot, adding a pair to our game bag.
While the remaining half of the property failed to produce any flushes, moving a dozen hens and four roosters is a nice way to start any pheasant hunt. Jared Elbert, Pheasants Forever’s Farm Bill Biologist in this part of Iowa, says even more habitat restoration is slated for this particular WMA, including another management burn. In addition to Elbert, we were joined in the field by Nick Schmalen, co-habitat chair with the Osceola County Pheasants Forever chapter, and Ann Byers, the local district conservationist. This trio of hardcore upland hunters is intensely focused on improving what are already high-quality public habitat areas in the region.
Into the early afternoon, not only did the winds pick up, but so did the distance between pheasant flushes. Birds poured out one hundred yards ahead at the next WMA, mostly hens, but flushing close to three dozen birds in four hours of hunting is nothing to gripe about, especially in a state where pheasant populations have fallen on hard times in recent years. At least in this part of Iowa, pheasants appear to be on the upswing, and to see it was worth a little windburn.