Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Public Lands
I grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula surrounded by national forests, state forests, and paper company lands. There was public access to hunting land for ruffed grouse, turkeys, ducks, deer, rabbits and bear in every direction. When I moved to central Minnesota for college, my hunting focus changed to pheasants and I learned how spoiled my Yooper upbringing had been.
As a new pheasant hunter, I had no relatives in Minnesota, no connections to Pheasants Forever chapters, and no open doors to private pheasant honey holes. I had to learn the public land game for pheasants if I was going to bag any birds.
The list below is what I believe about public hunting lands and their value to our hunting traditions:
- Intimidated by Public Lands. I believe sharing the “secrets” of accessing public land is a critical component in reversing the nation’s downward spiral of hunter recruitment.
- It Would Suck to be European. I believe growing our inventory of public lands is critical to preventing our hunting traditions from devolving into a “rich man’s” privilege as has happened in Europe. The North American Model of wildlife management is on par with democracy in our country’s achievements and should be protected with similar diligence.
- The Birds Really Are There. I believe that it’s too easy to say there aren’t any birds on public lands. There is no doubt that public WMAs, GPAs, WPAs, etc. are hit hard; particularly on opening days and Saturdays. We definitely need more acres. However, there are tactics you can employ to find the birds other hunters never flush. It begins with getting off your couch, lacing up your boots, and walking.
- It’s Easier to Point a Finger than Lift One. I believe that our state and federal natural resource agencies don’t have adequate funding or staffing to properly manage the public lands we currently have for wildlife. Agencies need our help and Pheasants Forever chapters need your help. Please volunteer to help your local chapter. Pheasants Forever chapters help state and federal agencies perform a myriad of wildlife management projects on public lands each year that can make these acres more productive come autumn.
- Walk In to Hunting Happiness. I am a big believer in the state and federal programs that provide private landowners with an incentive to open up their acres to hunters. Four of the five states we’ll hunt already have these programs in place and Minnesota is slated to receive federal “Open Fields” funding for a voluntary access program in the next year.
Many of you will read this and say to yourselves; “yeah, but this guy works for Pheasants Forever, so he probably hunts the best private spots all over the country.” The truth is I do sometimes get to go hunt on some of the best land managed for pheasants in the country; however, that’s the exception. Every single day I spend afield on my own time is spent on public ground. I hunt every weekend of the season (thanks honey!), I hunt hard, I have a good dog, I have fun, but I don’t always bag birds . . . but I get my fair share.
My name is Bob. I’m a Yooper transplant and grouse hunter by birth. I love public land hunting for pheasants and I want to share my “secrets” to help you bag more roosters. Please join us on our inaugural Rooster Road Trip.
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