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One Pheasant Hunter’s Observations from the 2012 Season

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Thousands of acres of cattails – which act as winter cover for pheasants – burned across pheasant country this past autumn. Pheasants Forever File Photo

Like most of you, bird hunting isn’t a hobby to me.  It’s one of the biggest parts of my life.  The days I spend afield influence how I view the world, current events, the future, and my own place amongst all of the above.  For many folks across the pheasant range, the hunting season has ended or is nearing a snowy end in the coming days.  As I reflect on my own 2012 season, three observations stick out as themes in my mind.

A Good Dog is Critical to Pheasant Hunting

After adding my second pup to the family this spring, I cannot stress enough the value of a good bird dog to pheasant hunting.  I’ve blogged about ways a dogless pheasant hunter can achieve success in past posts, but increasingly I fall more toward a mentality of convincing pheasant hunters without dogs to take the plunge and get a bird dog for all the joys of pet ownership in addition to the incredible advantage a solid bird dog provides the pheasant hunter in the field.

Two isn’t Necessarily Better than One

While I may believe a bird dog is critical to pheasant hunting success, I don’t believe in “the more, the merrier” philosophy for bird dog ownership at this point.  This was my first season as an owner of two bird dogs and I found it more challenging to keep track of two dogs hunting at the same time than I expected.  I also found my two dogs to compete against each other in the field more than I’d hoped, which led to many more bumped birds than when I hunted the dogs independently.  Consequently, I hunted the pups separately more often this season than I would have ever imagined.  There are two clear advantages to multi-dog ownership I did observe a) the ability to keep both dogs fresh on multi-day hunts by rotating them throughout trips and b) older dogs teach young dogs an incredible amount – both good & bad – that helps accelerate the training process.

The Autumn Cattail Sloughs Disappeared from the Landscape

As vivid as if it were 10 minutes ago, I can close my eyes and spin a 360 degree circle recalling my November visit to South Dakota and North Dakota during this year’s Rooster Road Trip.  A plume of smoke there, a plume of smoke there, a plume of smoke there, a gigantic plume of smoke over there and another plume of smoke over there.  The summer drought of 2012 transitioned into the fall of fire as tens of thousands of acres of critical winter cover cattail sloughs were burn and prepped for spring crops.  If the winter of 2013 becomes harsh, the pheasants that called those cattail sloughs their winter homes will freeze to death by the tens of thousands.  If it’s a wet spring, crop insurance will come into play on those acres.  Either way, the inevitable future declines in pheasant and duck numbers, increasing severity of coming spring floods and deteriorating quality of our water supply will all be traced back to cattail fires of the autumn of 2012.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

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3 Responses to “One Pheasant Hunter’s Observations from the 2012 Season”

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  1. Joel Conrad says:

    Bob, nice comments and you are correct about having a quality dog and the issues with having two dogs. It really is nice to rotate dogs on multi day hunts and that is an advantage of having two dogs.

    I also in November saw the many fires across Northern South Dakota and Southern North Dakota. Funny I was flying from Minneapolis to Seattle today and looking down at the Dakota landscape. There is just not a lot of cover/habitat left for wildlife. It’s really a sad situation. From the air you can really see the destruction of habitat when the ground is white.

    My son and I made a trip out to SD in late December thinking we would find large groups of birds in the cattails. One of my favorite WMA’s had cattle in the cattails and the cattails were completed crushed down by the cattle who were bedding down in the cattails at night. This was prime winter habitat in the past and held many pheasants. We did not see one bird in this area. It’s a WMA that’s way off the beaten path with a long wald to get to the cattails so not many hunt this spot. Really a sad situation.

    Yes, we have had a couple of difficult years with the weather first with the flooding and now with the severe drought. Fact is, we would still have good numbers of pheasants if our landowners would take care of these cattail sloughs and leave and manage some land for wild life. South Dakota is heading down the same path as Iowa and we all know what happened there.

    Again, I appreciate your comments…

    Best, Joel Conrad

  2. Bob St.Pierre says:

    @Joel Conrad,
    Thanks much for reading the blog and posting such a thoughtful comment. Much appreciated,
    Bob

  3. Jim McIntire says:

    Joel- As a born and raised Hawkeye, I *almost* took offense to your comment. But the reality of it is that you are 100% correct and I can only blame my fellow Iowans. We are destroying our state’s wildlife and habitat.

    To Habitat-
    Jim McIntire

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