PF in N.D.: Making Habitat Happen on Public Ground
You could spend a couple lifetimes navigating the public hunting opportunities around North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea and never become intimate with all of them. For the traveling pheasant hunter, there will always be a new piece for you to try the next time you come back. And if the local Pheasants Forever chapter has its way, next time that piece will contain even better upland habitat.
Surrounded by U.S. Army Corps of Engineer lands, which are open to walk-in hunting, Lake Sakakawea, located about an hour north and west of Bismarck, is a wildlife paradise. But recognizing that not all public lands are created equal, the Sakakawea Pheasants Forever chapter has worked with the corps for more than two decades to strategically add food plots and shelterbelts to improve the chances of pheasants surviving the brutal winters. her upland birds, including sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge, have also found these habitat additions inviting.
“You’ll see some tree plantings we did 20 years ago and some tree plantings we did two years ago,” says Rod Stockdill, the Sakakawea Pheasants Forever chapter’s habitat chair. Stockdill is “retired,” but like so many Pheasants Forever chapter volunteers, his schedule remains packed, a full slate of scouting, working with partners (private landowners, the corps, NRCS, etc.) and the occasional hunt with his Brittany, “Ider.” His wife, Patricia, shares in this upland habitat passion and serves as the chapter’s secretary (some may also recognize her byline in past issues of the Pheasants Forever Journal).
Before we departed, Stockdill showed off one more piece of Army Corps ground, rolling hills covered with native prairie, coulees carving their way below. The property contains a sharptail lek, and pheasants fill into the creek bottoms come colder weather. But this piece might not look the same the next time I see it. A plum thicket here could help, maybe a food plot there, says Stockdill. Seeing how he operates left no doubt in my mind this will happen. And that’s all the more reason to come back in this lifetime.
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