Posts Tagged ‘pheasant hunting’
Thursday, June 13th, 2013
It is no secret the ring-necked pheasant has some of the most beautiful feathers found in nature. Every time I hold a pheasant in my hands I am awestruck by the vibrant and shimmering colors that come out as they catch different angles from the sun. In order to not waste these beautiful feathers that are often discarded after the birds are cleaned, I decided to put them to use. I have friends and coworkers here at Pheasants Forever that tie these feathers into flies for trout fishing. Personally, I prefer the pursuit of the muskie, and have discovered many ways to tie pheasant feathers into a spinner bait.
The easiest feathers to use in muskie lures are the tail feathers. They are the most durable, they have great lines that match the vertical patterns that many bait fish have, and they are long enough to cover the long shanks of the giant treble hooks. The only issue that arises with these feathers is they have strong quills and their rigidity does not flow very well behind a pair of #8 or #10 Colorado blades. I suggest only using the top 4-5 inches of the tail feather. In order to get the desired fluidity behind the blades, I tie marabou and some of the breast feathers into the skirt.
Making your own lures also saves your pocket book as well. Any hardware, such as beads, blades, and wire components of these baits can be found on line or at local outdoor sporting goods stores. Pheasant feathers are expensive when purchased at the store and buying multiple components at once is far cheaper than buying a completed lure.
Much of lure-making is experimental. Ideas such as colors, size, and presentation have to be tinkered with. That is part of the reason why making lures is so fascinating. There are endless combinations of components that can be put together to make a great lure, and there is always some reason to make another.
Making lures out of pheasant feathers is a great way to pay tribute to its beauty. I use the time making lures to recollect the good memories of the previous hunting season and to dream in anxious anticipation of the upcoming fishing season. As I tie pheasant feathers onto a lure, I am also tying two of my passions together, bringing my two favorite hobbies full circle.
-Mike Rausch is Pheasants Forever’s Artwork and Firearms Coordinator
Monday, June 3rd, 2013
Back in my baseball days, we had a ballplayer come through Saint Paul heralded as one of the era’s best 5-tool prospects. J.D. Drew was the guy’s name and after 14 MLB seasons with one World Series title; he lived up to most of the hype. In baseball terms, a 5-tool ballplayer possesses the following five traits:
1) The ability to hit for power
2) The ability to hit for a high batting average
3) Speed on the bases
4) A strong arm from his position
5) The ability to field his position at a high level
As is often the case, my mind was bouncing as I ran the dogs this evening after work. I started thinking about the comparable five tools of elite pheasant hunters. Here’s what I came up with:
1) A Good Shot. No matter how politically correct you want to be, success in pheasant hunting ends with meat on the dinner table. So, no matter if you call a good shot “a kill,” “a harvest,” or “bagging a bird,” your hand-eye coordination better be fluid, your swing smooth and your eye dead on.
2) Endurance. The best wild rooster chasers I know are also tremendous athletes. If you’re going to walk a big up-and-down Dakota prairie or bust a snow-filled cattail slough with resistance against your every step, you’d better come physically fit. A wild pheasant hunt ain’t any place for Bubba to work off his summer barbecue beer belly.
3) Birdy Cover Reader. I had a hard time narrowing down this to one single phrase. Under consideration were “Problem Solving Ability,” “Habitat Evaluator,” and “Signs & Signals,” but the premise of this skill is a hunter’s ability to visually narrow down the best looking habitat likely to hold birds while also eliminating the low-probability areas so as not to burn off too much energy without hope of reward. Biologists tend to be naturals at this skill; able to identify food sources, loafing areas, and thermal cover other hunters may simply look at and see as tall grass, medium grass, short grass, thick grass, thin grass or no grass. I also absolutely see a correlation in one’s ability to judge birdy cover with their length of hunting career. Personally, growing up as a ruffed grouse hunter, I am still a better grouse cover analyst than I am a pheasant habitat reader.
4) Dog Handling. While some folks may choose to go without the help of a bird dog, in my opinion pheasant hunting is a team sport. The canine component of your dynamic duo can close huge gaps in any deficiencies you may have in the first three of the tools described above. When it comes to dog “handling,” I am referencing not only your dog’s level of skill in scenting, endurance, pointing, flushing, tracking and retrieving, but I’m also encompassing the hunter’s ability to train a bird dog, handle a bird dog in the field and (perhaps most importantly) read a dog’s body language during a hunt.
5) Conservationist. I liken this category to an athlete possessing “intangibles.” True 5-tool pheasant hunters know when NOT to take a shot. The context of any bird hunting situation is constantly changing. Safety and ethics come into play with every shot and a Hall of Fame pheasant hunter is a great quick decision maker. I also view this category as a call to action for any bird hunter who doesn’t give back to the habitat ultimately responsible for the birds. “Giving back” can mean a lot of different things to each individual. As a Pheasants Forever employee, I’d like to think every pheasant hunter feels a sense of responsibility to give $35 annually in membership dues to an organization committed to perpetuating the future of pheasant hunting though our habitat mission. However, I think “giving back” can also mean creating quality wildlife habitat on one’s own land, engaging politicians in conservation policy or mentoring young hunters in safety and ethics. My point is that being a conservationist is a complex proposition, but it’s the 5th tool elevating a pheasant hunter from Barry Bonds to the rare air of Willie Mays.
Did I miss any obvious skills in my assessment of the five most important tools of a pheasant hunter?
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.
Friday, May 31st, 2013
Grassland habitat is disappearing at a meteoric pace in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains. In fact, a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences put the loss of grassland habitat in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska at a whopping 1.3 million acres between 2006 and 2011. This dramatically changing landscape is having profound negative effects on pheasants and other wildlife. Pheasants Forever’s list of the 12 most threatened areas in pheasant country brings sorely needed attention to what in modern times is unprecedented habitat loss, and also serves as a call to action for pheasant hunters, conservationists and policy makers to do more to preserve wild places and wildlife across America’s heartland.
“The list of the most threatened areas in pheasant country underscores the importance of the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the current CRP General Sign-Up,” says Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Governmental Affairs, “Voluntary conservation programs like CRP provide the bulk of upland habitat in pheasant country. Sustainable farming operations include plans addressing soil, water and wildlife conservation and these farms and ranches support strong rural communities and our nation’s hunting heritage. Pheasants Forever hosted hundreds of landowner meetings regarding CRP in the past two months, and landowners still have until June 14th to visit their local USDA Service Center to learn about options that create win-win situations for their operations and wildlife. And continuous CRP practices which specifically emphasize pheasant and quail habitat are available to landowners in many states on an ongoing basis.”
Dickey County, N.D. This southeast North Dakota county borders South Dakota and is a perennial top-10 county for pheasant harvest in North Dakota. But nowhere is grassland conversion happening as rapidly as it is in the Prairie Pothole Region, and areas around towns well known to pheasant hunters – Oakes and Ellendale – have suffered major CRP losses. “County-wide, we’ve lost 27 percent of our CRP habitat, and just in the last year the number of CRP acres has declined by nearly 14,000,” says Matt Olson, a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, “In the next two years another 16,000 acres are up for expiration. This is a great area where we want to make sure there’s always good upland habitat.”
Lyman County, S.D. - Pheasant hunters annually spend $10 million in Lyman County hunting ringnecks in the heart of pheasant country. But the county suffered a net loss of 13,173 CRP acres last year, and another 4,000 CRP acres are set to leave the program in the next two years. “While the county has lots of pastureland, the CRP acres are what provide the best pheasant nesting habitat in Lyman County,” says Matt Morlock, a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist in South Dakota.
Washington, Marshall and Nemaha Counties, Kans. – This trio of neighboring counties in northeast Kansas has historically been a popular destination for Kansas City metro area upland hunters, but conservation and small grains have taken a backseat to corn and soybean production. Combined, CRP acreage in these counties has declined by nearly 29,000 acres since 2007, a decrease of 34 percent. The habitat horizon is blurry as well, with nearly 20,000 CRP acres set to expire in the next two years. “It’s almost a shame that you can get a hotel room in this area on the pheasant hunting opener, not too long ago it was booked up solid,” says Jordan Martincich, a lifelong Kansas resident and Pheasants Forever’s Development Officer, “We need to work with landowners in these counties to recoup as many CRP acres as possible and keep the upland tradition alive.”
Brown County, S.D. - Brown County has long been the gold standard for pheasant hunters in northeast South Dakota, but no county in the state is set to expire more CRP acres this year (9,136 acres) and next (12,338) than Brown, and this after a net loss of 10,000 CRP acres in the county in the last half decade. Existing upland habitat here is the economic driver for the $16.7 million that resident and nonresident pheasant hunters spend annually in Aberdeen and Brown County.
Carroll County, Iowa – Carroll County’s CRP acreage is down approximately 1,000 acres off its peak, but many of those lost habitat acres were high-quality field and waterway buffers, says Tom Fuller, Pheasants Forever’s Iowa State Coordinator, “This was considered a top-notch pheasant hunting county even a few years ago, but it has taken a big hit, and many winter covering areas that wildlife depended on have been removed from the landscape as well.” In the next two years, another 1,500 CRP acres are slated for program expiration.
Dixon County, Neb. – In 2003, there were nearly 35,000 CRP acres in this northeast Nebraska county, but by 2013 that number had dropped to just 11,876 acres, with nearly all of the exited acres returned to crop production. “Many of these acres were enrolled into the CRP-MAP public access program and provided a significant economic boost to the small towns in the rural county,” says Nebraskan Pete Berthelsen, Pheasants Forever’s Director of Habitat Partnerships. In the next three years, approximately 4,000 more CRP acres expire in Dixon County.
Norton County, Kans. – CRP expirations stabilize in Norton County the next few years, but this follows a period in which one-third of the CRP habitat in the county vanished. “This is a county with a lot of Walk-In Hunting Access, an area capable of providing excellent hunting if the habitat is there” Martincich says, “Pheasants Forever, along with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism, is focusing in on this area to reverse the recent habitat trend.”
Stearns County, Minn. - This central Minnesota location is a popular destination for Minnesota upland hunters, especially from the Twin Cities metro areas just east of it, but it hemorrhaged 50,000 acres of wildlife habitat – mostly grasslands – between 2008 and 2011. Additionally, 5,000-plus more Stearns County CRP acres expire from the program in the next two years.
Sheridan County, Mont. – This northeast Montana area is well-known for the quality pheasant habitat and great pheasant hunting and has been a destination for many hunters. Will it continue to hold that reputation in the future? Conservation Reserve Program acreage has dropped from 156,000-plus acres to just over 111,000 acres and another 17,000 acres leave the program this year. In addition to pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge are upland game birds affected by the habitat loss.
Osceola County, Iowa. – A mix of habitat loss, snowy winters and wet springs has been lethal for Iowa pheasants, but if there’s been a bright spot, it’s been the northwest corner of the state. Even during the modern agricultural boom, CRP acreage in Osceola County has remained steady, actually increasing by a few hundred acres since 2007. However, more than 1,700 county-based CRP lands are set for expiration in the next two years, and the strength of future pheasant numbers could hinge on maintaining current CRP levels.
Codington County, S.D. – The Watertown, South Dakota region has been a popular one in recent times for nonresident hunters traveling from the east, but upland habitat loss has put a severe dent in pheasant numbers here. CRP acreage has nearly been halved, from 29,956 acres in 2007 to 16,318 today, and ringneck numbers have followed suit, with pheasant brood counts in recent years dropping off significantly from the previous 10-year averages. Another 5,700 CRP acres expire in 2013-2014 in Codington County.
Central Nebraska. – The Loess Hills of central Nebraska have always been a prime area for pheasants, quail and prairie chickens. The rolling topography here is a rich mixture of native grasslands interspersed with the draws and plum thickets and grassy draws close to row crops that upland game birds thrive in. Berthelsen says loss of CRP acres coupled with native grassland conversion to row crops is accelerating habitat loss in this region at a significant pace.
Friday, April 26th, 2013
Nothing trips my trigger more than an out-of-range flushing dog……..mine or someone else’s.
I mean, you are better off hunting pheasant without a dog than with a dog that flushes birds 75 or 100 yards out. I’ve put my own dog away in a crate when he was breaking range discipline and have insisted others do the same with their errant dogs. It’s enough to make a guy buy a pointer…naw! I’d miss the fast pace excitement of trailing a flusher too much. And that flush at the end, it don’t get any better!
I knew my current dog, a springer named “Hunter,” had arrived two years ago when he self-corrected on a hard running North Dakota rooster. Instead of running out of range, he held up for me, circled and caught the trail, eventually flushing the rooster in range (I got ‘em too).
But, it takes time and work to get a flushing dog to resist the instinct to hit the gas and chase out of range. First off, every dog I’ve ever trained is different. I’ve had to learn what it takes with each dog. I had to use an e-collar with “Hunter” the first few years, but now I don’t even put it on him. He gets it.
A dog man’s best range tool is still the check cord. Let them get out a bit and pull them back, sharply at first if the dog is a slow learner. Then, let them run with the check cord dragging behind as a reminder. Eventually, turn them loose without the cord. It takes time and repetition. The real test comes when they are hot on a bird’s trail. Keep an e-collar on them in case they need a reminder. I start with a verbal warning. If that doesn’t work, I use the tone or vibration button. If that fails, then use low stimulation. I’ve had to use mid-range stimulation when a dog first bolts after a rabbit or deer, but it usually only takes one or two lessons to make that point.
I never get tired of hunting birds with a dog. When it all comes together – a bird, close-in flush and good shot – it’s a thing of beauty.
Monday, April 22nd, 2013
Time is a concept I, like most of us I suppose, find difficult to grasp. It seems like only yesterday I was seven-years-old, peering out the school bus window and taking in the countryside. Being one of the first route stops in the morning and last drop-offs in the evening meant long rides, and after enough of them the ponds, wetlands, rivers, groves, draws and grasslands began to feel like old friends.
My favorite slough was just a couple miles up the road from home. At 20 acres, it wasn’t terribly big, but to a child’s eyes it seemed massive, only more so when ducks circled above. In addition to waterfowl, I could always count on spotting a few pheasants or deer hanging out around the edges. In the winter, those ringnecks took refuge in the cattails, their last line of defense against another battering blizzard.
My first solo duck hunts came at the slough, along with a word from the landowner to never bother asking for permission again. Paradise. Come colder weather, I’d trudge around those cattails trying to roust a rooster or two. And the more I was there, the more I wondered. How many thousands of years had the slough been a landmark on the annual migration? How many sharp-tailed grouse had danced nearby? How many creatures, large and small, had sipped water from its banks?
As I grew older, the slough remained a constant, though the cattail ring dwindled to accommodate a few extra rows of corn or beans. Even so, two years ago it was brimming with life, mallards, teal and canvasbacks, shorebirds and even crows from a couple roosters who wouldn’t dare show themselves. Last year brought a time of drought. Discouraged there would be no hunting, I reminded myself this was the natural part of any slough’s cycle.
And then, in the time it takes to do a load of laundry or buy a gallon of milk, a match was lit and a plow hitched…if you didn’t know, like it never even existed. Ten thousand years gone in ten minutes.
Seems like a good time to blame. To throw hands up in the air and do nothing. But it’s as good a time as any to try and make a difference. Before somebody else’s favorite slough runs out of time.
Friday, April 19th, 2013
It’s been my experience bird hunters attach a nickname to their very favorite spots. Most of us don’t use official state-designated names like “Mud Lake WMA” or “Stan Musial WPA.” Instead, we invent colorful names like “Scotch Double Rooster Hill” or “The Red Zone.” As a self-diagnosed obsessive compulsive organizer, I thought it’d be fun to categorize the naming conventions used most often in titling a bird hunter’s favorite spots. I’ve come up with three primary categories:
The most obvious nicknames are derived by the geographic or topographic attributes of a piece of property. These names are descriptive enough for insiders to know exactly the property being referenced, but also vague enough to keep outsiders away from favored covers. Examples include; “The Triangle,” “Big Bluestem,” “The Berry Patch,” “Circle Slough,” “The Horseshoe,” or “The High Line.”
The Former Owner
My radio partner, “The Captain” Billy Hildebrand, is notorious for naming his favorite spots in reference to the land’s previous owner. In most cases, these spots are now officially-named public Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) in the central Minnesota county where Billy grew up. However, during Billy’s youth, these same spots were privately owned by family, friends and acquaintances. Consequently, the Green Lake WPA is simply known by Billy and his hunting pals as “Schuler’s.”
These places earned their name as a result of a classic event taking place amongst friends, family or bird dogs. Over time, these pieces of property are the ones we hold dearest because of their link to loved ones and memories. Examples include, “Nester’s Hallow,” “Trammell’s Triple-double,” “The Opener,” “Miracle Shot,” “Numero Uno,” and “The Chicken Ranch.”
Does the name of your favorite hunting honey hole fit into one of these three categories? What’s the nickname of your all-time favorite spot?
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.
Monday, April 15th, 2013
Last year we were happy to report hunter numbers in the United States increased from 12.5 million to 13.7 million. Now a new survey shows 79 percent of the American public approve of hunting, the highest level of support in 17 years.
Compiled by Responsive Management, an independent research firm, the nationwide scientific survey showed the public’s approval of hunting rose five points in the past year, up from 74 percent in 2011. More than half (52 percent) of those surveyed strongly approved of hunting. At the other end of the spectrum, 12 percent of Americans disapprove of hunting. Another 8 percent neither approve nor disapprove (total does not equal 100 percent due to rounding). Support for hunting has remained generally consistent during this time–73 percent in 1995; 75 percent in 2003; 78 percent in 2006; 74 percent in 2011; and a peak of 79 percent in 2013.
Public approval of hunting is critical to the long-term success of conservation efforts in the United States. Hunters remain the largest active block of conservationists in America, their passion to create and restore habitat fueled by their favorite way to enjoy the outdoors. This has been true for more than a century, and remains true today. At Pheasants Forever, which was started 30 years ago by a concerned group of pheasant hunters, 9 out of 10 current members are hunters. Responsive Management also points out shooting participation increased 18 percent since 2009 – shooting sports being another pathway to hunting and conservation.
It’s been a struggle to conserve upland habitat in recent years, but the battle will never cease, and we won’t be able to fight in the future without an engaged constituency. All recent data indicates we’re on the right track.
Friday, April 12th, 2013
As a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys diverse landscapes, as well as a wingshooter who’s succumbed to the addiction of hunting wild ringnecks, it’s been nothing short of tragic to witness the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) – often referred to as the “holy grail” of conservation programs – withering away the past five years.
If you’re a pheasant hunter and a conservationist, you’ve likely seen these facts before, and even so, they bear repeating. Consider that:
- In prime pheasant habitat, a 4 percent increase in CRP grassland acres was associated with a 22 percent increase in pheasant counts (source: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture).
- In 2006, Pheasants Forever estimated of the then 36 million-plus CRP acres nationwide, 25.5 million constituted in the pheasant range were responsible for producing 13.5 million pheasants annually.
Unfortunately, the U.S. has lost 9.7 million acres of CRP land in just five years and there are now just 27 million CRP acres nationwide. This mass exodus of wildlife habitat has cut right through the heart of pheasant country.
|State||2007 CRP Acreage||2013 CRP Acreage||Percent Decline|
|South Dakota||1.56 million||978,257||37 percent|
|North Dakota||3.39 million||1.79 million||54 percent|
|Kansas||3.26 million||2.37 million||27 percent|
|Minnesota||1.83 million||1.4 million||23 percent|
|Nebraska||1.34 million||895,251||33 percent|
|Iowa||1.97 million||1.53 million||22 percent|
|Montana||3.48 million||2 million||42 percent|
In two states, South Dakota and Nebraska, total CRP acreage has fallen below 1 million acres, a baseline number many biologists and hunters feel is critical to maintaining quality pheasant numbers, as CRP is so essential for pheasant production.
While another 3.3 million acres expire from the program on September 30th, we have the opportunity to cancel out that loss with a four-week general signup for the Conservation Reserve Program that begins May 20. While landowners have trended away from CRP in today’s commodity crop-rich environment, CRP remains the single most effective and widest-ranging upland habitat tool in existence. And to help end the withering, Pheasants Forever strongly urges Congress to pass a new 5-year Farm Bill that includes a strong Conservation Reserve Program.
Thursday, February 28th, 2013
James (Jay) F. Gore had fond childhood memories of a Remington Model 17 pump action 20 gauge shotgun, so when he found a used one in good condition at a Missoula gun shop in 2007, he sprung for it. His Model 17 was made in 1925.
That same year, Gore toted the Model 17 on Montana’s pheasant hunting opening day. “I had the poly choke turned to the stop between improved cylinder and modified. I was using Federal 2 ¾ inch shells with ¾ ounce of #6 steel shot as we were hunting on the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge and steel was required,” Gore said. Seven rounds were put through the Model 17 that day. “Four shots were wasted on my eagerness and shooting at birds too far. When I settled down, my next few shots connected on three rooster pheasants that were ‘puffed’ at 20-30 yards. The little old Model 17 worked like a charm.”
Consider Gore in the camp that believes classic guns are meant to see the field. “It was rewarding finding, buying and hunting with this antique. I’m a happy guy.”
Do you have a classic shotgun with a story to tell? Email a photo to Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor, at email@example.com.
Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
Jeff Smith and his son, P.J., first spotted this white rooster pheasant near Jeff’s home in rural Zumbrota on opening day of Minnesota’s 2012 pheasant hunting season. The bird flushed a few hundreds ahead of their hunting group, and with its mostly white color, they figured the bird would be too visible to predators and wouldn’t last long in the wild.
But this rooster had a knack for avoiding danger, Jeff and P.J. included. “He eluded our guns all season,” Jeff said, “The bird always jumped 50 yards ahead of the dogs’ initial points and flew around a brushy hillside near a river bottom. The bird would flush wild again upon our second approach.”
On December 28th, they tried a different strategy, with P.J. staying at the top of the hill while one of his friends circled the river bottom. When P.J.’s setters, “Bella,” a 9-year-old tri-color and “Penny,” a 10-year old lemon and white, when on point, the white rooster once again moved and busted out 150 yards ahead. This time, P.J. was right where he needed to be. “The bird made the mistake of flying over my son on the top of the hill,” Jeff said, “It was a good passing shot.”
Jeff and P.J. regularly hunt and train dogs in Goodhue County, frequently visiting publicly accessible wildlife management areas that the local Goodhue County Pheasants Forever chapter has contributed dollars and efforts to. But they’d never seen anything like this once-in-a-lifetime longtail. Other than a few black specks on the neck and breast, the bird is snow white, including the tail and legs. To commemorate the hunt, P.J. had the bird mounted in flight. “This is the only white pheasant I’ve seen in 50 years of pheasant hunting,” Jeff said, “It is a magnificent bird!”