Posts Tagged ‘pheasants forever’

Dog of the Day: “Tucker”

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Tucker

“Tucker” the English springer spaniel stood proud after his first-ever pheasant hunting trip to South Dakota in November 2014. “We had a great time and can’t wait to back next year!” said owner Bob Mindemann, a Pheasants Forever member and volunteer with Wisconsin’s Dodge County Chapter of Pheasants Forever.

Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s online editor, at ahauck@pheasantsforever.org.

Rooster Report: Late Season Comes Early

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

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Almost overnight, pheasants have had to adjust to conditions which turned the season from a warm, Indian-summer-type autumn into what seems to be the dead of winter. Where you were seeing birds two weeks ago – in light grasses along just-harvested fields – is not where they are going to be now.

Thanks to inches of fresh snow (or more in other stretches of pheasant country and a very cold shift in the weather pattern, late season hunting conditions have arrived. So, even though it’s November, you’ll want to shift your tactics to adjust to where the birds are now located and hunt like it’s the end of the season. Using winter strategies now will fill the pouches in your game vest.

The Game Has Changed
It’s not uncommon as the end of the season approaches to have pheasants flush wildly, sometimes over 100 yards away. Having been on the receiving end of the autumn chase has made birds wise. The slightest sound – be it a truck door slamming, a command to a dog, or the crunch of snow underfoot – sends pheasants skyward. Many times, there is nothing a hunter can do about it; that’s just the nature of winter birds.

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However, by being as stealthy as possible, you can up the odds in your favor. Start by being ready when you pull up to your hunting spot. Remove the keys from the ignition before opening the door, and be sure the radio is off. When closing vehicle doors, don’t slam them; gently close them and press them shut. Quietly let your hunting buddy out of his kennel, and if you can direct him with hand signals or slight whistles, that will help your chances too. As you begin your pursuit, try to step on soft snow, as opposed to wind-hardened or melted and refrozen snow, which is crunchier and louder underfoot. Even the slight sound of snow can set birds off at a distance. Limit in-field conversations as well – the human voice is a big red panic button for roosters this time of year.

Tromping through Thick Cover
Just as you may add blankets on your bed as winter sets in, pheasants look for cover that will help keep them warm as cold temperatures become the norm and snow accumulations push them from lighter grasses. Brush and willow thickets, along with evergreen trees like spruce, juniper and cedar provide excellent buffers against the wind. With a good amount of grass around the bases and lower limbs, these windrows form perfect pockets where birds can hunker down, and walking these areas can help you identify staging spots for wily winter roosters.

snowtracksThick cattails also provide thermal cover, and the snow gives hunters an advantage in locating where the birds are in winter sloughs. Cold weather has not only started to freeze the water in these areas of cover, opening up more space for birds to run through, but it also provides hunters the opportunity to access places that were too waterlogged to walk earlier in the season. It’s a great chance to see what portions of a slough are being used frequently by pheasants, just make sure the ice you’re walking on is solid and provides firm footing, for you and your bird dog!

Eyes on the Ground
By walking the edge of thick cattail cover and keeping an eye out for tracks and wing or tail marks along the perimeter, you’ll know exactly where the birds have been entering or exiting the slough and where to start your dog on the search. Tracking bird movements, thanks to recent snowfall, is a hunter’s greatest advantage at this time of the year. The sign proves birds are around, shows where they are moving and gives insight into the daily habits of the local pheasant population. You’ll want to key in on places where you find a number of tracks and areas where the birds are holing up or scratching for food. From season to season, these areas of cover with super-highways of four-toed tracks will be places to check out on each hunt, whether early in the year or later on.

Ain’t Over ‘Till It’s Over
Just because the weather is colder and the birds are spookier, doesn’t mean hunting is done. Until the last light of the season’s final day, even the wariest rooster can be had with a few modifications to your hunting style, and awareness to pheasants’ seasonal needs. Try these tips to find success as late season hunting takes flight!

Photo credits: David Strandberg (top), Pheasants Forever file photo (middle), Craig Armstrong (bottom)

-Nick Simonson is a freelance outdoor journalist from Marshall, Minn. He also volunteers as the president of the Lyon County Chapter of Pheasants Forever.

Dog of the Day: “Bo”

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Bo

“Bo” is Candi Nelson’s Weimaraner. “We just got back from our first hunting trip to South Dakota. Even though the weather was less than ideal, Bo was not about to let snow, wind, or freezing cold stop him from bringing home the pheasants!”

Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s online editor, at ahauck@pheasantsforever.org.

Dog of the Day: “Trigg”

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Trigg

Jason Nollmeyer’s German shorthaired pointer, “Trigg,” has been on his upland game so far this season in Washington. “Here he is with three of the five roosters shot over him that day,” Nollmeyer says.

Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s online editor, at ahauck@pheasantsforever.org.

Minnesota is Talking Pheasants: Register Now for State’s First-Ever Pheasant Summit

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

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How does Minnesota combat the expiration of approximately 300,000 Conservation Reserve Program acres in the coming years? How can the state and conservation groups like Pheasants Forever partner more effectively? Can improvements be made to existing conservation programs that improve grasslands and pheasant populations? Your ideas are wanted now in Minnesota.

Minnesota’s ring-necked pheasants are at a crossroads for conservation, and the state is taking action! On Saturday, Dec. 13, Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are presenting the first-ever Minnesota Pheasant Summit in Marshall, an event convened by Governor Mark Dayton. Join us! The event will bring hunters, farmers, policymakers, conservationists, and key members of the Governor’s Cabinet together to discuss strategies to increase the pheasant population, improve pheasant habitat, and ensure future generations can enjoy the thrill of flushing pheasants.

Register today—registration is free and includes lunch. The Summit begins at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13 in Marshall, MN at the Southwest Minnesota State University (Conference Center-Upper Ballroom).

Busy that weekend?—sign-up for the Pheasant Summit’s email updates to receive notification when the online survey is available to send in your input.

The time has come to bring Minnesotans together to talk pheasants and upland habitat. Make sure you’re involved.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s online editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Dogs of the Day: “Abbie” and “Willie”

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

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“Abbie” and “Willie” are Gordon setters owned and handled by Logan Burke (left) and his dad, Jerrod. Jerrod Burke is the District V Commissioner with Nebraska Game and Parks, and is an advocate of the Open Fields and Waters Program. Pheasants Forever manages the Open Fields and Waters Program in partnership with the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission.

Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s online editor, at ahauck@pheasantsforever.org.

Rooster Road Trip Recap: Nebraska sets Public Access Standard for Bird Hunters

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

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One of the reasons I look forward to the Rooster Road Trip every year is because it serves as my own form of a pheasant country survey. I enjoy comparing bird numbers, topography, geographic hunting differences, habitat conditions and access programs. As I reflect on today’s memorable 2014 Rooster Road Trip finale, I can say without qualification that Nebraska’s Open Fields and Waters Program is the country’s best template for opening up private land to public hunting access.

Like all the best ideas, the genesis for Nebraska’s Open Fields concept occurred during a hunting trip in 1996 between Jim Douglas of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Pete Berthelsen of Pheasants Forever. The next year, the Conservation Reserve Program-Managed Access Program (CRP-MAP) was created to open up private CRP acres for public access, but with a wrinkle unique from other states. CRP-MAP incentivized landowners to improve the habitat on those acres when qualifying for the access payment. The result was an economic carrot for landowners to create higher quality cover.

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A few years ago, the Nebraska Game and Parks Department changed the name from CRP-Map to the Open Fields & Waters Program for the purpose of creating access for other forms of public recreation, like fishing. The program has also added a scoring system to incentivize additional habitat practices on private land with higher landowner payments. In other words, the higher quality of habitat and the greater potential for hunter satisfaction on array of species, the bigger the payment available for a landowner.

I’ve focused my pheasant hunting on these acres during every previous visit to Nebraska over the years and this morning was no different. Led by Andy Houser, a Pheasants Forever farm bill wildlife biologist, we released our pointers into the frosty morning breeze blowing into a beautiful stand of bluestem. Two roosters received early warning of our arrival and flushed just out of gun range within minutes of leaving the truck.

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A third rooster was not so wise. He rose to the sky off my German shorthaired pointer Trammell’s nose and banked to the left before a load of Prairie Storm 4’s brought him back to the grass. Jerrod Burke, District V Commissioner with Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, handed the rooster to me after his Gordon setter made the retrieve and alerted me to jewelry, a red band, on the bird’s ankle.

Houser explained that biology students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit net the wild roosters during autumn nights prior to hunting season. After capture, a leg band is secured and the bird is released. Then as hunters bag those roosters, researchers are able to determine many things like distribution and life expectancy.  After a phone call with the leg band’s number, Houser reported this morning’s banded rooster was indeed captured in this very CRP field earlier this autumn and was born this spring.

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Shortly after all photos of the leg band were complete, Burke added a rooster to his own game vest with a smart left to right crossing shot. And later at the far corner of the field, Trammell was able to equal her previous Nebraska retrieving feats by tracking down a rooster I had winged on a far straightaway shot (my nemesis). While our collection of pups and hunters searched the spot the bird “should be,” I watched Trammell on my Garmin Alpha screen as she zipped to my left 60 yards. With trepidation, I watched her get further and further from me. But this was Nebraska and Tram has a history of “delivering the mail” for me here.  After a few minutes, I’ll be darned if Pheasants Forever’s Colby Kerber didn’t yell to our collection of hunters “here comes a pup with a bird in her mouth.” As any bird dog loving guy or gal will tell you; that kind of retrieve makes cleaning up the puppy messes, the torn shoes, the begging at the table, and the veterinarian bills all worthwhile.

We worked a total of four Open Fields tracts between a cheeseburger and hot chocolate (with whipped cream, of course) before calling an end to the official 2014 Rooster Road Trip. While there were plenty of roosters still to chase, photos needed uploading and blog posts needed composing. Plus, I submitted Thursday and Friday as vacation days before I left Minnesota. My own personal Rooster Road Trip, without camera or computer, starts tomorrow. Where? A Nebraska Open Fields & Waters parcel of course. I’ll be there at 8AM. I don’t drink much coffee, but grab me a hot chocolate with whipped cream and we’ll turn a couple of dogs loose into the wind together. Safe travels and see you on the Rooster Road!

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Follow along to the 2014 Rooster Road Trip at www.RoosterRoadTrip.org and be sure to mention #RRT14 in all your Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts.

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.

Rooster Road Trip Recap: A Kansas Comeback

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

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The Rooster Road Trip, Team Pointer crew arrived in Smith Center, Kansas in time for a late hot beef and mashed potato dinner last night with Pheasants Forever development officer Jordan Martincich and his cousin Jimmy Garvey at a local watering hole fittingly called “Pooches.” We wolfed down the comfort food knowing what was happening outside the neon glowing windows. The cold front that had chased us out of Colorado had gained momentum as it whipped across the prairie.  Wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour had added snow to the air and ice to the roads. The most important question on our minds; “had we packed our thermal underwear?” Thankfully, our duffels were prepared for the elements even if our minds hadn’t embraced the idea of winter hunting yet.

Drought has held down the Kansas pheasant and quail populations the last few seasons. Scorched habitat and non-existent nesting success had been the trend until moisture returned this spring. Kansas is proof of the age-old biologist’s wisdom that you have to have habitat on the ground to take advantage of weather when it breaks right. With 2.2 million acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program and more than 1.5 million acres of public hunting land, Kansas is primed for a comeback. That’s encouraging considering Kansas’ historic stature as the nation’s second-highest-producing pheasant state AND second-highest-producing bobwhite quail state. And for this traveling wingshooter’s money, Kansas boasts the country’s best pheasant and quail mixed bag hunting opportunity.

Pheasants Forever's Jordan Martincich proudly displays a public land Kansas rooster while Casey Seirer looks on.

Pheasants Forever’s Jordan Martincich proudly displays a public land Kansas rooster while Casey Seirer looks on.

Despite the improved forecast for bird numbers, I admittedly woke up Tuesday and looked out the window to a snow-covered Ford F-150 and lamented to myself; it wasn’t supposed to be like this. I had successfully averted the first Minnesota snowstorm of the season by being in Kansas where it was supposed to be 50 degrees and sunny. Instead, I was greeted by wind chills estimated into the negative digits.  As our caravan pulled out of town toward our state wildlife area destination, I was pessimistic about the day’s prospects. Boy was I wrong.

Tyson Seirer, a Pheasants Forever farm bill wildlife biologist, and Ryan Grammon of the Route 36 Chapter of Quail Forever led our hunting group to a massive state complex featuring grass, milo, wooded draws and shelterbelts. It was a magnificent property obviously being managed for upland game. Hope crept out of my grin and the sun broke cloudless over the horizon. That’s when I started to put the recipe together; snow on the ground was going to provide great scenting conditions for the dogs and the high winds were going to concentrate the birds in the hollows and shelterbelts.  The foreshadowing of the day was complete when tailgates opened and 13 pointers begged release with 10 earning the first call. There were English setters, a Llewellyn setter, a pointer, a Brittany, a Vizsla, a variety of German shorthaired pointers and a pointing Boykin spaniel. Talk about a dog power game changer.

It only took fifteen minutes for shouts of “quail!” to echo across the valley with “rooster!” following in short order. There was sharp-shooting by Martincich, dozens of points from all pups, countless dogs honoring, three coveys rising, and roosters retrieved. We had hit the Kansas public habitat jackpot.

For 10 hunters and their 13 pointing dogs under a “warm” sun-soaked Kansas sky, it was a crisp morning forever engraved in our memories placing Kansas firmly on the comeback trail.

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Follow along to the 2014 Rooster Road Trip at www.RoosterRoadTrip.org and be sure to mention #RRT14 in all your Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts.

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.

Dogs of the Day: “Cocoa,” “Tip,” “Max” & “Dot”

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Dot

Casey Seirer and Tyson Seirer have a lot of helping paws in the field with their German shorthaired pointer, “Cocoa,” Boykin spaniel, “Tip,” (he points), Llewelyn setter, “Max,” and English pointer, “Dot.” Tyson is a Pheasants Forever farm bill wildlife biologist from Beloit, Kans.

Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s online editor, at ahauck@pheasantsforever.org.

Rooster Road Trip Recap: Blown Away in Colorado

Monday, November 10th, 2014

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The Colorado of my imagination is painted by herds of elk roaming the Rocky Mountains. In reality, Colorado is a state of dramatic topographical diversity with an agricultural terrain not unlike neighboring Kansas or Nebraska dominating the eastern third.

The state’s primary pheasant range exists in a geographic triangle between the towns of Sterling, Holyoke and Yuma. This land is checkered with corn, wheat and grassy CRP blocks. In fact, Colorado has 1.98 million acres currently enrolled in CRP which is the third highest mark in the country behind only Texas and Kansas

Bob Hix, Pheasants Forever’s regional representative for Colorado, favors hunting walk-in areas of harvested wheat fields in which shin-high stubble has been left as residual cover. Upon our arrival in the state over the weekend, we spent some time hunting these areas, but found only limited success with Pheasants Forever’s Logan Hinners dropping the group’s first Colorado ringneck.

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For the first day of the Team Pointer leg of the Rooster Road Trip, we were joined by a group of representatives from Colorado Parks & Wildlife which included Director Bob Broscheid and Terrestrial Section Manager Craig McLaughlin and his talented trio of German shorthairs. As we pulled into the parking area this morning, a cloudless sun-soaked sky shined 50 degree temps onto our 10 person hunting group. Whenever I hunt in groups this large, I’m always concerned about safety. To this gathering’s credit, every hunter was diligent about safety to the point of being overly polite when the first rooster cackled to the sky at 20 yards in front of the center of our line. It was that Colorado pheasant’s lucky day with every gun’s muzzle safely pointed straight up and every safety firmly engaged in each hunter’s hand. The second rooster must have figured his chances as good as the first and he was right.  Even the third rooster flushed without a shot fired. Finally Ed Gorman, a Pheasants Forever chapter member and Parks & Wildlife employee, swung on a fourth rooster that was not to be so lucky as the first three pardoned birds.

By the time we returned to the parking area, temperatures had plummeted 25 degrees and winds had grown to a steady 30 miles per hour with gusts somewhere just shy of almost knocking us over. Winter was coming to Colorado and we were squarely in its path.

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After a few fruitless efforts to push walk-in areas along the state’s eastern border with Kansas, the wind pushed us back to our trucks in retreat. The downside of our Rooster Road Trip is the need to keep moving to the next destination. Colorado is a state with tremendous sunsets, topographical beauty and wonderfully nice people. It’s a pheasant destination worth spending more than 24 hours trying to figure out.  Count me and my pointers in for a return Colorado connection.

Total Productive Points Today: 13

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Follow along to the 2014 Rooster Road Trip at www.RoosterRoadTrip.org and be sure to mention #RRT14 in all your Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts.

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.