Posts Tagged ‘sharp-tailed grouse’

Opening Weekend at Bird Camp 2013

Friday, September 27th, 2013

The first day, a downpour (wet dog). Then the winds picked up (dry dog). In the middle of the night, the local coyote packs made a point of waking us up (guard dog). And it dropped into the upper 30s (cold dog). But these were merely minor inconveniences as my cousin, Jake, and I opened our 2013 upland bird hunting seasons by setting up bird camp in North Dakota. And “Sprig,” my English cocker spaniel, couldn’t contain her excitement about starting her second campaign in the field (happy dog).

My bird camp doesn’t have a permanent address – it’s wherever I am that weekend – but even if we wanted a hotel in the area we hunt in North Dakota, we’d be looking at driving 30-plus miles just to find lodging. So an abandoned farm place it is, with just enough trees to block the wind, but not enough to hide the sunrises, sunsets and star shine that have a way of making me feel a little more insignificant when they fall on me from the prairie sky.

Two hunters and one close-working flushing dog isn’t exactly the ideal setup when it comes to finding birds in this wide open country to which pointing dogs are much better suited, but “ideal setup” and “how to” articles probably filled up a good portion of the pages of the outdoor magazines that filled our mailboxes while we were gone. I can read about what I was supposed to do come February.

We earned and cherished every bird, stopping to take pictures and recognize special occasions, including Jake’s first-ever sharptail and, after force fetching her this summer, Sprig’s first wild bird retrieve to hand. Not photographed were the areas of grassland hunted last year now growing beans, or the miles and miles of drain tile rolled up and ready to be laid in remarkably unproductive looking farmland. Even in this area north of the primary pheasant range, this modern agricultural revolution, fueled by the weakest federal conservation measures in a generation, marches on.

Deep down, I believe we’re going to turn the habitat tide. That for the sake of the land, we will realize the unsustainability of our current ways. And, a bit more selfishly, that better days for man and gun dog lie ahead. But Monday and this hard work will come. It always comes. The opening of seasons are about remembering good times and hunting for new ones. And on this trip, we found them:  first birds, fresh sharptail on the grill and enjoying the company of one very, very happy dog.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Prairie Grouse Hunting Outlook

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

 PrairieGrouseHuntingOutlook

Most states west of the Mississippi River have upland seasons for prairie grouse – prairie chickens, sage grouse and/or sharp-tailed grouse – opening in September. These early upland seasons are ideal for dog work and sharpening your wingshooting skills. Don’t expect a lot of competition for spots, as many prairie grouse hunting opportunities are notoriously underutilized by upland hunters. This outlook focuses on the states with the most widespread populations:

Kansas

Kansas has an early prairie chicken season (Northwest and East units, Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, 2013) that gives bird hunters a unique opportunity to walk up greater prairie chickens and work bird dogs long before pheasant and quail seasons open. The early season was established to provide additional hunting opportunity for this tallgrass prairie icon and let hunters enjoy a true one-of-a-kind grassland hunt. The traditional prairie chicken season is Nov. 16-Jan. 31, 2014 in the East and Northwest units, and Nov. 16-Dec. 31 in the Southwest Unit, and during this season, most prairie chickens are taken by pass shooting. While prairie chickens rarely flush within shotgun range of walking hunters during the regular season, the early season, flocks of young birds are more likely to hold for walking hunters and dogs. All prairie chicken hunters must have a $2.50 prairie chicken permit in addition to a hunting license. Permits may be purchased wherever licenses are sold and online. Information provided by hunters at the time of purchase will help biologists estimate prairie chicken harvest and hunting pressure. A more substantial prairie grouse population update is expected to be released by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism later this month.

Montana

Even Montana, one of the last great places for mixed bag upland hunting, is seeing land changes affecting its upland bird populations. Large acreages of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands are being returned to crop production in many places, habitat loss which is expected to have a long-term impact to prairie grouse populations if habitat isn’t restored. The weather side hasn’t been much kinder, as a drought last year was followed up by substantial spring flooding events in early June. Consequently, sharp-tailed grouse numbers are expected to be average to below average across the eastern region of the state. Sage grouse were really hurt by last year’s extreme drought conditions, which led to low brood survival. Hunters can expect sage grouse numbers to be average to well below average across Montana’s entire sage grouse range, though excellent brood rearing conditions this summer may mitigate those declines to some extent. Both grouse seasons in Montana opened Sept. 1, with the sage grouse season closing Nov. 1, 2013 and the sharp-tailed grouse season closing Jan. 1, 2014.

Nebraska

Nebraska’s July Rural Mail Carrier Survey indicated regional and statewide declines in prairie grouse (sharp-tailed grouse & greater prairie chicken) abundance compared to 2012. Regional declines were greatest in the Northeast and Central regions. The Sandhills, west of Highway 81 in the western grouse zone, continues to be the core of the prairie grouses range in Nebraska, and will offer the best opportunities for harvest this year. East of Highway 81, in the eastern grouse zone (where one of 400 special, free permits is required) brood observations, like those of pheasants and bobwhites, have been few. Further, habitat loss continues to accelerate in the eastern zone. As for southwest Nebraska, Johnson and western Pawnee Counties should offer the best chances this year. Nebraska’s prairie grouse season runs Sept. 1, 2013 through Jan. 31, 2014.

North Dakota

Sharp-tailed grouse, as well as Hungarian partridge populations, are down significantly from last year in North Dakota. The July and August roadside counts suggested suggest sharp-tailed grouse numbers are down 51 percent statewide from last year, with the number of broods observed down 50 percent, while the statewide Hungarian partridge population is down 34 percent from last year, and the number of broods observed is down 31 percent. Aaron Robinson, upland game biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Dickinson, said even though spring survey numbers indicated a population comparable to last year, the telling factor is always late-summer counts. “Fall hunting season success is directly correlated to the current year’s reproductive success – if there is a good hatch then logically there will be more birds on the landscape come fall hunting season,” Robinson said.  The season for sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge in North Dakota runs Sept. 14, 2013 through Jan. 5, 2014.

South Dakota

Prairie grouse production – sharptails and greater prairie chickens – was the worst on record in 2012, likely in response to record drought conditions in central and western South Dakota. “The cold and wet spring was not ideal for prairie grouse production in 2013, but we are optimistic that production will be higher than 2012,” says Travis Runia, a senior upland game biologist with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department. Runia noted that continued grassland habitat loss has eroded the prairie grouse distribution along their eastern range, but when hunters do find grasslands, they should find them with more cover than last year, which should help hunting success. The Fort Pierre National Grasslands, with 100,000-plus acres of well-managed grasslands, still represents the premier destination for prairie grouse hunters in South Dakota. South Dakota’s prairie grouse season runs Sept. 21, 2013 through Jan. 5, 2014.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Prairie Grouse Primer

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Most states west of the Mississippi have upland seasons for prairie grouse – prairie chickens, sage grouse and sharp-tailed grouse – opening in September. These early upland seasons are ideal for dog work and sharpening your wingshooting skills. Don’t expect a lot of competition for spots, as many prairie grouse hunting opportunities are notoriously underutilized by upland hunters.

As the nation’s leading upland conservation organization, Pheasants Forever’s wildlife habitat mission is also being utilized to help prairie grouse. Nationally, Pheasants Forever is a leader on the Sage Grouse Initiative, and Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologists are working with landowners in the southern plains as part of the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative. Additionally, Pheasants Forever chapter habitat projects where pheasant and grouse ranges overlap – Canada, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming as examples – are also benefitting prairie grouse.

 

Colorado

Outlook:  Colorado’s rich upland offering includes prairie chickens, sage grouse and sharp-tailed grouse, one of just a couple states in which all three exist in huntable populations. The largest populations of sage grouse open to hunting are found in North Park (Jackson County), Grand County, and Moffat County. Greater prairie chickens are found in the sandhills of northern and central Yuma County, extreme eastern Washington County and extreme southern Phillips County. Sharptails are doing well thanks to the presence of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands in their range.

Sage grouse

  • Multiple seasons, consult regulations for details

Prairie chicken

  • Season: Oct. 1 through Jan. 6 (select units only, consult regulations for details)
  • Daily Bag Limit: 2
  • Annual Bag and Possession Limit: 2

Sharp-tailed grouse

  • Season: Sept. 1 through Sept. 16 (select units only, consult regulations for details)
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 2 / 4


Idaho

Outlook:  Idaho is home to Columbian sharp-tailed grouse and sage grouse, and reports from the field suggest this fall will be promising, according to Jeff Knetter, Upland Game Biologist with the Idaho Fish and Game Department. Counts of male sage grouse on lek routes were down 13 percent this spring, but nesting conditions were favorable for production. For sharptails, eastern Idaho is the best area, namely the southeast and Upper Snake regions. “There is abundant public land (state and federal) and many Access Yes! properties that provide access for hunting to private land,” Knetter says of these regions. For sage grouse, the best areas to hunt would be the southwest, Upper Snake and Salmon regions. “Most sage grouse hunting opportunities can be found on abundant public land, primarily BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands in Idaho,” Knetter says. On the habitat front, the Conservation Reserve Program-State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) practice is being implemented in both the Southeast and Upper Snake regions to improve or enhance sharptail habitat, while the Sage Grouse Initiative is being implemented across the range of sage grouse in Idaho. Last year, Utah hunters harvested 2,900 sharptails and 2,100 sage grouse.

Sage grouse & Sharp-tailed grouse

  • Season: Sharp-tailed grouse: Oct. 1 through Oct. 31; Sage grouse: Sept. 15 through Sept. 21
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit:  2 sharptails, 1 sage grouse / 4 sharptails, 2 sage grouse

 

Kansas

Outlook:  Populations of greater and lesser prairie chickens remain strong in west central and northwest Kansas, though down slightly from last year, reports Dave Dahlgren, Small Game Specialist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Greater prairie chicken populations have increased in northwest Kansas in recent years, so the state has expanded its early season into this area that includes some of the highest densities. The extreme drought of the past two years has especially hurt southwest Kansas, including lesser prairie chicken areas that have seen extreme declines in recent years. Dahlgren adds that the Flint Hills did not receive prescribed management burning this year due to drought, which left more nesting cover on the landscape and likely resulted in higher production of birds in that area. Last year, 6,200 greater prairie chickens and 400 lesser prairie chickens were harvested by Kansas hunters. New for 2012, Kansas prairie chicken hunters are required to purchase a $2.50 prairie chicken permit which will allow the state to monitor harvest with much more precision.

Prairie chicken

Early Season (Northwest and East units)

  • Sept. 15 through Oct. 15
  • Daily Bag Limit: 2, single species or in combination

Regular Season (Northwest and East units)

  • Nov. 17 through Jan. 31, 2013
  • Daily Bag Limit: 2, single species or in combination

Southwest Season

  • Nov. 17 through Dec. 31
  • Daily Bag Limit: 1

 

Michigan

Outlook: Michigan is home to the eastern-most huntable population of sharp-tailed grouse in the U.S. Last year marked the state’s first sharp-tailed grouse season in a dozen years, as the grouse population was greater than biologists realized. The hunt is open in parts of two counties in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Most of the sharp-tailed grouse habitat in the eastern Upper Peninsula is on private land, so permission will be needed from landowners. A free sharp-tailed grouse stamp is also required to hunt Michigan sharptails.

Sharp-tailed grouse:

  • Season: Oct. 10 through Oct. 31
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 2 / 4 (limit 6 per season)

 

Minnesota

Outlook:  Minnesota’s sharp-tailed grouse count declined by 22 percent this spring, but the statewide index of sharptails per dancing ground was similar to the long-term average observed since 1980. Sharp-tailed grouse are more abundant in northwest Minnesota, but can also be found in east-central Minnesota. Minnesota typically has about 5,000 to 10,000 upland hunters who pursue sharptails annually, with a yearly harvest of up to 22,000 birds. Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota Sharp-tailed Grouse Society recently, with the help of a grant recommended by Minnesota’s Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, acquired a 1,285-acre parcel in Kanabec County. The property, now permanently protected habitat for wildlife, including sharp-tailed grouse, has been turned over to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to be open as a state Wildlife Management Area.

Sharp-tailed grouse

  • Season: Sept. 15 through Nov. 30
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit:  3 / 6

Prairie chicken

  • Season: Oct. 20-24*
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit:  2 / 2

*The application deadline for Minnesota’s limited-draw fall prairie chicken hunt was Aug. 17. Surplus tags go on sale Sept. 24th at noon.

 

Montana

Outlook:  Montana boasts one of the strongest remaining sage grouse populations in the country, as well as the most liberal sharp-tailed grouse season – a four-bird daily bag limit – making it a premier stop for prairie grouse hunters. Across Montana’s sage grouse range, numbers are expected to be back at average or even slightly above average except for south central Montana. Sage grouse are found in Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Regions 3, 5, 6 and 7. As for sharptails, an above average season is expected in Region 4, which stretches from Fergus and Petroleum Counties in the central part of the state northeast to the Rocky Mountain Front. Region 6, which has many times been the top sharptail producing area of Montana, should have numbers improved over last season, and possibly even above average the further east you travel. Sharptail numbers are also stable in southeast Montana.

Sage grouse

  • Sept. 1 through Nov. 1
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 2 / 4

Sharp-tailed grouse

  • Season: Sept.1- Jan. 1, 2013
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 4 / 16

 

Nebraska

Outlook:  Prairie grouse population counts from Nebraska’s summer surveys were higher compared to 2011, with a statewide increase of 46 percent, and Jeff Lusk, Upland Game Program Manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, expects a good season of sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie chicken hunting in the state. “The Nebraska Sandhills continues to be the premier area in the state for both sharptails and prairie chickens,” Lusk says of his state’s core grouse range. Lusk adds that abundant prairie chicken populations exist in southwest and south-central Nebraska, but hunting activity in these areas has typically been low. East of Highway 81, the continued loss of grassland habitat, particularly in the southeast prairie chicken range, is impacting the population, though Lusk says a fair amount of publically accessible Open Field & Waters program acres in southwest Johnson and western Pawnee Counties should provide good prairie chicken hunting. In 2011, an estimated 6,082 hunters harvested 17,356 prairie grouse.

Sharp-tailed grouse & Prairie chicken

  • Season: Oct. 27 through Jan. 31, 2013*
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: West zone, 3 grouse in aggregate; East zone, permit allows the take of 3 prairie chickens during the grouse season /  West zone, 12 grouse (combined); East zone, permit allows harvest of only 3 prairie chickens during the grouse season. 

*A special, free permit is required for the east grouse zone, east of State Highway 81. Permits can be obtained from the Nebraska Game & Parks Lincoln Office. 

 

Nevada

Outlook:  Nevada is another sage grouse option, where as recently as 2009-2010, nearly 9,000 sagehens were harvested. Predominately a resident-only hunt, nonresidents have, in recent years, been able to apply for two separate seasons with 75 permits awarded at the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge.

Sage grouse

  • Multiple seasons, consult regulations for details*

*The deadline for nonresidents was Aug. 3. Mark your calendars for next season.

 

North Dakota

Outlook:  North Dakota hunters should expect to see a slight increase in sharp-tailed grouse numbers this hunting season, based on spring survey numbers. Aaron Robinson, Prairie Grouse Biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said the spring sharptail breeding population was up from last year, and that the mild winter and spring allowed for good nesting success. The widespread drought may have impacted chick survival, but Robinson says the bigger long-term problem is the continued loss of native prairie and acreage previously enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, both of which are negatively affecting the sharp-tailed grouse population. Found statewide, look for birds wherever native prairie is mixed with shrubland and small grain crops. Hay fields and pasture lands can also provide sharptail action. North Dakota also has a small sage grouse population, but that season is closed.

Sharp-tailed grouse

  • Season: Sept. 8 through Jan. 6, 2013
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 3 / 12

 

Oregon

Outlook:  Oregon’s best sage grouse hunting areas can be found in the southeast, and since much of eastern Oregon is owned by state and federal agencies, it offers the potential for a public do-it-yourself hunt. Popular units in this controlled hunt included the Whitehorse, Beatys Butte, Warner, Beulah and Malheur River.

Sage grouse

  • Season: Sept. 8 through Sept. 16*
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 2 / 2 (season limit)

*The application deadline for Oregon’s controlled sage grouse hunt was Aug. 27. Mark your calendars for next season.

 

South Dakota

Outlook:  South Dakota will again be a top prairie grouse destination, as hunter success is expected to be comparable to last season in which wingshooters bagged 48,000 sharptails and greater prairie chickens combined. Drought hit South Dakota as early as last fall, says Travis Runia, Senior Upland Game Biologist with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, which could have reduced available nesting cover and which may make getting close to birds more difficult. Runia points out the Fort Pierre National Grasslands will again represent a premier destination for prairie grouse hunters in South Dakota. “The 100,000 acres of well-managed grasslands boast an abundance of both sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie chickens.” Runia says, “The Grand River and Buffalo Gap National Grasslands are also notable destinations.” But hunters can stay east of the Missouri River and still find birds. “The Missouri river breaks on either side of the river hold good numbers of sharp-tailed grouse,” Runia says, “Grassland dominated landscapes within the first tier of counties east of the river are often over looked by grouse hunters but have tremendous opportunities for quality hunting.” South Dakota also offers a two-day, public land-only sage grouse hunt. Last year, 11 birds were harvested in what’s looked at as a trophy bird opportunity for avid grouse hunters. Sage grouse abundance is similar to last year.

Sharp-tailed grouse & Prairie chicken

  • Season: Sept. 15 through Jan. 6, 2013
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 3 (combined) / 15 (combined)

Sage grouse

  • Season: Sept. 26 and 27
  • Limit 1 per season

 

Utah

Outlook:  Greater sage grouse populations are very low right now in Utah, while sharp-tailed grouse numbers have been stable the past three years, reports Jason Robinson, Upland Game Program Coordinator with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Because Utah has a limited draw only for designated hunting areas, the hunter success rate is very high; in fact, 600 hunters averaged a bird each in 2011 for each species. For those who draw a permit, Utah’s Walk in Access program does allow for hunting opportunities for these species.

Sage grouse & Sharp-tailed grouse

  • Season: Sept. 29 through Oct. 21*
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit:  2 / 2 birds total for the entire season, must have a permit for each species

*Limited entry, draw only for designated areas. You already have to have a permit to hunt in 2012. The application deadline was July 3, 2012. Mark your calendars for next season.

 

Wisconsin

Outlook: Wisconsin is also home to small but relatively stable sharp-tail grouse population, the majority of which are found in the early successional Pine Barrens and savannas in the northwestern portion of the state. Some of the larger state-owned areas that focus on sharp-tailed grouse management include the Crex Meadows and Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Areas in Burnett County.

Sharp-tailed grouse*:

  • Season: Oct. 20 through Nov. 11
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit:  Determined by permits

*The application deadline for Wisconsin’s sharp-tailed grouse hunt was Aug. 1. Mark your calendars for next season.

 

Wyoming

Outlook:  Wyoming is also a premiere sage grouse hunting destination, as last year nearly 4,500 hunters pursued the big birds, harvesting just more than 10,000. A 15-day season is open in Big Horn, Fremont, Hot Springs, Park, Sweetwater, Uinta, Washakie and portions of Albany, Carbon, Lincoln, Sublette, Natrona Counties, with publically accessible land available. Another 1,300 hunters pursued sharp-tailed grouse last season, with 3,315 finding game vests.

Sage grouse

  • Opens Sept. 15 (see regulations for closing dates in different hunt areas)

Sharp-tailed grouse:

  • Season: Sept. 1- through Dec. 31
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 3 / 9


Pheasants Forever intern Brittney Traxinger contributed to this Prairie Grouse season forecast.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

What’s the Capital of the Upland Hunter’s Mixed Bag?

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

A South Dakota pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie chicken.

There’s little doubt South Dakota rules the roost when it comes to pheasants.  But if you throw all the upland game birds in the mix, what state offers the single best opportunity for the upland bird hunter? 

 

Top Contenders for the title of “The Upland Hunter’s Mixed Bag Capital

 

 

  1. California.  The top producer of valley quail is also complimented by roosters in the Sacramento Valley.

 

  1. Colorado.  The best pheasant state secret also features quail and chukars.

 

  1. Idaho.  A climb up Hell’s Canyon can produce pheasants, quail, ruffed grouse and chukars.

 

  1. Iowa.  The longtime pheasant powerhouse also features quail in the south, a few pockets of ruffed grouse, and a smattering of Huns.

 

  1. Kansas.  The #2 pheasant producing state is also the #2 bobwhite quail producing state.  There are also respectable numbers of greater prairie chickens to chase and it’s the only state in the country with an open season on lesser prairie chickens. 

 

  1. Michigan. A top tier ruffed grouse state also boasts the top woodcock harvest in the country and ringneck opportunities in the southern farm country and “thumb” region of the Lower Peninsula. 

 

Michigan woodcock and ruffed grouse

  1. Minnesota.  The top-harvesting state for ruffed grouse adds a top five pheasant harvest, a smattering of sharpies, greater prairie chickens and Huns. 

 

  1. Montana.  Big Sky boasts pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, sage grouse and the best Hungarian partridge numbers south of Canada.

 

  1. Nebraska.  Cornhusker country produces top tier pheasant and bobwhite numbers, along with significant sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie chicken populations.

 

  1. North Dakota.  Another top tier pheasant state accompanied by Huns, sharpies, a few greater prairie chickens, and even a few ruffed grouse.

 

Kansas bobwhite quail

  1. South Dakota.  The king of the ringneck also offers greater prairie chickens, sharpies, Huns and even a small population of huntable bobwhites.

 

  1. Texas.  Lots of space for ringnecks, some chickens and four species of quail to hide.

 

  1. Wisconsin.  Like Michigan, cheese country is a top tier ruffed grouse and woodcock producer in the northwoods and delivers respectable pheasant numbers in farm country.

 

Okay, so the question IS NOT “what state is your favorite to hunt?” or even “which state are you from?”  The question is this: What state offers the best mixed bag for the upland hunter?

 

Follow Pheasants Forever’s Rooster Road Trip 2011 at www.RoosterRoadTrip.org, on Facebook , YouTube, and Twitter (#rrt11). 

 

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

My Opening Day Upland Hunting Uniform includes Columbia’s Omni-Freeze

Monday, September 12th, 2011

I first discovered the comfort of the Columbia Omni-Freeze shirt during a steamy September 2010 prairie chicken hunt.

Living in Minnesota and growing up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, my hunting wardrobe is built to protect against  sub-freezing temps.  However in recent years, I’ve had the good fortune of hunting quail in the southeastern U.S. and chasing September prairie chickens in the more arid western grasslands of South Dakota.  Both of those pursuits were accompanied by 80 degree days, which made my wool and waxed cotton layers seem ridiculous. 

Fortunately, Pheasants Forever’s savvy merchandise department added Columbia’s PFG Omni-Freeze shirt to the MarketPlace last year.  Although it gives the appearance of an Under Armour-type base layer, the Omni-Freeze shirt actually accomplishes the opposite.  Through Columbia’s cutting edge technology, the shirt actually is designed to reduce skin temperature on hot days by quickly drying sweat and limiting UV rays.  Additionally, and perhaps as important, the shirt is ultra-comfortable.  It is loose fitting and almost slippery to the touch.  Although the tag says it’s made of polyester pique, the closest material I can compare it to is silk. 

Fairness in Product Reviewing Act 2478, I do have two minor critiques.  First, because of the shirt’s soft and silky material, it is susceptible to snagging on pickers and thorns.  My second warning is completely aesthetic; you can’t hide your belly in the Omni-Freeze.  There simply aren’t any buttons to cover up a beer gut like most hunting shirts.  All in all, pretty minor shortcomings for a shirt that’s going to keep you in the field all day during an early season heat wave. 

As I pack my bags for this week’s ruffed grouse opener, I guarantee the Columbia PFG Omni-Freeze long sleeve shirt will be part of my opening day uniform. 

 

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

Where will you be on the 2011 Pheasant Opener?

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Opening Day 2010 with (left to right) me, Billy Hildebrand, Erik Hildebrand & Chad Hildebrand. In addition to a limit of roosters, the Hildebrand boys bagged a few ducks early that morning.

Are you ready to go bird hunting?  Personally, I’m ready to hang up the fishing pole and shrink-wrap the boat in exchange for my over/under.  My shorthaired bird dog is wagging her tail in agreement as well. 

 

Yes, I know it’s only August, but hunting season can’t get here quick enough as far as I’m concerned.  And judging by the comments on PF’s Facebook page, I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for pheasant season’s arrival.

 

While I’ve already got two ruffed grouse hunts and a sharp-tailed grouse hunt on my September calendar, I am also happy to report that I know where I’ll be spending my first pheasant hunt of 2011.  For the 4th consecutive season, I will be hunting in central Minnesota on Saturday, October 15th with my FAN Outdoors radio partner Billy Hildebrand and a small collection of friends, family and bird dogs. 

 

Where & when will your 2011 pheasant hunting season begin?

 

 

2011 Pheasant Hunting Opening Days

(These dates are tentative, please be sure to check your state’s regulations)

Colorado                                                    Still TBD

Iowa                                                           Saturday, October 29

Kansas                                                       Saturday, November 12

Montana                                                     Saturday, October 8

Minnesota                                                  Saturday, October 15

Nebraska                                                    Sunday, October 30

North Dakota                                             Saturday, October 8

Ohio                                                           Friday, November 4        

South Dakota                                             Saturday, October 15

Wisconsin                                                  Saturday, October 15

 

 

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

My Five Bird Hunts before The Rapture

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Moments before The Rapture

You may have heard California’s Rapture-predicting preacher has revised his math.  It turns out the world is going to end on October 21st instead of May 21st as originally warned.  What’s that mean to a bird hunting fanatic like me?  With some bird hunting seasons opening up in mid September, I estimate to have about five bird hunting weekends left before the planet explodes. 

Here are the five hunts I’d like to make happen before the coming autumn Rapture.

1) Yooper Grouse Opener: It’s a family tradition to return back home to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to open the ruffed grouse season with Dad & Mom.  If the world is coming to an end, this one is the most important for me to squeeze in one more time.

2) Hells Canyon: While I hope to be headed north, not south, following The Rapture, I have to chase birds in Hells Canyon one time before I die.  While I’ve never been there, I’ve read about and been told stories of magical days in which hunters have shot pheasants, quail, grouse, chukar and Huns all in a single day.

3) Fort Pierre Prairie Grouse: In the last two seasons, I have fallen in love with the Fort Pierre National Grasslands.  Although my pup has had close encounters with rattle snakes and porcupines, I have experienced some of my most memorable days afield in search of prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse. 

4) Pheasant Opener: It has become a treasured tradition to open the Minnesota pheasant season at the cabin of FAN Outdoors radio host’s Billy Hildebrand in central Minnesota. 

5) A Walk Alone: I enjoy time spent afield with others; however, given my druthers, my most treasured hunts are alone behind my shorthair.  It seems that if the world is going to end, I’d find peace walking a patch of prairie with my pup Trammell. 

 

Knowing the world is coming to an end early this fall’s hunting season, what will be your final five hunts? 

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

Help Create 2 Million Acres of Habitat with an Email

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

An email from you can help give sharp-tailed grouse 2 million acres of critical habitat. PHOTO BY JOHN POLLMANN

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JANUARY 14th

In this season of giving, please consider helping all the critters that depend upon healthy grassland and wetland complexes throughout the Dakotas and Montana.  A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal is poised to give a huge habitat boost with a little help from you. 

The proposed Dakota Grassland Conservation Area (DGCA) has targeted more than 240,000 acres of wetlands and 1.7 million acres of grasslands for conservation.  The goal is to promote profitable farming and ranching in harmony with wildlife conservation, but it won’t happen without your help.  Please send a brief note in full support of the DGCA to dgca_comments@fws.gov  

Your emailed support before December 31, 2010 will help future generations of hunters enjoy the thrill of flushing roosters and prairie grouse, support critical habitats for waterfowl production and the dozens of other grassland and wetland dependant birds, and help stewardship-minded landowners. 

Thanks for your support!  

The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.

Rooster Road Trip – North Dakota Preview

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Tram & I with a North Dakota rooster & sharp-tailed grouse. PHOTO by TIM EISELE.

Pheasants Forever’s first ever Rooster Road Trip kicks off one week from today.  Our adventure will start in southeast North Dakota where we’ll be chasing pheasants around lands primarily enrolled in PLOTS (Private Land Open To Sportsmen) and federally owned Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs). 

Andrew, Anthony & I will be joined on Monday by Jesse Beckers and his Labrador, Lu.  Jesse is PF’s regional wildlife biologist for North Dakota and a fellow blogger. 

North Dakota’s best pheasant hunting is typically identified as the land south of interstate 94.  Although I’ve hunted NoDak on three prior occasions, none of those trips have been below I-94.  My previous trips have been to central North Dakota where I’ve found good pheasant numbers, fantastic sharp-tailed grouse numbers and some Huns to boot.

NoDak Nuggets

  • Non-resident small game licenses cost $85.00 and have to be split into two-7 day periods.
  • North Dakota’s pheasant harvest varies more than most states, ranging from 400,000 to 1 million roosters.  The quantity and quality of habitat plays the biggest role in those swings, but severe winter weather can knock the state’s bird numbers down in a hurry.  Over the last decade, it’s safe to say North Dakota comes in at number 3 in pheasant harvest behind only South Dakota and Kansas. 
  • The daily bag limit is 3 roosters.
  • Hunting opens 30 minutes before sunrise and closes at sunset.
  • Hunters can also bag 3 sharpies and 3 Huns daily. 
  • North Dakota has more than 2.7 million acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), making it the 4th largest CRP state behind only Texas, Montana and Kansas.
  • Of those 2.7 million CRP acres, 1.49 million of those acres’ contracts expire in the next three years.

 

Road Trip Recommendation

Boyt’s mid-weight base layer top: I am a guy that gets cold easily.  I started wearing long underwear tops to work in September and won’t stop till the spring thaw.  I wore this Boyt superfine merino wool top for the first time while grouse hunting in the Northwoods over the weekend.  I can say unequivocally that this is the most comfortable base layer I’ve ever worn.  No itching, not too tight, and very warm.  Two big thumbs up!

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.

Chickens, Sharpies and Rattlesnakes

Monday, October 4th, 2010

The cover of the new North American Grouse Partnership magazine as designed by Pheasants Forever's Rosalie Wolff

Pheasants Forever’s marketing department will send the North American Grouse Partnership’s first publication in three years to the printer later this week.  It’s all part of Pheasants Forever’s role as a member of the Prairie Grouse Partners.  We are providing public relations and marketing assistance to support our common conservation interest: restoring prairie habitat.  The NAGP will pay all the printing and mailing bills, while Pheasants Forever has provided the elbow grease to produce this publication.  Most of that elbow grease has come from Rosalie Wolff, Pheasants Forever’s Graphic Artist; who has designed a fantastic looking publication.

If you are interested in prairie chickens, sharp-tailed grouse, or sage grouse, there is still time for you to add your name to the North American Grouse Partnership’s roster of members to receive this new publication.  In fact, through this special link you’ll receive the special discounted price for Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever members. 

 
 
 
 
 

A Ft. Pierre National Grassland greater prairie chicken (left) and sharp-tailed grouse (right)

Bob’s Bird Hunting Report: Ft. Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota

Last week, I enjoyed a fantastic couple of days hunting the wide open spaces of SoDak’s Fort Pierre Grasslands.  While I have had two other opportunities to bag my first prairie chicken, this was my first dedicated trip focused on the bird.  Long story short, a September trip to Fort Pierre will be an annual pilgrimage for this hunter.  In three days of hunting, I saw hundreds of chickens, sharpies and pheasants.  It was a bird hunter’s smorgasbord.  I did indeed bag my first greater prairie chicken (five of them actually) and added three sharpies as well.  One word of caution about these western grasslands: be prepared for bird dog encounters with rattlesnakes, porcupines, skunks, and coyotes.