Posts Tagged ‘Waterfowl Production Areas’
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.
Friday, January 11th, 2013
For my last pheasant hunt of the year, I loaded up the dog and headed to northwest Iowa. Lured by thousands of acres of publicly accessible land, the hunting was to be at areas where I’d previously never set foot. Heck, I’d never even bagged an Iowa ringneck. Despite this lack of on-the-ground scouting and no more local insight than what I saw on the online public lands map, I was optimistic: There were Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs).
I do about two-thirds of my pheasant hunting on public lands and of that, half is accounted walking the grasses and cattail sloughs of Waterfowl Production Areas. Because they’re funded with Duck Stamps, its natural these areas are named as they are, but if you’re a pheasant hunter, don’t let it throw you off the pheasant trail. Some WPAs, with excellent grass stands, double as premiere pheasant producing areas. And many, with wetlands and thick cattail stands, become places of refuge for pheasants in the face of winter.
As snow, cold temperatures and biting winds set in, it’s no big secret that hunting cattails becomes the name of the game. Some hunters detest this while others relish it (I fall in the latter category). Once you find cattails, the X factor becomes the proximity of a food source. The first two small wetlands I pushed on my Iowa trip were unsuccessful, and in evaluating my hunt immediately afterwards, the surrounding food sources seemed rather limited.
At the next WPA, I found more food resources but also many more hunter tracks leaving the entrance lot, which almost deterred me from hunting there, but as I drove around the section, I noticed a small wetland nestled amongst the rolling hills. A quick glance through the binoculars showed no sign of hunters working this far into the property. That’s where I headed, and that’s where three pheasants were holed up, including one rooster that ended up in my game bag.
There are more than 26,000 WPAs in the U.S. – most of them located in the Dakotas, Montana, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin – and they’re all open to public hunting. Just remember to use nontoxic shot, and do your part by buying a Duck Stamp…or two.
Monday, July 2nd, 2012
The 2012-2013 Federal Duck Stamp is on sale now. Officially known as the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, “Duck Stamps” (as they are most commonly called) are a vital tool for wetland and upland conservation.
Originally created in 1934, Ninety-eight cents out of every dollar generated by the sales of Federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. More than $671 million has been raised for habitat conservation by the nationwide sales of Federal Duck Stamps.
In additional to large National Wildlife Refuges, Duck Stamps are the primary funding source for the purchase of smaller natural wetlands and uplands, known as Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs). There are over 26,000 WPAs in the U.S. located mostly in the Prairie Pothole Regions – also known as “Pheasant Country” – of the Dakotas, Montana, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin. North Dakota alone accounts for 39 percent of WPAs in the U.S. Wetlands on these WPAs, particularly the cattails that encircle them, provide excellent winter cover for pheasants, and the grassland habitat that surrounds WPA wetlands can provide nesting and brood cover for ringnecks. That pheasant production can mean excellent pheasant hunting opportunities, as WPAs are open to public hunting.
While ducks migrate and pheasants do not, the two fowl have related habitat needs that are simultaneously addressed with Duck Stamp habitat protection. Like pheasants, a duck’s life journey begins in a grassland. “Duck Stamp dollars spent in the Prairie Pothole Region address the most critical time for both ducks and pheasants, the nesting season. And good nesting cover for ducks is good nesting cover for pheasants,” says Matt Morlock, a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist in eastern South Dakota.
Pheasants Forever also supported the recent expansion of hunting opportunities on 10 National Wildlife Refuges last year, a list which included five refuges funded in part by Federal Duck Stamps. “There’s no question we’ve seen a decline in hunting numbers,” said Dave Nomsen, Vice President of Government Affairs for Pheasants Forever. “And we need to get kids outdoors and connected with nature. Hunting can play a role in that effort and it should. The refuge system is a great opportunity.”
Federal Duck Stamps can be purchased at U.S. Postal Service locations nationwide (as well as through the Postal Service’s online catalogue), sporting goods stores and online at online at www.duckstamp.com.
This year’s Federal Duck Stamp image, of a single wood duck, is by Joseph Hautman of Plymouth, Minnesota. Hunters over the age of 16 must purchase one if they want to hunt migratory waterfowl (which nearly half of Pheasants Forever members already do), but even if you don’t hunt ducks or geese, consider purchasing a stamp (or two – you can purchase as many as you like). Dollar for dollar, it is one of the best conservation investments you can make.
Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
Just like the human body, good pheasant cover has a life expectancy. Unfortunately for pheasants, they tend not to do well in CRP’s “Golden Years.”
In general, upland bird production is outstanding in years one through four of a CRP planting. A half dozen years is usually the tipping point, meaning the backside of a 10-15 year CRP contract can, without proper management, be lousy for pheasants.
A big reason for this across much of the Upper Midwest is smooth brome grass. If you’ve hunted roosters in these parts, you’ve likely seen it. To the untrained eye, it seems like just another field of grass. And grass is good for pheasants, right?
Pheasants flourish in young CRP grasslands because there are multiple types of grasses and forbs – biologists call this “biodiversity.” But as CRP grasslands wrinkle, brome grasses have a knack for invading their privacy, moving in and ultimately kicking the tenants out. The typical result is a solid stand of brome grass as diverse as a south Florida retirement community.
That’s bad news for pheasant hunters. If you’re a public land pheasant hunter and target federal Waterfowl Production Areas, you’ve likely seen your fair share of brome-y tracts, and probably not as many pheasants as you’d like. Here’s why: “A straight stand of brome grass is fine for duck nesting,” says Ben Bigalke Pheasants Forever’s Regional Wildlife Biologist in South Dakota, “And while good pheasant habitat is always good duck habitat, good duck habitat isn’t necessarily good pheasant habitat.” These brome dominated WPAs serve their purpose in the duck factory, but don’t contain the right habitat mix for optimal pheasant production. Many other public areas are victimized by brome, as states don’t have the funding, personnel or time to keep pace.
Geriatric grasslands can become Grade A pheasant producers once again with human management now doing the bulk of work once left up to Mother Nature. The Botox to brome comes in the form of light disking, fall chemical treatments, prescribed burning and cattle grazing.
All this is as exciting as a night in with the old lady eating shredded wheat and sipping on Metamucil, but understanding habitat is supremely important for pheasant hunters venturing into new areas. I can virtually guarantee more roosters in your game bag if you skip the all-brome fields and scout out other areas.
Big picture, it’s more dramatic and gut wrenching to think about a pheasant field losing the battle to a farmer’s plow or a development of mini mansions. The reality is as much, if not more pheasant habitat is lost every year not to acreage loss, but to aging and thousands of acres going cold from neglect. Like the forgotten at a senior home, it’s no fair way for them to go.