Archive for the ‘Habitat’ Category

What I learned on my grouse hunt

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Pay attention in the grouse woods. You'll be a better quail hunter.

Pay attention in the grouse woods. You’ll be a better quail hunter.

Shut up. Listen carefully. Trust your dog. Live in the moment. These are lessons it took a ruffed grouse and woodcock hunt to remind me why we go hunting.

Is is relevant to quail hunters? Hell yes.

Your dog is your best hunting partner. When he’s virtually invisible in the trees, you’ve got to know he’s working for you. If not, head back to the yard for more training.

When pup – or your partners – are working (or for that matter, out of sight or right next to you), pay attention. You’ll hear new sounds, learn from the woods, and you might see a pileated woodpecker. It’s how you find your dog, too.

But most important is the low-level adrenaline rush that starts when you leave the truck and only ends when your head hits the pillow that night: Where are the dogs? What was that roar – a flush? Is pup on point? Where? Where am I? Woodcock or grouse? The anticipation preceding every step, every stumble, branch cracks and leaf crunches is inestimable.

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Don’t Miss Your Shot at Quail Forever’s 2014 Gun of the Year

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Quail Engraving Close UpEach year, Quail Forever produces a custom engraved, limited-edition Gun of the Year. These collectible works of art are specially produced to support the organization’s habitat conservation mission and can ONLY be found at participating Quail Forever chapter banquets.

 

The 2014 Quail Forever Gun of the Year is a Remington 11-87 and features a beautifully engraved receiver capturing Michael Sieve’s 2014 Quail Forever Print of the Year, “The Comeback Call.”

 

Although we all know a gun is only as good as the person operating it, the Remington Model 11-87 offers the unquestionable reliability and versatility that you would expect from anything carrying the Remington name. Added to this, Quail Forever’s special Gun of the Year comes as a 20 gauge with a 26” barrel, 2 ¾” or 3” shell capability, and the distinction of having only 50 produced.

 

“We are extremely proud to add Quail Forever’s exclusive Remington 11-87 to the selection of items chapters use at banquets to raise funds for local conservation efforts,” states John Edstrom, Quail Forever’s director of merchandise. “Considering the partnership we have with Remington and the strong reputation of their brand, we are confident this gun will break clays and drop bobs for our members with both speed and style.”

 

With more than 130 Quail Forever chapters hosting banquets nationwide and only 50 guns to go around, don’t miss your shot at owning one of these exclusive collectible shotguns! Ask your local chapter if the custom Quail Forever 2014 Gun of the Year—the reliable Remington 11-87—will be at your upcoming banquet.

QF Gun of the Year

 

 

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Thankful … on each hunt

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Sometimes, even the view is something to be thankful for.

Sometimes, even the view is something to be thankful for.

That first long walk without a hunting partner is when it usually hits you: Boy, am I lucky. It’s funny that our “thanksgiving” comes earlier than the one on the calendar … mere days into hunting season.

We sit, scratch a dog’s ear, and reflect. It might be perfect weather, or surprisingly good shooting. Maybe your dog nailed that last covey, staunch as a magazine cover painting. It could (should, would, ought to) be gratefulness at the limp feathered body held in your hands, life gone but soon to sustain life as food.

There’s no reason it needs to be restricted to a single date. In the fields and covers there is always something to be thankful for. I’ve uttered thanks for an ankle untwisted after a leap off a basalt column. Toasted silently with a smoky draft of single malt, glad for the company sharing my campfire. Smiled inwardly at the warm welcome in a small-town’s café-post office-general store where everybody does know your name.

I don’t need a federally-funded study to tell me a better outlook on life starts with being appreciative of things large and small. My dogs, my hunting partners, my surroundings remind me every day, all season … not just on the fourth Thursday of November.

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Michael Sieve’s “The Comeback Call” Named Quail Forever’s 2014-2015 Print of the Year

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

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Minnesota wildlife artist Michael Sieve has had his painting of a calling bobwhite quail named Quail Forever’s Print of the Year. “The Comeback Call,” Quail Forever’s 2014-2015 Print of the Year, will be available at Quail Forever chapter banquets to help raise funds for upland conservation efforts.

Sieve’s studio is located on his 40-acre homestead in southern Minnesota, an area where Sieve makes Quail Forever’s mission of improving wildlife habitat a reality. “Mike is a conservationist. He doesn’t just paint, he practices what he paints,” says Randy Eggenberger, president of Wild Wings—a company that publishes/produces/distributes wildlife art and represents some of America’s top wildlife artists, including Sieve. “Mike frequently includes farms or elements of farm life in his paintings. This is very important to him because he grew up on a farm. In fact, Mike grew up on the prairie, so naturally he is an upland bird guy.”

Since 2006, Quail Forever has selected an annual Print of the Year—limited-edition prints that local Quail Forever chapters have used to raise funds for their area conservation efforts. Artists including the late James Meger, Rosemary Millette, and Jim Hautman have contributed to Quail Forever’s wildlife habitat mission as Print of the Year artists.

Hand signed and numbered prints of “The Comeback Call” are also available in limited quantity at Quail Forever’s online store.

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

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What’s bad about a good preserve hunt?

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Okay, we’ve all been on a BAD lodge/preserve hunt: Dogs that won’t hold or retrieve, pool table smooth “cover,” birds that couldn’t fly themselves out of a paper bag.

But what’s wrong with a GOOD preserve hunt? It offers much to the dog owning hunter: more plentiful birds, convenient location, a chance at that rare commodity camaraderie, and at least a taste of the natural world, even if it’s been crafted by the hands of man.

And that’s not even weighing the value of your time, driving hours (or days) to knock on locked doors and not get permission to hunt non-existent wild birds on beat-up property that was hunted by every third cousin of the landowner’s last weekend. So “paying” for birds becomes moot, unless the value of your time is zero dollars.

I just had a pretty good preserve hunt. My friend Rob and I enjoyed every minute of it, from the dog work, to the weather, to the unlittered fields we had all to ourselves. And while a true wild bird hunt offers a philosophical and possibly emotional charge I won’t get at the local lodge, it was better than nothing. Way better. And according to Buddy, pretty darn gratifying.

Caveat: don’t get on my case about the nightmares that occur at many preserves. I already know, and have lived through, them. That’s not my purpose here (maybe in another post). But consider:

Fly anglers are pretty much over the planted trout issue, except in the rarest of cases. Many of our best “wild” trout streams were barren until someone put fish in them. Even put-and-take fisheries redeem themselves with most anglers if the fish “act wild.” Clipped fins, brookies in the West, McCloud River rainbows in New Zealand … who cares as long as the package is good?

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West Tennessee Quail Culture

Monday, June 16th, 2014

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Quail Forever Farm Bill Biologist Brittney Viers with cooperating landowners Judy and Brian Robbins. Instead of continuing to plant a worn out farm they inherited, Judy and Brian worked with Quail Forever and other partners to restore their land for quail and other wildlife.

The quail culture of West Tennessee runs deep and wide.

I visited the Mid-South and Kentucky Lakes Quail Forever chapters just before the holidays. It was a very encouraging trip that began with visiting farmer Vince Arnold near Paris. He recently put in a buffer strip on a creek because it was eroding badly, but also because he wants his son Casey, who he brought out to meet me, to experience wildlife and hunting.

I next attended the annual gathering of the area Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Jackson, where I spoke about the Paris landowner, thanking the NRCS for its help in bringing hope to area quail and quail hunters. My host, QF Farm Bill biologist Britteny Viers, then showed me another, much larger quail habitat project on land owned by Judy Robbins.

“The land when I inherited it was being worked to death. I didn’t want to do that anymore,” Robbins said. She fondly recalls her grandmother, the land’s prior owner, sitting on the front porch of the farm house whistling to the quail.

The next day Walker Morris, co-founder and former president of the Mid-South Chapter, and Andy Edwards, QF regional representative, toured the famous Ames Plantation, which annually hosts the National Championship for Bird Dogs on its over 18,000 acres southeast of Memphis. Shadow Oak Bo won the 2013 competition here, the first English setter to do so since 1970.

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Farmer Vince Arnold, son Casey and wife April worked with Quail Forever to buffer a field-side stream to protect water quality and provide quail habitat.

We later toured the 30,000 square foot National Bird Dog Museum in nearby Grand Junction, which includes an amazing collection of bird dog lore that any bird dog owner should see. One display, a Remington Model 17 20 ga. pump, was donated by local Julian Fleming who bagged 8,000 wild quail with the piece between 1955-1980!

After indulging in the local quail culture, we finally got to hunt them up at the nearby Wolf River Wildlife Management Area.  Walker’s two setters “Zip” and “Bonnie” put us on some birds too and there was shooting. The woods of west Tennessee are gorgeous, with over 20 varieties of oak. The uplands grow very tall and stately with hickories, persimmon, yellow poplar, shortleaf pine, America beech and eastern red cedar. The interspersed wetlands include the iconic bald cypress, hackberry, sugarberry and water tupelo gum. The uplands are carefully stewarded, planted with native grasses, forbs and regularly burned to keep out the trees and invasives.

The next day we hunted 30 acres owned and expertly managed by Quail Forever member Mike Hansbrough, NRCS area biologist. We also put up a covey here on that beautiful, diverse habitat….and got some shooting. Viers, a wildlife biologist with a masters in forestry, also took up the chase for her first wild quail. At day’s end, we hit a well managed, 528-acre CRP SAFE (State Acres For wildlife Enhancement) project in Fayette County.

As our day closed out with the Mid-South Chapter volunteers at a great Memphis BBQ joint, thunder, lightning and heavy rain descended. The next morning in heavy rain, we fled north to Minnesota through ice and snow, grateful for our new Tennessee friends, adventures and memories they so kindly gave us.

Check out the details of this intriguing adventure in an upcoming issue of Quail Forever Journal. If you’re not a member yet, join. You’ll love our magazine and feel good about giving back to the birds.

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Collegiate Chapter First to Donate to Florida and Georgia Quail Coalition Project

Friday, April 25th, 2014

 

UGAChapter

On the heels of Quail Forever’s announcement of support for the Florida & Georgia Quail Coalition, students from University of Georgia, who started a local Quail Forever collegiate chapter, stepped up to make the first financial donation to the project.

The Quail Forever UGA chapter made a $1,500 donation to further the coalition’s goal of helping bobwhite quail in Georgia through habitat improvements, in addition to a $2,500 pledge to their local shooting team’s MidwayUSA Foundation account to continue the shooting sports tradition.

“Quail Forever- UGA is excited and blessed for having the opportunity to positively influence the state of Georgia through quail habitat restoration and management in hopes of bringing quail back to a sustainable and huntable state,” said Jase Brooks, the chapter’s president, “Our focus and goal is to allow sportsmen in our community to have a lasting impression in the state; not only on the landscape, but also on our next generation of sportsmen and women. We, along with other chapters, in the state are pledging $2,500 to local youth shooting teams in hopes of establishing a firm foundation for the next generation. Reaching out and introducing our youth to shooting, hunting and the outdoors is the key to assuring that our heritage of hunting and enjoying the outdoors is preserved!” 

The newly-founded chapter is contributing funds raised at its recent “Sportsmen’s Night” fundraising event, held April 3 in Athens. There, attendees participated in raffles, a silent auction and door prizes, all while enjoying all you could eat wings and drinks. The event was a success and left people excited for the chapter’s upcoming fall banquet (details to be announced).

“Georgia’s history of quail hunting and the outdoors runs deep, so it is tremendous to see these undergraduates with the UGA Quail Forever chapter rallying to carry on the tradition,” says Talbot Parten, Quail Forever’s regional representative for Georgia and Florida. “I hope their actions inspire other community members to get involved with quail restoration and getting youth outdoors.”

“What’s also great to see is they understand and embrace the full scope of the partnership, donating their locally-raised funds not only to improve habitat, but also to get youth involved in the outdoors,” continued Parten. “The $2,500 donation will serve the team for years to come and help usher in the next generation of Georgia outdoorspeople.”

Funds from the $1,500 donation will be used specifically to make improvements on four of Georgia’s public land quail focal areas, including Silver Lake, El Model, Chickasawhatchee and River Creek, and to help fund practice for the shooting team through the purchase of shells, clays, etc.

The Georgia and Florida Quail Coalition is a partnership between Quail Forever, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Georgia Department of Natural Resources-Wildlife Resources Division and Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy.

All four organizations have signed a memorandum of agreement pledging that they will each provide mutually beneficial support to a project called the Florida/Georgia Quail Coalition, whose goal is to enhance, promote and conserve quality habitat for northern bobwhite and to promote and support youth shooting sports programs and education.

Quail Forever will provide one shared full-time position employee and one part-time position staff member. The organization also is charged with providing funding to establish, manage and monitor quail populations and habitat on public and private lands in Florida and Georgia, and to work with the Coalition to increase youth hunting opportunities on some of these lands once adequate bird populations and habitat have been restored.

Funding to support youth shooting sports programs and scholastic shooting teams in Florida and Georgia has been provided by Larry and Brenda Potterfield, founders and owners of MidwayUSA and the MidwayUSA Foundation. Shooting teams will also be able to establish endowments with the MidwayUSA Foundation to support long-term funding. Quail Forever will provide additional support for shooting programs and teams from local chapters involved in QF’s Forever Shooting Sports.

To increase and enhance quality quail habitat, money for projects will be spent on frequent small-scale prescribed burning, removing oak trees, roller-chopping dense palmettos and hardwood thickets and thinning rows of planted pine trees. The result of such management practices will create a forest and canopy that is more open, allowing sunlight to reach the forest floor, so that native grasses and weeds can grow, which provide quail food and cover from predators.

For more information on the Florida/Georgia Quail Coalition, please contact Talbott Parten at (229) 289-8199 or email Talbott.

 

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Who gives a flyin’ fig?

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Why recruit new hunters? Let me count the ways ...

Why recruit new hunters? Let me count the ways …

Do you want to be the last bird hunter?

I love pulling up to a promising covert and finding nobody else parked there. So do you. To know with confidence that you’ll be the first – possibly only – one to hunt a field that week, immeasurable.

We all long for untrammeled ground … “first tracks” to use a ski analogy, when we open the tailgate and let the dogs out. Who doesn’t want to believe the birds are plentiful and naïve, will hold for our dogs, fly high and slow when we walk them up?

But what if that was always the case? What if you never saw another soul in the woods or on the prairie, because you were the last bird hunter?

Someone is fervently hoping it will come true, that they’ll be the last to inhabit this “ideal” world and be the only ones, getting all the shots, finding no footprints.

I wouldn’t want to hunt with him.

But we may all see a situation almost this dire in our lifetime, if you believe the pessimists in our midst. If you read the magazines or are a member of an upland conservation group, you know our fraternity is at risk of extinction. There are fewer new hunters coming on and more going out, usually by dying. We are an aging population, we bird hunters. And too many of us are a tad too selfish – relishing the situation described above – to bring on the next generation of uplanders.

Okay, maybe not selfish, but defeated, discouraged, disillusioned. I can’t blame them.

The almighty dollar usually trumps CRP payments and conservation easements. Ethanol is a wicked competitor, fueling the plowing of marginal ground for a few more bushels of corn. Deer hunters waving dollar bills will keep grouse hunters off a lease; the price of ammo will stop a 16-year-old from picking up a shotgun, as will a PETA lecture in kindergarten. The pressure of peers who don’t hunt, lack of a father figure, onerous regulation of gun ownership and even ammo restrictions have thinned our ranks. Bird populations are devastated by blizzard or drought, or nesting habitat is mowed early for another cutting of alfalfa.

The “barriers to entry” as statisticians call them, are numerous. But none are insurmountable. Unless you’re selfish. Or a quitter. Or brain-dead.

Why bother taking a friend, kid, spouse hunting? What do you get in return? Here’s my list … you can probably come up with more reasons:

New hunters’ license dollars fund management of habitat and game populations. Your neighbors, PETA members, and the Defenders of Wildlife might talk a good game, but only hunters put their money where their mouths are. When license money evaporates, don’t look to taxpayers to pick up the slack. So unless you plan to quit hunting the very day your state outlaws it, every new recruit ensures access and a modicum of managed game to chase.

New hunters are fresh and energetic, ready to pick up the banner and fight for conservation. We all burn out, and without new troops joining the battle against habitat destruction, the front lines will collapse. Oil companies and wind energy syndicates will claim victory.

New shotgunners who understand scientific game management can advocate for it among their non-hunting, anti-gun peers. Sensational claims by the anti-hunting cabal are best countered with cold, hard facts related by knowledgeable outdoors enthusiasts.

Those who ignore history are destined to repeat it. That includes gun control. The anti-gun crowd pooh-poohs the fundamental reason for a Second Amendment, but you shouldn’t laugh. You don’t have to pick up a textbook to learn that many tyrants modern and ancient started their reign of terror by disarming their citizenry. The death of gun rights starts with excessive government meddling in your personal life, an “imperial presidency” ruling by fiat not representation, marginalizing those with unpopular views. It is fueled by a sheep-like tolerance of more and more unreasonable encroachment on our rights. Whether it’s Big Gulps or Obamacare, a slippery slope might be around the next bend in the road.

We should fear any president’s desire to take away the last resort we have available for opposing a corrupt regime. Ask the Syrians fighting for freedom right now, or the Jews of 1930’s Germany, if you think that notion is silly and antiquated. Unarmed citizens become subjects. New hunters become Second Amendment advocates.

A kid who knows and understands guns is a safer kid. He handles one with respect in the field and knows what to do when a gun is found where it shouldn’t be. That kid is less likely to be a danger to himself or others. When the bad guy does break down his front door, that kid – or adult – might just stop a rape or murder. If some nut job is drawing a bead on your daughter at the mall, a fellow shopper (and hunter) shooting back might save her life.

Hunters are part of the circle of life. They have a realistic view of where food comes from and what is involved in making meat. Shotgunners take personal responsibility for some of their sustenance, and in this cynical world that makes for a more authentic life.

Shooting straight, find your way back to camp, starting a fire, cleaning a bird, training a dog are all skills that teach important character traits: overcoming hardship, accomplishing something tangible, self reliance, accountability. You won’t find those on the agenda at a public school. “Manliness” is scorned these days, but when the dam breaks or the woods catch fire, I hope there are hunters (and Boy Scouts) around to help.

Hunting is a direct link to our shared history. It has a body of literature that is beautiful. It is our connection to grandparents and our distant ancestors. Hunting is part of our DNA, and ignoring that suppresses a visceral element of our personhood. A new hunter becomes part of the chain, a standard-bearer for all things worth remembering including our hunting heritage.

Finally, a new hunter might take you hunting when you’re too old to venture out alone. Recruits will listen to our stories around the campfire, and pass them on. They will be our legacy, just as are pristine streams, wild places and thriving game populations

Now, go make a new hunter.

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Farm Bill Headed to President’s Desk Thanks to Senate Passage

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

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After being passed by the House last week, today the Senate approved the Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the farm bill. The legislation is now headed to President Obama’s desk.

If signed into law by the president, the bill would:

  • Reauthorize the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), including a change to the program that will allow for the enrollment of up to 2 million grassland acres with no cropping history that have never been eligible for CRP enrollment historically.
  • Re-link conservation compliance to crop insurance, deterring wetland drainage.
  • Create a regional “Sodsaver” to protect our country’s last remaining native prairies where it is most threatened – South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska.
  • Approve $40 million in funding for Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Programs (VPA-HIP). Commonly referred to as “Open Fields,” this funding would improve sportsmen’s access while helping improve wildlife conservation efforts.
  • Allocate more than $1 billion allocated for a new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, including provisions targeting wetlands and grasslands.
  • Consolidate U.S. Department of Agriculture programs from 23 to 13, improving delivery of these programs to interested landowners.

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever urge the president to sign the bill, and look forward to using these new tools to create wildlife habitat.

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

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U.S. House Passes Farm Bill

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

The farm bill provides conservation tools to America's farmers, ranchers and conservationists.

The farm bill provides conservation tools to America’s farmers, ranchers and conservationists.

A few minutes ago, by a vote of 251 to 166 the United States House of Representatives passed the Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the farm bill.  The bill now awaits Senate action.  All indications are the Senate will act on the bill shortly.

The farm bill, if signed into law, will make substantial changes to conservation policies and programs.  Included are needed policy changes to conservation compliance and provisions to protect native prairies from conversion in six states (N.D., S.D., Minn., Iowa, Neb., Mont.).  U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs are consolidated from 23 to 13.  Included is re-authorization of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) at 24 million acres, a new agricultural conservation easement program, and working lands conservation programs. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are in support of the passage of this farm bill and look forward to using these new tools to create wildlife habitat.

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

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