Archive for the ‘Pheasants Forever’ Category
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Last year’s list of the 25 Best Pheasant Hunting Towns in America selected locales predominately based in the Midwest where the ringneck is king. Because Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever members hail from all reaches of the United States, from Alabama to Alaska, we’ve assembled this year’s list to include pheasants as well as multiple quail species, prairie grouse and even forest birds. The main criterion was to emphasize areas capable of providing multiple species, along with destinations most-welcoming to bird hunters. In other words, there were bonus points awarded for “mixed bag” opportunities and neon signs “welcoming bird hunters” in this year’s analysis. We also avoided re-listing last year’s 25 towns, so what you now have is a good bucket list of 50 destinations for the traveling wingshooter!
What towns did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.
1. Pierre, South Dakota. This Missouri River town puts you in the heart of pheasant country, but the upland fun doesn’t stop there. In 2011 (the last year numbers were available) approximately 30 roosters per square mile were harvested in Hughes County. Cross the river and head south of Pierre and you’re into the Fort Pierre National Grassland, where sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens become the main quarry. In fact, the U.S. Forest Service manages the Fort Pierre National Grassland specifically for these native birds. Just North of Pierre also boasts some of the state’s best gray (Hungarian) partridge numbers as well.
While you’re there: Myril Arch’s Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse goes through an average of 60,000 pounds of aged, choice beef a year, so they must know what they’re doing.
2. Lewistown, Montana. Located in the geographic center of the state, Lewistown is the perfect city to home base a public land upland bird hunt. Fergus County has ring-necked pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, gray (Hungarian) partridge, as well as sage grouse. You’ll chase these upland birds with stunning buttes and mountain ranges as almost surreal backdrops, and find no shortage of publically accessible land, whether state or federally owned. Two keystone Pheasants Forever wildlife habitat projects are 45 minutes from Lewistown. Located six miles north of Denton, Montana, the 800-acre Coffee Creek BLOCK Management Area is located between a 320-acre parcel and an 880-acre parcel of land – all three areas are open to public hunting. Pheasants Forever also acquired a 1,000 acre parcel known as the Wolf Creek Property, a project which created 14,000 contiguous acres open to public walk-in hunting.
While you’re there: Once the birds have been cleaned and the dog has been fed, head over to the 87 Bar & Grill in Stanford for their house specialty smoked ribs and steaks.
3. Hettinger, North Dakota. Disregard state lines and you can’t tell the difference between southwest North Dakota and the best locales in South Dakota. Hettinger gets the nod in this region because of a few more Private Land Open to Sportsmen (P.L.O.T.S.) areas.
While you’re there: A visit north to the Pheasant Café in Mott seems like a must.
4. Huron, South Dakota. Home to the “World’s Largest Pheasant,” Huron is also home to some darn good pheasant hunting. From state Game Production Areas to federal Waterfowl Production Areas to a mix of walk-in lands, there’s enough public land in the region to never hunt the same area twice on a 5 or 10-day trip, unless of course you find a honey hole.
While you’re there: The Hwy. 14 Roadhouse in nearby Cavour has the type of good, greasy food that goes down guilt free after a long day of pheasant hunting.
5. Valentine, Nebraska. One of the most unique areas in the United States, the nearly 20,000 square mile Nebraska Sandhills region is an outdoor paradise, and Valentine, which rests at the northern edge of the Sandhills, was named one of the best ten wilderness towns and cities by National Geographic Adventure magazine in 2007. Because the Sandhills are 95 percent grassland, it remains one of the most vital areas for greater prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse in the country. Grouse can be found on the 19,000-acre Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and the 115,000-acre Samuel McKelvie National Forest, and grouse and pheasants may be encountered on the 73,000-acre Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.
While you’re there: Head over to the Peppermill & E. K. Valentine Lounge and devour the Joseph Angus Burger, a finalist in the Nebraska Beef Council’s Best Burger Contest.
6. White Bird, Idaho. Hells Canyon is 8,000 feet of elevation, and at various levels includes pheasants, quail, gray partridge and forest grouse. Show up in shape and plan the right route up and down, and you may encounter many of these species in one day. It’s considered by many wingshooting enthusiasts to be a “hunt of a lifetime.” Nearly 40 percent of Idaho’s Hells Canyon is publically accessible, either through state-owned lands, U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands or U.S. Forest Service lands.
While you’re there: Floats and rafting adventures are popular on the Salmon River, in case your bird hunt also needs to double as a family vacation.
7. Heppner, Oregon. Nestled in the Columbia Basin, within a half-hour drive hunters have the opportunity to harvest pheasants, California quail, Huns, chukar, and in the nearby Blue Mountains, Dusky grouse, ruffed grouse and at least the chance of running into mountain quail. With the exception of the Umatilla National Forest for grouse, the hunting opportunity is mostly on private land in the area, but the state has a number of agreements in the area for private land access through its Open Fields, Upland Cooperative Access Program and Regulated Hunt Areas.
While you’re there: As you scout, make sure to drive from Highway 74, also called the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, winding south from Interstate 84 through Ione, Lexington and Heppner.
8. Winnemucca, Nevada. Winnemucca claims legendary status as the “Chukar Captial of the Country.” Long seasons (first Saturday in October through January 31), liberal bag limits (daily limit of six; possession limit of 18) and the fact that these birds are found almost exclusively on public land make chukar Nevada’s most popular game bird. The covey birds do well here in the steep, rugged canyons that mirror the original chukar habitat of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the birds’ native countries. Just know the first time you hunt chukar is for fun, the rest of your life is for revenge.
While you’re there: Nearby Orovada, 44 miles to the north of Winnemucca, is known for excellent hunting areas as well as breathtaking views of the Sawtooth Mountains.
9. Albany, Georgia. Buoyed by tradition and cemented with a local culture built upon the local quail plantation economy, Albany has a reputation as the “quail hunting capital of the world” and a citizenry that embraces “Gentleman Bob.”
While you’re there: save an hour for the 60 mile trip South to Thomasville, Georgia where you can visit Kevin’s, a landmark sporting goods retailer devoted to the bird hunter.
10. Milaca, Minnesota. There are places in Minnesota where pheasants can be found in greater abundance, ditto for ruffed grouse. But there are few places where a hunter may encounter both in such close proximity. While pheasants are found primarily on private land here, state Wildlife Management Areas in the region offer a chance at a rare pheasant/grouse double, including the 40,000-acre Mille Laces WMA. The nearby Rum River State Forest provides 40,000 acres to search for forest birds.
While you’re there: For lunch, the Rough-Cut Grill & Bar in Milaca is the place. This isn’t the type of joint with a lighter portion menu, so fill up and plan on walking it all off in the afternoon…before you come back for supper.
11. Sonoita, Arizona. Central in Arizona’s quail triangle – the Patagonia/Sonoita/Elgin tri-city area – the crossroads of U.S. Highways 82 and 83 puts you in the epicenter of Mearns’ quail country, and 90 percent of the world’s Mearns’ hunting takes place in Arizona. Surrounded by scenic mountain ranges, the pups will find the hotels dog friendly, and moderate winter temps extend through the quail hunting season. Sonoita is also close to desert grasslands (scaled quail) and desert scrub (Gambel’s quail). After your Mearns’ hunt in the oak-lined canyons, you can work toward the Triple Crown.
12. Abilene, Kansas. A gateway to the Flint Hills to the north and central Kansas to the west, the two areas in recent years that have produced the best quail hunting in the Sunflower State.
13. Eureka, South Dakota. Legend has it the town’s name stems from the first settler’s reaction to all the pheasants observed in the area – “Eureka!”
14. Wing, North Dakota. Located just northeast of Bismarck, this town’s name is a clear indication of its premiere attraction. While primarily a waterfowler’s paradise, bird hunters looking to keep their boots dry can find pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and Huns on ample public ground.
15. Redfield, South Dakota. By law, there can only be one officially trademarked “Pheasant Capital of the World” and Redfield is the owner of that distinction . . . and for good reason!
16. Tallahassee, Florida. Home to Tall Timbers, a partner non-profit focused on quail research, this north Florida town is steeped in the quail plantation culture and quail hunting tradition.
17. Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. This fisherman’s paradise also makes for an excellent October launching off point for the bird hunter. Head south toward Fergus Falls to bag your limit of roosters, then jog northeast to find ruffed grouse and timberdoodles amongst thousands of acres of public forest lands. Point straight west and you’ll find prairie chickens in nearby Clay County if you’re lucky enough to pull a Minnesota prairie chicken permit.
18. Park Falls, Wisconsin. For more than 25 years, Park Falls has staked its claim as the “Ruffed Grouse Capital of the World.” It’s more than just proclamation – more than 5,000 acres in the area are intensively managed as ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat.
19. Iron River, Michigan. Four-season recreation is Iron County’s claim to fame, and with the nearby Ottawa National Forest, it’s no coincidence the county bills itself as the woodcock capital of the world.
20. Lander, Wyoming. Wyoming is home to about 54 percent of the greater sage-grouse in the United States, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Wyoming manages millions of publically-accessible acres.
21. Miles City, Montana. Sharp-tailed grouse are well dispersed throughout southeast Montana, and the state boasts the highest daily bag limit – four birds – in the country. Thicker cover along riparian areas also provides chances at ringnecks. Did we mention there are roughly 2.5 million acres of publicly-accessible land in this region?
22. Spirit Lake, Iowa. The many Waterfowl Production Areas and their cattails make northwest Iowa a great late-season pheasant hunting option.
23. Holyoke, Colorado. Lots of Pheasants Forever and state programs – including walk-in areas – are at work in Phillips County which has made the rural, northeast Colorado town of Holyoke the state’s shining upland star.
24. Barstow, California. San Bernardino County is a top quail producer in the state, and the vast Mojave National Preserve is the most popular destination for hunters from throughout southern California, where wingshooters can also find chukar in addition to quail.
25. Anchorage, Alaska. From the regional hub of Anchorage, bird hunters can drive or fly to excellent hunting areas in all directions, which include ptarmigan, ruffed grouse and spruce grouse. To maximize your chances and stay safe here, consider hiring a guide.
Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
Your autumn and winter food and cover plot starts in the spring. Now that planting season has arrived, you may haves questions about establishing your Quail Forever Signature Series Food and Cover mixes.
Why do I need food plots on my farm? High-quality grain food plots play a critical role in the relationship between food, cover, movement and winter bird mortality. The logic is simple. Locating well-planned food and cover plots adjacent to heavy roosting cover provides a dependable source of high-energy food. Having food right next door to winter cover helps establish safe foraging patterns, and minimizes movements – so predation and weather losses are reduced.
What makes PF food plot mixes special? Our biologists have developed Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever grain and forage mixes to provide the food and cover that the wildlife on your farm need. Through continual improvement of our products, we have formulated very specific blends that are adaptable to most growing conditions, and that maximize benefits for your wildlife.
Are specialized mixes worth the extra cost? Seed cost will likely be the smallest expense in your overall food plot spending, yet it is the foundation of your effort to improve food resources for wildlife. Buy the very best seed that you can for your food plots. Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever food plot products come to you after extensive development and research, and following years of successful establishment on farms across the country. And they come to you with the full backing of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, two of the most respected private conservation organizations in the nation.
Must I use herbicides? Weed competition is the most serious threat your food plot will face. Thus, we recommend some sort of herbicide treatment. Food plots planted without weed control will have highly variable results. Weed problems can be addressed by tillage, chemical suppression, or a combination of both. A few weeds in a food plot will actually improve the diversity of the area for wildlife. However, severe weed competition that causes the primary planting to fail can waste your food plot investment, and puts your wildlife in a bad position when winter arrives. Pay attention to weed control recommendations on the bag for best results for your planting.
Do I need fertilizer? Food plots are a crop, and you should fertilize just as you would your garden. Nutrients in your planting area are easily assessed before the planting season with a simple soil test (farm co-ops, and/or USDA offices routinely do this at low cost), and you should amend the soil accordingly before you plant. Rotating grain food plots into areas previously established in legume browse may save money on nitrogen, but nearly all food plots need some supplemental nutrients. Legume food plots do not need nitrogen, but normally require some soil supplements to optimize the stand. Several PF/QF mixes carry micronutrient seed coatings to help our seed to get a jump on early growth. Even so, primary fertilization is almost always a must-do operation.
How do I decide which mixes are right for my farm? Examine your habitat objectives for your farm, what you would like to accomplish for wildlife, and what your desires are for hunting and wildlife viewing. Look particularly at winter food and cover conditions. If this habitat is limited, you will need grain food plots to assist game birds, and may benefit other wildlife by establishing browse plots, as well.
When is the best time to plant? Take cues from agricultural operations occurring in your area. While this will give you a general idea when to plant, not all types of seed can be planted at the same time. Detailed planting instructions are on the back of each Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever food plot mix. Read those guidelines carefully and follow them exactly.
What about planting my plot? Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever grain and green browse food plot mixes can be established with standard planters, grain drills, or with broadcast seeders mounted on a tractor, ATV or pickup truck. Complete planting instructions are on each bag. If you do not have your own equipment, it can often be rented from USDA offices, local implement dealers, and wildlife agencies. Pheasants Forever habitat specialists, private contractors, or a neighbor also may be able to assist you in planting your food plot. For more information on food plot design and other considerations consult the Pheasants Forever Essential Habitat Guide.
What’s the best design for my winter food plots? Grain food plots should restrict unnecessary travel, and provide high quality food and supplemental winter cover. Birds crossing hostile territory for food invite losses from predation and weather, so two critical design factors include locating food plots next to winter cover, and adequate size (3-4 acres or larger is best). Blocks will be preferable to linear plantings, and placement on the windward side of winter cover improves that habitat. If winter cover is scarce, 10-acre plantings of grain mixes with heavy leaf structure can provide all the food and shelter that birds need. In general, green browse plots will provide no winter cover for most upland birds, but will provide foraging areas for deer.
How large should my food plot be? Unfortunately we cannot predict when wildlife will most need supplemental winter food resources, so plan grain food plots for the worst case weather scenario, each and every year. Don’t create a project that will be buried by the first blizzard. Your food plots will be used by many kinds of wildlife. Deer and turkeys consume a lot of grain and will exhaust small food patches well before winter ends. Thus, larger food plots (3-10 acres) are always most desirable. Select a food plot mix based on the cover and food values you need, and carefully assess the critical factors of size and location for your farm.
How long will my food plot last? In general, a grain based food plot will last only a single season (particularly if deer use it heavily) and almost without fail you will need to re-establish this kind of plot annually. In rare instances of low wildlife use, the grain from one year will carry over to the next on the stalks. Allowing a plot like this to grow up into annual weeds provides excellent brood habitat. Green browse food plots (blends of clovers, alfalfa, etc.) may last several years or may need to be re-planted each year (combination leafy forage/root crops like turnips).
What other factors should I consider? Food plots alone are not going to “bring back the birds.” Well-placed food patches can help bring more hens through winter in better condition. At that point, however, the other habitats you have established on your farm (nesting cover, brood rearing habitat, etc.) will play the leading role. Be sure you focus on establishing and managing those important areas for wildlife as well.
Jim Wooley is Quail Forever’s Director of Field Operations. Contact him with your food and cover plot questions at email@example.com.
Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
Last week at the North American Wildlife & Natural Resources Conference, it was my pleasure to present United States Fish & Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe with a plaque commemorating 25 years of the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.
During the presentation, I reflected back on the Program’s 25-years of habitat successes and the people responsible for those achievements. My fond memories included folks like Jim Gritman, who initiated the Partners program, and Carl Madsen, who wrote the very first private land contract under the Program.
Just two weeks ago it was my honor to help Partners program biologist Kurt Forman brief the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission on the plights of prairies and wetlands due to the loss of acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. We also discussed the variety of ways CRP is of critical importance to the Prairie Pothole region that includes North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa.
It’s been a great partnership and Quail Forever was pleased to offer our congratulations to the entire Partners program team. They’ve done a great job helping private lands farmers and ranchers complete wildlife habitat projects these past 25 years.
The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Quail Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.
Win a New Shotgun, Find a New Hunting Spot and Meet a New Hunting Buddy at your Local Quail Forever Chapter Banquet
Friday, March 9th, 2012
How would you like to spend an evening talking with a couple hundred fellow quail hunters about local areas to chase birds, possibly take home a new shotgun, meet a dog trainer that can help you turn a new pup into a bird hunting machine, while at the same time helping raise a little money for improved habitat and getting area youngsters outdoors. Right now across quail country, local Quail Forever chapters are hosting their annual banquets filled with shotguns, gear, raffles, and hunting stories all for the cause of wildlife habitat conservation.
If you haven’t ever attended a Quail Forever chapter banquet, here’s a sampling of what you can experience.
- Doggone Good Time. Ever been in a room with 200 passionate quail hunters sharing hunting stories and spinning yarns about their bird dog’s awesomeness? You may want to put on your Muck boots because it’s going to get deep in a hurry, but I challenge you to wipe the smile off your face when you go to bed after a night at a Quail Forever banquet.
- Improved Local Habitat. Quail Forever operates through a unique fundraising model that empowers the local chapter’s volunteers with 100 percent control of the funds they raise through a banquet’s raffles and auctions. What that means to you is improved habitat and hunting opportunities in your local area, as well as improved habitat nationwide through the organization’s policy efforts in Washington, D.C.
- Improved Hunting Access. In addition to improved habitat, Quail Forever & Pheasants Forever chapters help open up millions of acres to public hunting each season. This improved access is primarily accomplished through either the purchase of tracts of land that become public wildlife areas or funding assistance for access programs that open up private acres to public hunting.
- Win a New Gun. Browning, Beretta, Remington, Ruger, Benelli, over/unders, side-by-sides, pistols, gold-engraving, camo, pink, .12 gauge, .28 gauge; guns in every shape and size are prizes in fun raffles with crazy names like the “Mad Hatter,” “Quail Poop Bingo,” and “Size Does Matter.”
- Meet a New Hunting Buddy. Got a great piece of property, but don’t own a bird dog? Own a great bird dog, but don’t have many places to hunt? Maybe you have a youngster at home with an insatiable thirst to learn about bird hunting? Whatever your situation, Quail Forever banquets are filled with folks interested in the same things you are – quality habitat, good bird dogs and autumn afternoons filled with flushing coveys.
Find your local Quail Forever Chapter Banquet this spring and you just might take home a new shotgun or meet the best hunting buddy of your life. Either way, we promise your attendance will make a difference for quail today and a generation of quail hunters tomorrow.
Friday, January 27th, 2012
I remember the first time I ever met Kim Price. It was at SHOT Show in 2005. Pheasants Forever was investigating the formation of Quail Forever and Kim owned Covey Rise, the nation’s only monthly publication dedicated exclusively to the bobwhite quail.
“I bet you couldn’t even hit a quail over a pointed covey,” Kim poked me. “Son, after shooting those basketball-sized pheasants all fall long, a covey of quail would eat you alive.”
It turns out Kim was right about my shooting prowess, but he grossly underestimated the survival instincts of a flushing rooster.
“B Saint P, that basketball was hummin’,” Kim giggled after a rooster flushed behind two empty barrels of his over/under a few years later on a South Dakota prairie.
Kim was a man who favored over/under shotguns, laughed easily, recognized good habitat, loved bird dogs, enjoyed writing and appreciated solid journalism; which is to say we were fast friends.
Around the marketing department, my team affectionately referred to Kim as “Sweet Home” referencing his Alabama roots, southern drawl and steadfast support for our PR efforts. As you probably heard, or inferred by now, Kim passed away last week after a lengthy battle against cancer. He was a champion for quail and for pheasants, he was the epitome of a professional, and he is a friend I will miss forever.
I conducted the following Q&A for a blog post last year. I thought it appropriate for all of you to learn a little more about my friend Kim from his own words.
Kim N. Price
Born in what town: Alexander City, Alabama
Current Town of Residence: Alexander City, Alabama
Family: Wife, Janet; Chilluns, Whitney, Matt, Chase, & Griffin
Occupation: Owner and President of Price Publications, Inc. , publishers of three weekly newspapers and Covey Rise, national quail hunting publication
Dogs: Baxter, a Boykin Spaniel and Herkimer, Collie/lab mix
Favorite place to pheasant hunt: South Dakota
Favorite place to quail hunt: Thomasville, Georgia
Favorite pheasant hunting shotgun: Beretta Lightweight 12- gauge
Favorite quail hunting shotgun: Browning Citori 28-gauge
Best pheasant hunt of your life was: My first time six years ago in Clark, South Dakota, and my last time in Kansas.
Best quail hunt of your life was: Albany, Texas at the Stasney Cook Ranch. We saw probably 60 coveys on the roads driving into the ranch, and over the next two days the dogs found about 70 coveys.
How did you first get involved with Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever? I was asked to serve on the national board to help institute Quail Forever as part of a national organization seeking to restore quail populations across the Northern Bobwhite’s landscape. I also serve as treasurer now.
What is your favorite aspect about serving on the National Board? Conservation is my life and PF/QF is truly all about conservation. Our board is made up of dedicated conservationists who give of their time to work on important conservation issues whether locally at a chapter meeting, at a quarterly national board meeting, a committee meeting or working on pushing conservation issues in Washington, D.C.
What is the single biggest challenge facing Pheasants Forever in the future?
My biggest concern not just for PF/QF, but for all conservation organizations is the loss of critical conservation programs in the 2012 Farm Bill. That one issue is the great challenge for Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever. Fortunately, PF/QF is the hands-down leader in conservation work in Washington on the Farm Bill and PF/QF has an awesome respect among the decision-makers – I know because I’ve seen it in person. It’s about habitat. The loss of sensitive brood rearing habitat and food cover areas that could get plowed under due to a lack of Farm Bill program funding could be disastrous. The Conservation Reserve Program alone helped return pheasant populations to the landscape and without CRP and other conservation-friendly programs, pheasants, quail and other upland species are in for a rough time down the road.
Times are bleak for America’s bobwhite quail. What is it going to take to turn the tide?
Habitat restoration. I know that sounds basic, but it is. States with on-the-ground programs are making a difference using federal and state programs available to landowners. That is key. Since the 1980s bobwhite quail have lost much of their reproductive and successional habitat. Farming practices changed, timber practices changed and fire was removed from the habitat for too long. That closed the timber canopy – ever heard of Kudzu – and quail had no place to live under the tall Southern pine forests. Predators began dominating the shadows and populations started declining in the 70s. By the 1980s, some states, like my own Alabama, had seen as much as 80 percent to 90 percent loss of bobwhite populations. That is significant. Quail Forever’s goal is to get as many on-the-ground chapters working with as many individual landowners on a contiguous basis to promulgate quail restoration. Along with state wildlife quail biologists – many who serve on the National Bobwhite Technical Committee – and federal agencies like the Farm Service Agency, we can work together to make this happen. In a perfect world, the “Deep South” would have just as many Farm Bill biologists helping landowners plan, plant and burn so the landscape benefits Mr. Bob. I asked FSA Administrator Jonathan Coppess at the recent Pheasant Fest in Omaha if it is possible for states and FSA to team up with QF chapters to get these Farm Bill biologists on the ground. He said he would work to help us notify his state managers in the south. That cooperation is what it will take because it represents the biggest opportunity for faster landscape change. Then, we will see bobwhite populations return. They may never get back to the 1960s, but they’ll be back to a point you can go on the back porch and hear that ole man whistle again.
I’ll miss you Sweet Home. I’ll rejoin you down the road for a hunt, so remember to leave a few birds in those coveys for seed.
Thursday, January 26th, 2012
I spent most of last week at the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor, Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas where retailers in the hunting industry typically announce new product launches. New gear for the bird hunter in 2012 included offerings from Muck Boots, Under Armor and Irish Setter. However, the most eye-popping products for me were Franchi’s new Instinct L and Instinct SL over/under shotguns.
Part of the Benelli family, all Franchi shotguns are Italian made and will be on display in Kansas City at National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic coming up next month.
Check out this fantastic video of the new Instinct L:
Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
I asked Bob West, a professional dog trainer and Purina dog food guru, for some advice on proper nutrition and hydration for my bird dog while on the 5-day hunt of the Rooster Road Trip. Here are his top tips.
- · Rotation. In a perfect situation, Bob recommends rotating multiple dogs through the consecutive day hunting trip for proper opportunity to rest, feed and rehydrate hard-working bird dogs. In this perfect scenario, Bob would run one dog in the morning, feed that dog at mid-day and let the dog rest all afternoon and evening before bringing that dog back into the hunt the next morning. Unfortunately, I have one dog – Trammell – and I have always hunted her all day long. The key, as Bob warns, is to really know your dog’s capabilities, conditioning and tell-tale signs of fatigue.
- · Cool Down & Calm Down. It’s important to wait till your dog has had an opportunity to rest and calm down after a hunt before you serve the food. A half hour’s rest should be enough to prevent your dog from gulping down that food. The danger in gulping is swallowing air bubbles which could lead to bloat and other problems.
- · Caloric Intake. It’s common sense that a dog exerting a tremendous amount of energy on a multi-day hunt is going to need additional calories. What most folks don’t realize; however, is that cooler temperatures also necessitate a need for more calories. Consequently, a bird dog working hard in the field in 20 degree weather may need nearly double the number of calories in a day compared to a leisurely summer day in the 70s. Note: each cup of Purina Pro Plan Performance has 493 calories. All dogs’ needs vary depending upon breed, size, conditioning and activity, but as a baseline, a 40-pound dog needs about 1200 calories in a day of normal activity.
- · Truck Naps. The cooler temperatures of hunting season also should be considered with your dog’s food needs depending on where that pup is sleeping. If that pup is sleeping in the truck, they are going to also need extra calories to stay warm through the night as opposed to the pup that’s sleeping in the hotel room on a hunting trip.
- · Hydration. Dogs regulate their body temperature through panting by drawing air across their tongue and back of their throat. Panting is a dog’s single method to cool down. As a canine exercises in the heat, mucus forms in their mouth and on their tongue. As a hunter, you need to give your bird dog just enough water to give them a little hydration and, as important, water to rinse the mucus from their tongue to keep the pup’s heat regulation system operating efficiently. In cold weather, the air is often dryer, so a dog can actually lose more fluid than even in hot weather when they respire. Consequently, it’s of equal importance during cold hunting days to keep your dog hydrated in the field. NOTE: Bob suggests serving your dog’s food in water to help keep that pup hydrated.
- · Probiotic. Before extended hunting trips, Bob also puts FortiFlora probiotic on his dog’s Purina Pro Plan Performance food beginning four days prior to an extended hunt and every day during the hunt. FortiFlora, which is available from any vet, helps prevent upset stomach issues common with bird dogs from the stress of travel and just simply having a deviation from their routine.
- · Trick or Treat. It’s not uncommon to see proud dog owners after a great day of hunting ask the waitress of the local steak house for plate scraps for their pooch. Bob warns against this kind of indulgence. More often than not, good intentions wind up as loose stools the next morning. West suggests a spoon of canola oil on the dog’s food as a better treat and source of additional calories for your pup.
Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
By John J. Morgan
Field & Stream blogger Chad Love started the conversation about having upland bird hunters mirror the duck hunters who supported the federal duck stamp program. The topic clearly struck a chord with his readers, so I figured it worthy to test ours!
Without question, the federal duck stamp has been an overwhelming success for waterfowl and a host of wetland associated wildlife. Lands acquired through stamp funds were the base for the refuge system helping foster tremendous gains in waterfowl populations. But, how successful would it be for an upland gamebird like northern bobwhite?
Given bobwhite’s resident gamebird status, making a federal stamp poses some significant problems. Waterfowl required federal government oversight given the birds’ inter-state and international movements, so national leadership was clearly needed. Bobwhites do not require that type of involvement. The added level of bureaucracy would likely only minimize progress and create conflict between state and federal conservation staff. Honestly, the federal government currently has little expertise in the management of bobwhite, because it hasn’t been their charge.
Is an upland bird stamp a bad idea? Absolutely not! But, it should be managed by the state. The current economy and dwindling hunter base has put state fish and wildlife agencies in a pickle. You’re going to be shocked to hear this, but managing bobwhite is expensive!! Dedicated funding at the state level for bobwhite could be as effective as it has been at the national level for ducks. Perhaps one of the biggest things to consider is what to do with the money. Buying land through duck stamp funds worked great for birds that fly thousands of miles and can hop from habitat to habitat. The bobwhite’s world is 40 to maybe a few hundred acres. It’s not about buying land.
The key to bobwhite restoration is to create a cultural shift in land management. Wow! That sounds kinda hard, doesn’t it??? Perhaps that’s why states aren’t doing so well for Bob!
The bobwhite’s fate rests in hands of the landowner. The private sector owns >85% of land in the eastern U.S . They decide if we have quail or not. So, how we use money for bobwhite may be more nebulous then you may think. What it will take is creativity and strategic investments. For example, what if we used every upland bird stamp dollar across every bobwhite state to build a bobwhite lobby in Washington? Their function would be designed to change the implementation of the Farm Bill to maximize public benefits. If the lobby was successful, I’m confident the math would work out! But, I can’t say that it would guarantee bobwhite restoration.
In Kentucky, we seriously considered an upland bird stamp in the late 90’s. It was widely supported by our sportsmen and women, but we never pulled the trigger. It just may be time to consider it again. We have a plan in place to spend it, and ultimately, the habitat and renewed interest in conservation would benefit all wildlife, from deer to turkeys to songbirds. Benefits to water and air quality, storing carbon, and conservation of energy will result as well. Come to think of it, all Kentuckians would benefit.
Perhaps a habitat or upland bird stamp is the place to start, but ya know, I’m getting really tired of sportsmen and women having to always step up and do the heavy lifting. I think hunters’ and anglers’ backs are getting tired! I am confident that they will step up again, but when can we start expecting society to step up?
Let us know by leaving comments if you would support an upland habitat stamp and how would you recommend the money be spent. By the way, is your back getting tired?
Quail Forever is a conservation partner in the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI). Read more NBCI blog posts here.
Learn more about the NBCI at www.bringbackbobwhites.org.
Thursday, July 21st, 2011
Chad Love, author of “Man’s Best Friend” blog on the Field & Stream website and fellow Quail Forever blogger, recently passed along a post idea for me. It seems that famed pheasant hunting author Steve Grooms has elected to sell his favorite pheasant gun, a 12 gauge over/under Ithaca model 600 made by SKB. It got me thinking about shotguns and if there’s one out there I’d aspire to one day own.
My first thought went to a recent book about Ernest Hemingway’s guns. Ultimately I’d prefer to possess the fishing rod & reel Hemingway used in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – my home stomping grounds – while penning the Big Two-Hearted River, more than any of Ernie’s firearms. Teddy Roosevelt came to mind as well, but ultimately I’m not particularly infatuated with owning famous people’s things.
For me, I think someday I’d like to inherit both of my grandpa’s shotguns. My Grandpa St.Pierre passed away last fall leaving my dad with a matching 12 and 20 gauge Winchester Model 12 pair. Likewise, my Grandpa Maurer left his 20 gauge Browning Citori featherlight to my mom when he passed a few years back. All three of those guns carry on my family’s hunting traditions; something shared by both sides of my heritage. That’s something I’m proud to be a part of and represent in my last name.
Is there someone else’s shotgun out there you hope to shoulder one day?
Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
Successful poker players often talk about identifying opposing player’s “tells” in route to victory. Some card players can’t look others in the eye when they’ve got a good hand, or they start tapping their fingers on the table when they’re bluffing. Baseball pitchers are known to have similar “tells.” I can remember one pitcher from high school who would only grunt when delivering a curve ball. Fastball = no grunt. Curve = grunt. I hit pretty well off that guy.
I believe a parallel can be drawn between successful hunter and dog teams. Without the ability to talk, the hunter is left to interpret the pup’s body language in the field to determine what that dog’s nose is communicating to the rest of its body. Most of us refer to this interchange of scent to body language as a dog getting “birdy.”
While there are common traits consistent across bird dogs, I believe each birdy dog’s tells are as unique as batting stances in the Hall of Fame. In my opinion, the basic birdy dog indicators are a pup’s tail, ears, eyes and pace. The key to being a successful hunter over your bird dog is honing in on how your dog’s tail, ears, eyes and pace behave when your pup’s hot after a bird or covey.
My shorthair has a couple of surefire tells. The biggest indicator for me is the pace at which her tail wags left to right. The faster it goes, the surer she is to be on a bird’s trail. Contrastingly, as soon as she believes she’s located it, her tail and the rest of her body goes “rock solid” into a point and her ears are pricked at attention. In essence, the more statuesque she is, the more certain she has the bird or covey pinned in the cover somewhere in front of her nose. As long as I’m not behind her, she’ll also make eye contact with me; making sure I see her and know she’s got one located. While I don’t know if pro dog trainers would encourage or discourage this eye contact, I absolutely get a rush out of the interchange. To me, it galvanizes the passing of the baton from her job to mine as the shooter.
While Trammell’s tail and eye contact tells aren’t unique to her, she does have another tell that I’ve yet to witness in anyone else’s bird dog. When Tram is hot on the trail of a running rooster, but she simply can’t locate it after an extended chase, she’ll let out a whine. When I hear that whine, I pick up the pace as fast as I safely can with shotgun in hand, because based on past experience that whine tells me she’s on the scent of a wily old rooster that is going to flush before he ever lets her get close on a point.
When it comes to pace as a tell, my buddy Matt Kucharski’s Lab, Lucy, provides my best example. There is no doubt a dog’s chasing speed picks up as it zeros in on a rooster, running grouse or covey. Matt’s Lucy is no exception. As the scent grows in intensity, so does Lucy’s horse power, until Lucy finally zeros in on a bird pinned under grass. At that point, Lucy stops, looks up to locate Matt, and then immediately pounces on the clump of grass concealing the bird.
What is your dog’s surefire “tell” when on a bird?