Archive for the ‘Pheasants Forever’ Category

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Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Finger off the red button!

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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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Farm Bill Agreement Reached, Awaits House Vote

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

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Yesterday, the long-anticipated farm bill showed signs of life as House and Senate conferees reached a bipartisan agreement to move the bill forward.  In fact, the House may have a vote on the farm bill by the end of Wednesday.  After clearing the House, the bill will move to the Senate.

The bill addresses Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s top grassland and wildlife priorities including the following:

  • Conservation compliance connected to crop insurance.
  • A regional “Sodsaver” to protect our country’s last remaining native prairies.  States included are South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana, and Nebraska.  We are pleased to have these important tools to protect America’s last remaining virgin prairies available in these critical pheasant states and northern-tier quail states right away.
  • Reauthorization of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).  While the total authorization of acres will gradually decrease to 24 million acres by FY18, we do have some new tools included to help us target the most environmentally sensitive acres that will best produce water, soil and wildlife benefits.  In fact, one particular change to CRP will allow us to enroll up to 2 million grassland acres with no cropping history that have never been eligible for CRP enrollment historically.
  • $40 million in funding for voluntary public hunting access programs (VPA-HIP).
  • A new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program including provisions targeting wetlands and grasslands.

It’s been an arduous two year road to get us to this point.  I won’t pretend this Farm Bill is going to be perfect by anyone’s standards; however, it does address our core conservation concerns.  The danger in not passing a farm bill at this point would be catastrophic for wildlife and water quality as all our favorite conservation programs, like CRP, would be shut down for the foreseeable future. Given the current state of habitat loss, our nation’s wildlife cannot withstand additional time without access to conservation programs.  Let’s get this farm bill passed and begin working on returning habitat back to the landscape this spring.

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

Photo credit: Matt Tillett / Flickr CC

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ACTION ALERT: Finish the Farm Bill

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

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Yesterday, Farm Bill conferees met for the first time to craft the final version of the Farm Bill that will go before the full Congress for a vote.  This has been a process that has taken more than two years, so it’s critical all bird hunters contact the conferees listed below urging final passage of a Farm Bill immediately.  Failure to pass a Farm Bill by year’s end would be devastating to wildlife and hunter access.

 

“If a Farm Bill doesn’t pass by year’s end critical programs like CRP and WRP will remain unavailable,” explained Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s vice president of government affairs.

 

Nomsen continued, “we saw the power of our collective voice as hunters earlier this month when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service re-opened Waterfowl Production Areas during the government shutdown.  Today, it’s even more critical for all of us to raise those voices.  The future of our hunting heritage hangs in the balance.  It may seem like I’m over-stating the severity of the situation, but I am not.  This is zero-hour for pheasants, quail, ducks, deer, turkeys, America’s water quality and hunter access.”

 

The following components are critical to Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s support of a new Farm Bill:

  • Conservation Compliance connected to crop insurance
  • National Sodsaver to protect our country’s last remaining native prairies
  • A Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) with a minimum 25 million acre baseline
  • A 5-year Farm Bill

The list below is the full roster of Farm Bill conferees.  If you live within the districts of these individuals, it’s imperative they hear your voice as a hunter and conservationist urging for strong conservation policy in a new Farm Bill.  Follow this link to Contact your elected officials. Thank you for standing up for America’s sportsmen and women!

  Farm Bill Conferees

  Senate Republicans:
  Ranking Member Thad Cochran, R-Miss.
  Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
  Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
  John Boozman, R-Ark.
  John Hoeven, R-N.D.
  Senate Democrats:
  Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
  Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
  Tom Harkin, D-Iowa
  Max Baucus, D-Mont.
  Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio
  Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
  Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
  House Republicans:
  Frank Lucas/Chair, R-Okla.
  Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas
  Mike Rogers, R-Ala.
  Mike Conaway, R-Texas
  Glenn Thompson, R-Pa.
  Austin Scott, R-Ga.
  Rick Crawford, R-Ark.
  Martha Roby, R-Ala.
  Kristi Noem, R-S.D.
  Jeff Denham, R-Calif.
  Rodney Davis, R-Ill.
  Steve Southerland, R-Fla.
  Ed Royce, R-Calif.
  Tom Marino, R-Pa.
  Dave Camp, R-Mich.
  Sam Johnson, R-Texas
  House Democrats:
  Collin Peterson/Ranking Member, D-Minn.
  Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio –Appointed by Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, to represent leadership in conference
  Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.
  Jim Costa, D-Calif.
  Timothy Walz, D-Minn.
  Kurt Shcrader, D-Ore.
  Jim McGovern, D-Mass.
  Suzan DelBene, D-Wash.
  Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Calif.
  Filemon Vela, D-Texas
  Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.
  Sander Levin, D-Mich.
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Not a creature was stirring …

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Is it here yet? We are ready!

Is it here yet? We are ready!

Do you remember childhood Christmas Eves? Maybe you went to mass, there might have been  a party, possibly a big dinner with cousins you saw but once a year (and never liked anyway). But after all the ceremony, once dishes were dried and put up, when the lights were doused and you were tucked into bed with sugar plums dancing in your head, anticipation became the only feeling in your young and impressionable mind. The endless night dragged on as you waited for morning and the joyful chaos.

You know, that can’t-get-to-sleep, did I leave Santa enough cookies and milk? will it be under the tree?  potential for unbridled joy coupled with a tinge of looming disappointment.

I’m there. Smack dab in the center, the nexus of fun and wariness. Earlier than most years, I’m eagerly anticipating the upcoming season. Soon, Manny, Buddy and I head north and east.

Maybe because last night I was subjected to old home movies of my first couple Christmases, that’s the metaphor that best describes the weeks before embarking on a full season on the road.

Do you ever get that feeling? Maybe as opening weekend approaches? Or as you set out to pick up a new pup? Maybe as your annual trip to (fill in the blank: Wisconsin/ruffs; Texas/bobs; South Dakota/ringnecks) comes nigh?

Rub your hands – sleep in your clothes – check the alarm clock every hour – get up early (earlier) than planned – the sweet taste of impending fun and new country. It’s almost Christmas and soon I’ll see you on the road.

(Scott’s new book would make a great Christmas gift. Learn more here.)

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Farm Bill Clears Senate as September 30th Deadline Looms

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Quail Forever's Marc Glades and Dave Nomsen talk about recent meetings with elected officials while in Washington, D.C. (PHOTO BY REHAN NANA)

Quail Forever’s Marc Glades and Dave Nomsen talk about recent meetings with elected officials while in Washington, D.C. (PHOTO BY REHAN NANA)

I am pleased to report the United States Senate passed their version of the 2013 Farm Bill by a vote of 66 to 27 on Monday.  This bill would establish U.S. agricultural policy for the next five years.  Included in the Senate’s bill were:

 

  • Reauthorization of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
  • Reauthorization of the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
  • Reauthorization of the Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP)
  • A conservation compliance provision re-linking crop insurance premium support to certain conservation practices.
  • A national “Sodsaver” program helping to safeguard native prairies.

 

The Senate’s version of the Farm Bill is good policy for landowners, hunters and conservationists.  Unfortunately, there are a number of steps remaining before this policy can take effect for the benefit of farmers and wildlife.

 

The next step is for the U.S. House of Representatives to take up the Farm Bill on the full House floor.  This step, as you may recall, is exactly where last year’s attempt to push the Farm Bill to completion died on the vine.  Based on the discussion coming out of the House this session, I’m optimistic the Farm Bill will reach the House floor as early as next week.  The House and the Senate titles are relatively similar with the exception of two important policy provisions.  The House’s current bill lacks the conservation compliance connection to crop insurance and has a regional version of “Sodsaver” rather than the national version.  We’re going to continue to work toward influencing the House to include those two important provisions.

 

Consequently, we are asking all Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever members to be on alert as we monitor Farm Bill debate in the House in the coming weeks.  There will likely be a time in the coming days when we sound the alarm and ask all members and hunters to contact their U.S. Representative with a key message about our position on conservation.

 

Unfortunately, there are still three more steps for a new Farm Bill after passage of a bill in the House.  The first of those steps would be a conferencing of the Senate and House Farm Bills together to rectify differences between the two bodies.  Second, the conferenced bill would have to be approved by a full Congressional vote.  And finally, the final bill would have to be signed by the President.

 

Obviously, that’s a lot of steps and the 2008 Farm Bill expires on September 30th.  Congress needs to push this 2013 Farm Bill across the finish line before that deadline is met.  And, another extension to the 2008 Farm Bill would irreversibly change the face of private lands conservation threatening the existence of conservation programs that landowners and hunters have relied on for decades.

 

Stay tuned.

 

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

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The 25 Best Bird Hunting Towns in America

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

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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.

Return to the On the Wing eNewsletter

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Quail Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@quailforever.org. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

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Frequently Asked Food and Cover Plot Questions

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.

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Larger food plots projects – 3 to 10 acres – typically provide the most benefit to upland wildlife. QF File Photo

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 jwooley@quailforever.org

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Recognizing 25 Years of the Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Quail Forever's Dave Nomsen (left) and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe (right)

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.

 

Today at Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever, we work with some great U.S. Fish & Wildlife Partners staff; including, the teams Heather Johnson (Region 6) and Lori Nordstrom (Region 3) supervise.

 

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.

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