Archive for the ‘Quail Forever’ Category

Why your hunting dog will work for you

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Clearly, he wants something. What is it?

Clearly, he wants something. What is it?

Have you ever had a lousy boss? You know the type: harsh voice constantly berating you, cutting you down, badgering, yelling, and criticizing … never offering praise or encouragement.

Some of us have been lucky enough to have a good boss, or even been one. To others, it might have been a coach, teacher, Scoutmaster, neighbor. You remember them for their soothing demeanor, supportive attitude, mutual respect, positive reinforcement. Heck, even their critiques were constructive, almost pleasurable.

Of the two, who would you rather work for? For which would you gladly stay late to help with a rush order, or go the extra mile? The same holds true for your dog.

I’m not saying you should curry favor, suck up or kowtow to your pup. In the pack, your dog functions best when he knows his boundaries and who’s in charge. In your house, yard and field that’s always you. Establishing those boundaries and setting up your chain of command can be done in a number of ways, some better than others. One version engenders respect and cooperation, other versions foster fear or aggression.

When discipline is applied appropriately, instruction is melded with encouragement, or correction is done with restraint and sensitivity, I think your dog acquires a sense of “fairness.” I doubt that dogs truly comprehend that term, but they are certainly aware of the opposite.

Doesn’t it just make sense to create a relationship based on mutual trust, respect, and reward for a job well done? Remember back to when it worked for you; I bet it’ll work for him.

(Buy Scott’s new book here.)

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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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Put your best feet forward

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Up here, a saved step or two is worth thinking about.

On this morning’s training walk with Manny, I was reminded of the importance of how we choose our steps … and why. Hope you find something useful here:

“Walk This Way” is more than an iconic rock tune (the original version by Aerosmith, whose lead singer Steven Tyler, by the way, has been a bird hunter in the past.) Ambulating with some care husbands your precious energy and maybe save a trip to the emergency room. Where I hunt, in the darkest spot in the lower 48, both of those are good enough reasons to think before I step.

It starts with minimizing the strain on your thigh and calf muscles by stepping over, not on top of, obstacles such as logs and rocks. Each upward stride is like climbing stairs, taxing some of the largest muscles in your body and lifting virtually your entire body’s weight each time you summit a downed tree.

If you must negotiate a boulder field or rocky slope, you’re safer stepping to the low spots. You have less chance of twisting an ankle or breaking a femur because you’re carefully, deliberately putting your feet where they’d go the hard way in a mishap. And by not “topping” rocks, whether they’re securely anchored or loose as bowling balls is immaterial to your delicate bones and joints.

On steep uphills, say in chukar country, conserve energy with the slight rest your muscles get as you lock your knee at the apex of each step. Your legs’ skeletal structure supports your body weight for a microsecond, giving oxygen-rich blood a chance to flow back into relaxed muscle tissue. And for some reason I tend to stomp on each uphill step, adding injury to the insult of taunting chukars mere yards uphill from me. If you do too, step lightly instead.

A long day weaving among the trees and shrubs will seem shorter if you weave less. Even if it seems a bit out of the way, walking in longer straight shots with fewer twists and turns, alleviates stress on hip and knee joints and the muscles that activate them. Over the course of a 10-mile hunt, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the absence of pain.

Finally, the U.S. Army has convinced me that shortening your stride just a few inches is wise.  Among recruits, it protects against hip and pelvic injuries. For we hunting civilians, too. Here’s a bonus: on crusted snow, you may find yourself “postholing” less.

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Are you a “slob hunter?”

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Your mother doesn’t live here. Clean up after yourself.

Way back in the deepest recess of your formerly-adolescent mind, you heard that cliché in reference to your bedroom. Below the Farrah Fawcett poster, amongst the model cars (or maybe an X Box) was your dirty laundry. Or a pizza box, unfinished homework, candy wrappers or more likely all of the above.

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But today it’s your spent shotgun shells on the ground.

Just like dirty socks in as a kid, you left them where they fell. Just a couple, forgotten in the excitement of a covey flush … or a double on jinking bobwhites (yes!).

No big deal. Until the birders visit next spring and surmise that all hunters are slobs. Or the local PETA chapter on their summer solstice drumming-and-sweat-lodge outing. Then, those empty hulls are just garbage.
Trash. And hunters are too, damned by the bright, shiny evidence shouting to the world that we are all gun-toting yahoos without regard for anyone or anything else, including our environment. Our coverts.

Those empties are no longer plastic and brass. They are an embarrassment to sportsmen – a condemnation of every one of us, a glinting example of our carelessness and disregard for others.

I’m reminded of a sign I saw above a locker-room door years ago: Our reputation depends on you, me, and us.
How about a more selfish reason: piles of shucked ammo show me where your honey hole is. And another: common courtesy. You wouldn’t be invited to his next barbecue if you dumped crap in your neighbor’s yard. Why dump it in our collective yard? Fellow hunters are your neighbors on public lands.

We have enough challenges: to the Second Amendment, finding ammo, continued access to public land, dogs that forget their training. And while we can’t sway rabid anti-hunters, we have plenty of chances to keep the non-hunting public on our side. The ones who vote, and stand up at public meetings. The folks who write letters to the editor and testify at game and fish department hearings.

So pick up your trash and someone else’s. Because if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Your choice.

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Sportsmen’s Act Would Create Millions of Acres of Public Hunting Lands

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

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While the farm bill is the most important piece of federal legislation to Quail Forever, it’s far from the only conservation tool created in Washington, D.C. This spring, Quail Forever is urging Congressional leaders to consider the bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act. Included in this bill are a variety of measures influencing the creation and management of lands open to public hunting.

The Sportsman’s Act includes the following titles:

  • Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act of 2013 (S.738) authorizes the Fish and Wildlife Service to allow any state to provide federal duck stamps electronically. This measure should make it simpler to sell stamps, in turn leading to a greater pot of money for Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) acquisitions.
  • North American Wetlands Conservation Act Reauthorization (S.741) provides matching grants to organizations, state and local governments, and private landowners for the acquisition, restoration, and enhancement of wetlands critical to the habitat of migratory birds. Pheasants Forever has been a grant recipient in many states leading to thousands of acres of protected critical grassland and wetland habitat.
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Reauthorization (S.51); a non-profit that preserves and restores native wildlife species and habitats.
  • Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act (S.170); the bill also requires the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service to keep their lands open to hunting, recreational fishing, and shooting.
  • Making Public Lands Public requires 1.5% of annual Land and Water Conservation Fund for securing fishing, hunting, and recreational shooting access on federal public lands.
  • Farmer and Hunter Protection Act; authorizes USDA extension offices to determine normal agricultural practices rather than the Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act (S.1505) exempts lead fishing tackle from being regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
  • Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act (S.1212) enables states to allocate a greater proportion of federal funding to create and maintain shooting ranges on federal and non-federal lands.

Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever have joined a group of 40 organizations representing more than 40 million hunters and anglers asking the United States Senate to consider the Sportsmen’s Act following Memorial weekend recess.

You can help too. Contact your U.S. Senator and ask them to bring the Sportsmen’s Act to the Senate floor.

-Dave Nomsen is Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.

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Dog of the Day: “Ruby”

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Ruby

Given her choice in gauge, Ruby here looks like she is going to be a proper pointing dog.

Ruby is a French Brittany owned by Joey Clark.

Also known as the “French Brittany,” the Epagneul Breton originated in the central region of Brittany in France. It is one of the oldest spaniel-type dogs and the smallest of the pointing breeds. Its body is compact, often described as “cobby” or square. The coat is slightly wavy with feathering on the legs.  Acceptable colors are white and orange, white and black, white and liver, and tricolored.

The Epagneul Breton was first brought to North America in the 1930s and 1940s. Through selective breeding, the “American Brittany” evolved as a taller, faster, more strong-willed version of its ancestors, also eliminating the black color in the coat. Wishing to retain the original and unique characteristics of the breed, a group of Epagneul Breton breeders and owners formed the Club Epagneul Breton of the United States in 1997.

Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Rehan Nana, Quail Forever’s public relations specialist, at RNana@quailforever.org.

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Dog of the Day: “Cash”

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

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Cash, Howie Swenson’s four-month-old French Brittany, is seen here retrieving his first Mearns quail.

“His training is going very well,” said Swenson of Tucson, “We’re both looking forward to the fall.”

Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Rehan Nana, Quail Forever’s public relations specialist, at RNana@quailforever.org.

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Why do we hunt? DOGS!

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

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This is when our DNAs cross paths and we become one hunter

I became a hunter because I watched my first wirehair work a field, putting up a pheasant hen after a solid point. I’d never owned a gun before, but decided if he would do that for me, the least I could do is shoot the bird for him. Little did I know that was the start of a (late) life-long series of dazzling performances by a series of magical dogs I was privileged to observe. Lucky for me, the relationship continues, and the awe I felt from that first point returns every time I send a dog into the field.

Any excuse for sharing time with a dog is legitimate. But for me, it is clear: we become a team linked by DNA, a modern version of a prehistoric wolf pack coursing the uplands for sustenance – literal and emotional.

In the digital age we pretend to communicate with gadgets. The talking we do at each other via smartphone is shallow, ephemeral and self-centered. Contrast that with the deep genetic link between hunters. Words are unnecessary when instinct guides predators linked by common purpose.

I’m honored when my dogs invite me to share this primitive thrill, accepting me as equal, calling on the most basic of instincts to feed our pack and sustain our souls. We are one, thinking and acting as a single being with a single goal, to find prey. The act is violent and primitive, ugly and beautiful, the most complicated transaction in the universe: lives taking life to sustain life.

Neither of us will starve if we aren’t successful in the common definition of the term. The size of our bag is a sidebar to a bigger story: flow of adrenaline, deep passion, panting and slobber, the tang of sage and if we are lucky, the coppery smell of blood.

Our dogs tolerate human missteps and bad shots. They put up with poor noses and slow, creaky joints in their human packmate. At the end of the day they ask little except a warm place to sleep near their hunting companion, forgiving missed shots and misplaced anger.

We should be flattered.

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

Friday, April 25th, 2014

 

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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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