One Pheasant Hunter's Observations from the 2012 Season

Like most of you, bird hunting isn’t a hobby to me.  It’s one of the biggest parts of my life.  The days I spend afield influence how I view the world, current events, the future, and my own place amongst all of the above.  For many folks across the pheasant range, the hunting season has ended or is nearing a snowy end in the coming days.  As I reflect on my own 2012 season, three observations stick out as themes in my mind.
A Good Dog is Critical to Pheasant Hunting
After adding my second pup to the family this spring, I cannot stress enough the value of a good bird dog to pheasant hunting.  I’ve blogged about ways a dogless pheasant hunter can achieve success in past posts, but increasingly I fall more toward a mentality of convincing pheasant hunters without dogs to take the plunge and get a bird dog for all the joys of pet ownership in addition to the incredible advantage a solid bird dog provides the pheasant hunter in the field.
Two isn’t Necessarily Better than One
While I may believe a bird dog is critical to pheasant hunting success, I don’t believe in “the more, the merrier” philosophy for bird dog ownership at this point.  This was my first season as an owner of two bird dogs and I found it more challenging to keep track of two dogs hunting at the same time than I expected.  I also found my two dogs to compete against each other in the field more than I’d hoped, which led to many more bumped birds than when I hunted the dogs independently.  Consequently, I hunted the pups separately more often this season than I would have ever imagined.  There are two clear advantages to multi-dog ownership I did observe a) the ability to keep both dogs fresh on multi-day hunts by rotating them throughout trips and b) older dogs teach young dogs an incredible amount – both good & bad – that helps accelerate the training process.
The Autumn Cattail Sloughs Disappeared from the Landscape
As vivid as if it were 10 minutes ago, I can close my eyes and spin a 360 degree circle recalling my November visit to South Dakota and North Dakota during this year’s Rooster Road Trip.  A plume of smoke there, a plume of smoke there, a plume of smoke there, a gigantic plume of smoke over there and another plume of smoke over there.  The summer drought of 2012 transitioned into the fall of fire as tens of thousands of acres of critical winter cover cattail sloughs were burn and prepped for spring crops.  If the winter of 2013 becomes harsh, the pheasants that called those cattail sloughs their winter homes will freeze to death by the tens of thousands.  If it’s a wet spring, crop insurance will come into play on those acres.  Either way, the inevitable future declines in pheasant and duck numbers, increasing severity of coming spring floods and deteriorating quality of our water supply will all be traced back to cattail fires of the autumn of 2012.
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.