By Tom Carpenter
With the New Year upon us and pheasant seasons starting to wind down, this upland and pheasant fanatic took a look back and a glance ahead, and made the following four Pheasant Hunter’s Resolutions for 2018. What’s on your list?
All in, I am an average wing shot. I hit more birds than I whiff, but success can be streaky – going from now I’m in a groove and I’ll never miss again
to what county did that shot fly toward
When one works so hard to get birds in the air, you want to hit the things.
I suspect one problem is practice. I need to just shoot more. Life gets busy, and recreational shooting is irregular at best. That must change. Resolution?
Shoot a round of trap, skeet, five-stand, clays … or just some plinking at hand-throwns … once a week from June on to pheasant season
I could start now, but want to be realistic. I live in Minnesota. I hunt turkeys in lots of places through the end of May. A June start and four-plus months of shooting should help.
Silver lining: A new shotgun may be in the cards. I’m looking. Hey I’ve got an excuse!
Actually, I did a pretty good job of exploring this year, from Minnesota to the Dakotas and my native Wisconsin (which, by the way, has some decent numbers of wild roosters). These are all states I have hunted before, but I searched out and hunted new areas and spots in all of them.
It was fun. It made me hungry for more. There are only so many pheasant seasons in a lifetime, and you can never have too many hunting spots in your back pocket. Resolution? It’s a two-parter:
Hunt at least one new state that I haven’t pheasants in hunted before … and get to a new county or region of my home state for a hunt.
Oh this will be tough duty. Insert LOL emoji here. I’ve pretty much run the Great Plains and the West, but Kansas is on my radar. So is Michigan, with its wonderful Pheasant Restoration Initiative
paying big dividends. I know where I want to hit in my home state, and I am going to run there on a clear and dewy August morning to see if there are birds running around, and map out a piece of ground for a cool and blue-skied November day.
This is an important one.
Like you, I give to habitat and conservation from my pocketbook. And extra end-of-year giving for at Pheasants Forever was robust in 2017. Thank you.
But there’s something more. Something hands-on. Something where you get dirty and crusted with sweat and your muscles ache at the end of the day because you know you did something.
So while I’ll continue to give what I can money-wise to help grassland wildlife, I’ve also made this resolution:
Give at least two days of time using my still-strong legs and back to help with grassland habitat work
This one self-serves some, yes: Who doesn’t want more excuses to be outside? But it also makes a difference. I suspect the act of being there – helping on a burn, cutting brush, sowing seed, putting up signs, whatever – will be therapeutic in many ways, with tangible results right there at the end of the day … and in the future.
This is another important one.
As much as upland habitat is under siege, so is our national hunting tradition. Hunters are, and have always been, at this country's conservation forefront. But we are losing hunters. Fast. Research shows that about 9 percent of the U.S. population hunted in 1980. Five to 6 percent hunt now. By 2025, only 3 percent will.
It might seem good to have fewer hunters around competing for birds. But there will be fewer voices to stand up for and protect our upland cathedrals -- the places we go to hunt.
So this one is simple -- reactivate or recruit:
Take at least one person bird hunting who used to go, but dropped out. Or take a new hunter out bird hunting for the first time.
Of course, kids count. But so do adults who have never had the opportunity to hunt but want to try.
What’s on your list of upland hunter’s resolutions?
I’ll provide a few reports on mine as the year goes on.
Tom Carpenter is Digital Content Manager for Pheasants Forever.
Photo © Can Stock Photo / pwollinga