Habitat & Conservation  |  06/14/2019

Forgotten Delights


Of wildflowers, butterflies, bees, birds … and Pollinator Week

By Tom Carpenter

I cleaned out my hunting vest last week. Finally. Yes, life gets a little busy but hey I’m looking at it this way: Rather than being almost 5 months out from last winter’s final adventure, which happened to be for roosters and quail, I’m more than 2 months ahead of this year’s first upland foray.

Amongst the usual stuff you find cleaning out a hunting vest, I came across a forgotten delight: My seed pocket. 

Hidden behind the left-front shell sleeve, this easy-to-reach and bulging pocket houses the wildflower seeds I gather as I travel behind Lark the little Epagneul Breton through some of those magical spots where the stalks and dried heads of aster, coneflower, wild sunflower, rudbeckia, daisy, blazing star, monarda, goldenrod and other forbs stand stiff against the autumn wind. Occasionally I find a yet-intact milkweed pod.

Some of the tiny seeds I spread like a modern-day Johnny Appleseed. Call me Tommy Wildlfower Seed. Others I sprinkle into my prairie plot at home and see what happens.

But these seeds, they also represent something else: The flowers that bloomed here in summer, reaching a crescendo in August and September (and sometimes even coloring up the landscape a little into October and hunting season), homes to butterflies and bees above and young gamebirds below.

 All need help.

That’s what Pollinator Week is all about. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are all-in. This week and year-round. We could probably run a few weeks’ worth of articles on all the different angles of why pollinators are so important and how we – PF, QF, you – are involved with the fight to save them by conserving upland habitat. But four topics get a nod:

Saline Soils in South Dakota, a key state for monarchs, where fixing hard-used soil helps farmers, pollinators and oh by the way pheasants. Win-win-win.

Permanent Protection in Minnesota, where new lands are consistently being added to the public rolls … and also actively managed with pollinators and oh by the way pheasants in mind.

Rights of Way Nationwide, where millions of acres of largely abused land corridors sit ripe for helping pollinators and oh by the way quail and pheasants.

Urban Pollinators, and how PF and QF are using small-scale but critical butterfly and bee habitats to introduce kids to the great outdoors and oh by the way maybe snag a few new hunters for the future of conservation in the process.

I love my wildflower seeds. Sometimes I crush a few between my fingers right below my nose and inhale their sweet-savory prairie pungency. I can see myself and my little bird dog heading into the stems in search of a November rooster, but I can also see myself on an August meander through wildflowers and prairie grass and milkweed, something I do every year as punctually as hunt, and hear the buzz of honeybees and bumblebees and delight at the waft of monarchs and swallowtails not forgotten and know that something, this, is right with the world.

Tom Carpenter is editor at Pheasants Forever.