Habitat & Conservation  |  02/23/2021

Partnerships, Precision Ag, and Pheasants


Quality habitat creates a common bond between landowners and partners across pheasant country

By Emily Spolyar, Precision Ag & Conservation Specialist with Pheasants Forever for North Dakota

Strong partnerships have the ability to take just about anything from good to great.  This was demonstrated last spring when Gooseneck Implement, the John Deere dealership in Bowman, North Dakota, asked Pheasants Forever to be a part of its John Deere Operations Center training.  

Customers in attendance listened to dealership staff discuss the best ways to collect, manage, and analyze their farm data within the John Deere Operations Center.  This discussion eventually brought them to the topic of chronically low-yielding acres, which was where Pheasants Forever came in.

Pheasants Forever staff presented other options for their lower-yielding acres and that gave them an opportunity to understand what a management change might look like on those acres.  It also helped show how to put farm precision data to work in identifying their most problematic acres.

In North Dakota, many landowners are avid pheasant hunters who look to manage their land with pheasants in mind.  Knowing this to be the case with one of his landowners, an attending grower, Shane Freitag, immediately saw the value in the idea of using precision ag to implement conservation practices on low-yielding acres. 

By utilizing his historic yield data and coupling that with his experience and knowledge of the land, Shane was able to work with Pheasants Forever and the landowner to identify 156 acres that would be better suited as perennial cover.  By taking advantage of a cost-share program, the initial expense of this management change was minimal.  Additionally, once the perennial cover is well-established, they will be able to hay these acres (outside of the primary nesting season).  Alternatively, they could choose to graze these acres to manage the cover.  Periodic, managed grazing is a great way to keep the planting diverse, healthy, and an asset to pheasants and other wildlife for years to come.

As this project developed, it inspired the same landowner to get in touch with one of his other operators in a neighboring county.  Through the same process of working with Pheasants Forever to target low-yielding acres, this operator was also able to re-purpose some of the revenue-negative acres he rented from the landowner.  An additional 41 acres were converted to perennial cover, which brought the grand total to 197 acres of new perennial cover (AKA wildlife habitat!) being implemented in low-yielding acres.

In this multi-faceted partnership, everyone was a winner.  The Bowman Gooseneck Implement dealership did their customers a great service by presenting them with another opportunity to use their data to increase their efficiency and profitability.  Shane, knowing the conservation-minded interests of one of his landowners, helped to further strengthen their partnership.  At the same time, he and the other participating grower were able to make changes that benefitted their businesses by recognizing that no two acres of land should be managed exactly the same way, as they don’t all have the same capacity for production.  They understood that the increased costs required to make these acres yield higher would not give them a positive return on investment.  

Being both a good partner and a good steward of the land is rewarding in many ways.  The wildlife benefits of adopting these precision conservation practices were showcased this fall when our Pheasants Forever staffer was invited to join the landowner in a bird hunt on some of these new plantings.  The landowner was thrilled to see that the pheasants had happily taken residence in the newly established cover.  During the hunt, birds were plentiful, shots found their marks, and bird dogs were happy, which added yet another successful partnership to this story.

For more information on ways you can start to build new partnerships, and strengthen current ones, through Pheasants Forever’s precision ag and conservation work, be sure to check out our precision ag website.