Habitat & Conservation  |  04/09/2024

Voices from the Field: Hands-On Habitat Day is Invaluable


Q&A with habitat chairman Todd Sherman

By Casey Sill

As we move closer to Hands-On Habitat month in May, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever want to recognize the outstanding work that’s already been done this year to improve upland habitat throughout the country.

Dedicated members, volunteers, and supporters all over pheasant and quail country have taken to the field this spring to improve existing habitat and implement projects that are valuable to our favorite birds, dogs, and hunters alike. This work leads directly to more roosters in the fall — but more importantly, it creates an environment where wildlife can thrive year around.

One of these recent projects took place at Beaver Wildlife Area in Marion County, Ohio. In February, members of the Hardin County Chapter of Pheasants Forever organized a work day at Beaver Creek focused on removing invasive plant species.

“Woody succession has always been a threat to grassland habitat, and it’s no different at Beaver Wildlife Area,” said Cody Grasser, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Ohio state coordinator. “This and future volunteer events that remove overgrown woody plants will allow a mowing or prescribed fire rotation to effectively maintain these grasslands into the future. Not only did we accomplish good habitat work, but this event brought together familiar and new faces for a shared experience. It was a great example of how powerful volunteer work can be.”

The project was arranged by Todd Sherman, the habitat chair of the Hardin County Chapter, who realized the need for habitat improvements at Beaver Creek during a hunt on the property.

We recently sat down with Sherman to talk about the project and highlight the work that was done.

Let’s start by telling me a little more about yourself including your history with Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, interest in conservation, etc.

I got involved with the Hardin County Pheasants Forever chapter about three years ago. The spark came from my cousin, who sent me a picture of a quail in the wild on his property. I remembered as a kid seeing one in our yard and hearing it call “bob, bob white.” From then I started researching habitat and began to realize Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever were the best way to get involved with habitat conservation in northwest Ohio. Shortly after starting to attend monthly meetings, I was asked if I would be interested in becoming the habitat chairman for the chapter.

Describe Beaver Wildlife Area for me. What it looks like, what the habitat consists of, etc.

Beaver Wildlife Area is a unique property located adjacent to the 5872-acre Big Island Wildlife Area. The property has mix of grassland prairie, wetlands and oak savanna. Within the Beaver Wildlife Area there’s a good variety of habitat, and it offers fields made up of mostly tall native grasses as well as a number of marshes and wetlands with cattails surrounding the low areas.

What work did you and your team complete and why was it necessary?

This work weekend was sparked by a hunting trip I went on the previous fall. While we were working our way across the property we kept discussing the amount of invasive species that were beginning to take over portions of the grasslands. The day of the Hands-On Habitat event, the goal was to remove and eliminate those invasives from one particular field. The main target was celery pear, as well as a couple pockets of bush honeysuckle. Both of these plants produce many viable seeds that are eaten and spread by wildlife and can invade native habitats in a very aggressive manor.

Who else participaed in the event?

There were numerous Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever employees and members from the Hardin County PF chapter #212, as well as members of a local boy scout troop who showed up to volunteer for the event.

Looking forward, what will this habitat work result in long-term?

Every invasive removed is an invasive not reproducing and spreading across our native landscape — and this project is a great start at removing those species from Beaver Wildlife Area. There was also an educational portion of the project that explained the importance of native plants vs. invasives and how aggressive and damaging these species can be.

What still needs to be done?

More work definitely needs to be done, even though our group cleared an entire field on the work day. There are many more fields on the property that have non-native species that’re threatening the grassland prairies and turning them into invasive savannas. The native grassland prairies that we’re working to preserve are what our pheasants need to survive in northwest Ohio.

What does the work mean to you personally?

My wife and I recently purchased some property and are working to remove invasive species from that ground as well. Whether we’re doing this on my own property or on public property, the mindset is the same.

I really look forward to these Hands-On Habitat days. The education aspect of them is invaluable, and I can vouch for that personally. Since becoming involved with PF, my knowledge of invasive removal and native species has grown exponentially. The boots-on-the-ground mentality of this organization is outstanding, and the physical work is the only way to preserve and maintain the habitat we have. It’s a continuous fight — and we need all hands on deck.

Casey Sill is the senior public relations specialist at Pheasants Forever. He can be reached at csill@pheasantsforever.org.