Rooster Road Trip 2016 - Upland Nation, an annual digital showcase of upland hunting on public land habitat & access projects, takes to the field October 24th – 28th and November 14th – 18th. This is the third report from this year’s tour.
“Any thoughts on the changes and decline in habitat in the Aberdeen, Area?” – Tom Sklebar
This question came in via the Pheasants Forever Facebook page
, and is one that’s relevant beyond Aberdeen – changes and decline in habitat are impacting all of Pheasant Country.
But Aberdeen is a good example. Pheasants Forever’s local Farm Bill Biologist, Emmett Lenihan, reports that because of a maxed-out Conservation Reserve Program cap (currently capped at 24 million acres nationwide), landowners wanting to get into the program can’t. He has a backlog of around 120 or so CRP contracts going nowhere because of this cap. This is just in his region of northeast South Dakota. Imagine what all those acres could be doing for wildlife, water quality, soil quality and a farmer’s bottom line. Now, extrapolate this issue across the pheasant range. If you haven’t already, please take a moment and sign your name to the CRPWorks petition
. Partnering with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and others, Pheasants Forever is working in advance of the upcoming federal Farm Bill to raise the issue of increasing this CRP cap. Your signature will help!
The good news is the old adage is true: where there’s habitat, there’re birds.
Rooster Road Trip 2016 carried over in the Aberdeen area because of the prior afternoon rainout, and the prospect of hunting habitat near a freshly harvested cornfield was just too good to pass up. The Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition / site, at just over 70 acres, will be more fruitful when the grassland restoration takes shape in coming years, but our hope was that a few roosters would filter into and hold in the dry slough bottom.
We were right about the roosters. Fifteen or so pheasants lifted off a brushy fence line as we approached the area, and a pair of roosters held and greeted us near the entrance of the bottom draw. With those two quickly added to our game back, we saw two more large groups of pheasants lift off the adjacent field and land toward the back of the property. We were wrong about the slough bottom being dry. We tried to angle back to the corner, but you’ll need hip waders or December ice to get there. Our wet walk did pay off, as one more rooster had held in the flooded grass which made it a three-for-three morning.
In the afternoon, we headed east to hunt a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) Walk-In Hunting Area in Day County. Again, the key ingredients were quality habitat surrounded by harvested fields. Birdy dogs pushed to the far northwest edge of the property where two roosters were finally cornered and added to the day’s tally. These mature, two-year-old roosters put a very colorful bow on this South Dakota pheasant hunt.
Here’s to hoping a bigger Conservation Reserve Program is in our future. While not every acre ends up open to the public, many acres would most certainly be enrolled in walk-in hunting and other public access programs. And right now, we can’t enroll what isn’t there.
-Anthony Hauck, Rooster Road Trip 2016
Up Next: Marshall, Minnesota
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Photo credit: Josh Preissner