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Bureaucrat

MN Pheasant Summit?

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candiru

One thing that scares me about the grazing is that after a few years it becomes an entitlement for the farmer and you will never get rid of it.

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PurpleFloyd

I appreciate your optimism that the problems will work themselves out but in my opinion the Ag economy is anything but a fully functioning market. We have upwards of 50-years of bad history indicating that the Big Ag Lobby and their friends in Congress will find a way to over rev the market yet again and get the majority of individual farmers to go all in on production. Conservation programs (and other forms of subsidy) can be a Band-Aid during the crashes but the boom & bust cycles seem to get shorter and shorter and the strong trend is that every time we come out of one there is less diversity, more impacts and more marginal cropland in long-term production.

I see it this way as well. Farm corporations are only going to get bigger and the bigger they get, the more the land just becomes a number and any notion that it will be managed to accommodate anything except maximum return on investment is just fantasy.

What will happen in certain parts where the land is unproductive is that the corporations may build the habitat to facilitate hunting opportunities for those with the wealth to afford to hunt there much like the hunt clubs we already have. But as far as individuals making decisions to make their land more friendly to wildlife, those days are dead and gone.

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carpshooterdeluxe

USFWS does very little management on WPA land for pheasants. Those acres are primarily managed for waterfowl. Hence the name "waterfowl production area." That's why the trees are removed. to discourage avian predators from hunting vulnerable nesting ducks. Grazing is used on WPA's because of the bureaucracy of getting prescribed burns done. I can't speak for the MN DNR's goals when it comes to grazing WMA's, although there are a lot of days I look at WMA's near where I grew up and I'm pretty sure the management plan for the property is something scribbled on a napkin and handed to an intern to carry out.

LandDr is right in his assertion that "winter" cover is needed equally if not more than grassland for encouraging winter survival of the hens. Planting trees and shrubs isn't sexy though in terms of immediate returns. It's a long term investment. We put in a 6 row, 1/2 mile long shelterbelt nearly 15 years ago, and it's just now mature enough to both hold snow back and provide shelter. Maybe with additional watering and less drought summers the maturity could have been sped up, but I doubt the DNR will ever get in the business of watering shelter belts.

There are some promising ag practices that are on the horizon; whether it's better varieties of cereals crops, or cellulose (switchgrass) ethanol. Farmers are in the business of raising crops. Not wildlife. Forcing them to do anything will cause backlash. There are willing land owners out there wishing to participate in current programs, but due to red tape, back log, whatever, they cannot get their acres enrolled in the programs we already have. Streamline the process for existing programs before wasting a bunch of time and resources on new problems.

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BLACKJACK

USFWS does very little management on WPA land for pheasants. Those acres are primarily managed for waterfowl. Hence the name "waterfowl production area." That's why the trees are removed.

BUT a lot of those WPA's were bought by dollars from a multitude of sportsmens groups, PF, deer hunters, etc. yet all they do is think about prairie and don't throw any of the other groups a bone by developing any habitat for pheasants or deer.

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BLACKJACK

My letter to the governor concerning his pheasant summit would be something like this (I wish I would have thought of it before he went to Worthington for the pheasant opener):

Governor:

As you drive by any of our public hunting lands, ask yourself, Where is the winter cover for pheasants?? Where is the winter food for pheasants?? Ask that question to the local wildlife managers, hold their feet to the fire and get some answers. Ask the top officials from PF why they're not insisting on winter cover and food for pheasants on lands that they've helped purchase. Solve that problem and we could have twice as many pheasants on the landscape, we have tens of thousands of acres of state and federal hunting land in central and southern Minnesota that provide nesting cover but no winter food and cover.

------------

I need to flesh it out but its a crying shame when you drive by all that grassland and see no winter cover or food. I can see cutting down the invasive trees like cedar, ash, and box elder but replace them with a grove of spruces, they don't spread.

I don't know why Pheasants Forever is in bed with the DNR and F&W service, why they don't insist on winter cover and food. My theory is that they think grassland is still better than seeing the land go under the plow.

Another big problem is farmers farming the farm program, taking marginal land out of production, and then getting paid for when they have a crop failure. Thats a travesty.

I'm heading for SoDak on Sat and the place where we go SW of Aberdeen, in 10 years they've went from cattle ranchers to crop farmers, ten years ago you couldn't find a cornfield, now there are sections of it. They're pulling fences and picking rock by the semi-load. Some of it is very marginal land, 6 inch soybeans and 4 foot high corn, but they're not losing money, they have the farm program.

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carpshooterdeluxe

BUT a lot of those WPA's were bought by dollars from a multitude of sportsmens groups, PF, deer hunters, etc. yet all they do is think about prairie and don't throw any of the other groups a bone by developing any habitat for pheasants or deer.

Wrong; most USFWS waterfowl production areas were/are purchased with Federal duct stamp revenues.

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LandDr

Blackjack...exactly.

You might want to add the fact that we don't shoot hens...so why are there not hens flying EVERYWHERE! Ask the Gov if he shoots hens...answer is "no"...so where are they all since no one shoots hens? Where are they...DEAD! DOA! GONE! Didn't survive the winter! Won't be writing the relatives back home! Won't be making the family reunion! And definitely won't be making the spring nesting season! PLM's saying "DEAD HENS DON'T LAY EGGS!"

The fact that there are very few hens is proof that their management doesn't work and proof that they have the wrong agenda.

What's the fastest way to get your message across on what YOU want? Stop supporting them. Chapters ban together and say enough is enough. Don't go to the banquets, etc. DEMAND that winter cover and food sources be designed into management plans at a rate of 20-30% woody cover protecting 20% food sources per every 40 acres of land plus or minus (PLM'd Management by Thirds" concept). Implement that and I assure you that our kids will have lots and lots of pheasants.

Land Dr

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LandDr

Most WPAs of yesteryear were purchased with federal duck stamp money...but many today are purchased with various wildlife dollars including legacy money. We may not have a say on the old WPAs, but we certainly can have a say on the new ones.

Recent example...a property was just purchased near Starbuck MN and put into a WPA from what I heard. There was a 10 or 20 acre crop field in the middle of it...guess what they did with the crop field? Yep...you got it...planted to high diversity prairie...for the buffalo, prairie chickens, bob-o-links and butterflies. What was a fridge full of food is now an empty fridge of prairie grass. Good luck to the pheasants out there. And the unit was dedicated in the name of the founder of PF.

When is enough enough?

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BLACKJACK

The buzz word nowadays is 'pollinators'. Land is getting bought and turned over to the F&WS, and they're reworking them, and planting 'pollinator' mixes. Thats fine, those old brome fields don't provide much cover, but if they have 200-600 acre patch, couldn't 20 acres of it be winter cover and food for pheasants? And don't give me that carp about 'it provides habitat for predators'. Goto one of these areas, goto the top of a big hill at night and start counting houses and farmsteds, if you count less than 10 I'll eat my shorts, one more conifer planting won't increase the predator population but it WILL provide some winter cover for pheasants!!!

Why is it that all the new lands are getting turned over to the F&WS and not the MN DNR??

When I see the F&WS taking over another piece of land I say 'the good news is that it not going under the plow the bad news is that there will be less pheasants'.

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LandDr

I have heard 20+ years of the excuses for not doing this and not doing that. I am so tired of it...but "they" also don't like me shedding the light on this. Believe me, it has not helped my business to go against these groups. LOL...they wouldn't even let me be at PFest...kicked me out. Roll over and play their game of "kill the hen" so it's better for business...or stand up for what is right? I'm not a politician so I am going to carry a big stick and stand up for what is right.

Time to get your big stick out and stop supporting them until you get what you want.

I gotta get out and harvest some seed before the wind blows it all away. smile

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CaptainMusky

Landr will you be invited to the pheasant summit?

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LandDr

I can almost assure you that I will not be invited. I have sent in a request to the Gov's office...but I doubt it.

Unless there was a whole bunch of people that would also write in that recommend me. smile

Some of you may have heard about the annual "stakeholders meeting" that the DNR puts on. A few years ago I asked for an invite to that and what a commotion that made. The top guys in the DNR did not like that, many are not there now, but the one head guy for fisheries really like what I was doing and actually took the time to come out and see what I was doing...fisheries head but loves pheasants and ducks. He pushed hard to get me at this Stakeholder meeting. Really why shouldn't I? We were working with landowners all across the state, planting over 10,000 acre of native grass annually, over 200,000 tree a year, laying enough tree fabric to go from Glenwood to St. Cloud, etc....I would say we were a pretty big stakeholder. I got invited for a couple of years...one private guy amongst all of the govt and non-profits. But...when that fisheries guy retired, that was the end of my invites and I haven't been invited since.

Just like sitting on the DNR Pheasant Oversight committee for two terms...they don't want to hear from you or me. Citizen input meetings? I've seen enough over the past 20 years to know that talk and meetings doesn't do it. You gotta hit them where it hurts...the pocket book. Stop going to the banquets and fundraisers...they will get the message really fast. Start out own "private lands organization" as a non-profit and lets start applying for the money and do it like it should be done. I have a LLC started..."Legacy Land Partners, LLC"...now we just need a board of serious people that want to "leave a legacy for future generations" to assures we will have hunting opportunities...not just grass lands...but lands property designed to assure high carrying capacities of game species. Yes, there will be some pollinator plantings for the bob-o-links, butterflies and bees as well, but it is also going to maxed out for deer, ducks and pheasants, etc.

Good things to think about...but action is louder than words.

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CaptainMusky

I sent an email to the governor's office asking how to get invited to the Pheasant Summit. We will see what they come back with. I would like to attend, but surely you have far more experience in this than I do, but I have hunted pheasants religiously for 30 years and have definitely seen the things that work in various hunting lands I have been to. Big differences in birds in areas that are just a few miles from each other just because of the habitat in each one.

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grousehunter

Blackjack...exactly.

You might want to add the fact that we don't shoot hens...so why are there not hens flying EVERYWHERE! Ask the Gov if he shoots hens...answer is "no"...so where are they all since no one shoots hens? Where are they...DEAD! DOA! GONE! Didn't survive the winter! Won't be writing the relatives back home! Won't be making the family reunion! And definitely won't be making the spring nesting season! PLM's saying "DEAD HENS DON'T LAY EGGS!"

The fact that there are very few hens is proof that their management doesn't work and proof that they have the wrong agenda.

What's the fastest way to get your message across on what YOU want? Stop supporting them. Chapters ban together and say enough is enough. Don't go to the banquets, etc. DEMAND that winter cover and food sources be designed into management plans at a rate of 20-30% woody cover protecting 20% food sources per every 40 acres of land plus or minus (PLM'd Management by Thirds" concept). Implement that and I assure you that our kids will have lots and lots of pheasants.

Land Dr

So you want to have 8-12 acres of winter habitat protecting 8 acres of a food plot per 40 acres of grass on the landscape? 20 acres winter cover/food per 20 acres nesting/brood rearing. That doesn't add up to me... starting with winter cover which a high quality 3 or so acre planting can support hundreds of pheasants with thermal cover...and typically a bushel of corn can easily support a pheasant even on a long harsh winter. On even marginal land in MN I'm sure its easily 150-200 bushels of corn produced per acre...so 150 pheasants an acre...so even a 2 acre plot should support 150-200 pheasants over the winter...so lets say 5 acres of cover/food per 100 pheasants.

Now to nesting and brood rearing cover. typically a hen requires at least 3 acres of personal nesting habitat, which often is not very good habitat for both nesting and brood rearing...but lets pretend nesting and brood rearing is fulfilled on the same acreage. so with the 20 acres per 40 you left for nesting/brood rearing that leaves space for around 7 hens. On average in high quality nesting/brood rearing habitat..on the high side maybe 5 chicks will be raised to adults...so now were at 42 birds raised on the 20 acres..plus lets say 18 roosters were carried over and are using the habitat as well... 60 pheasants...now add in hunting, predation, disease and numerous other causes of mortality over the fall leading into the winter. we are likely down to 40 or so pheasants on the very high side.

Do we really need enough food to support 1500 pheasants per 20 acres of grassland? (maybe 40 carry over bird) or 10 acres of woody cover, when there is likely other switchgrass, milo food plots etc. that will suffice in over half the winters...

Also a lot of that grassland habitat is going to need some kind of disturbance at least every 5 years to be worth anything for pheasant production....so now your taking even more of the limited nesting/brood rearing habitat away. The great thing about pheasants and other upland game birds is that they can quickly repopulate if a harsh winter takes its toll....but woody cover and food plots are not going to help there.

I think WCA's are really important and well placed food plots, but I would say closer to 10% vs. 50% should be dedicated to them.

The hens...well without adequate nesting cover they seek out hay and alfalfa fields..wheat fields etc, and end up being killed by farm machinery. but I will agree that with a good WCA and adjacent food plot a lot more birds would survive the winter vs. being killed by predator in search of food, or the harsh weather, which would equate to higher numbers of birds to nest..but without sufficient nesting habitat they will crowd each other..be a lot more suseptable to predation and likely lay fewer eggs from stress and have less resources to raise their broods.

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PurpleFloyd

So you want to have 8-12 acres of winter habitat protecting 8 acres of a food plot per 40 acres of grass on the landscape? 20 acres winter cover/food per 20 acres nesting/brood rearing. That doesn't add up to me... starting with winter cover which a high quality 3 or so acre planting can support hundreds of pheasants with thermal cover...and typically a bushel of corn can easily support a pheasant even on a long harsh winter. On even marginal land in MN I'm sure its easily 150-200 bushels of corn produced per acre...so 150 pheasants an acre...so even a 2 acre plot should support 150-200 pheasants over the winter...so lets say 5 acres of cover/food per 100 pheasants.

Just curious how you are getting your figures and whether you allow for other species feeding from the same plate so to speak. Meaning Pheasants are not the only thing eating that corn. Deer, Raccoons and other forms of wildlife also eat there so it might take more to keep them fed. Not sure how much and I am not saying you are wrong as you make good points.

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grousehunter

PurpleFloyd - I did not specifically account for other wildlife feeding on the same resources and I don't know as many specifics on deer, raccoons etc. for how much of the resource they typically will consume. Obviously a lot of wildlife will use waste grain as well besides food plots developed for them. I did attempt equate for their use by underestimating typical farm ground bushels/acre in MN and even at 200 bushel/acre at two acres would be 400 bushels...aka 400 pheasants vs. 100 I used in the example...leaving a spare 300 bushels...I also left quite a bit of wiggle room in the bushel/pheasant comparison. I don't have specific links for my figures at this time...just wrote it off the top of my head, but went to school for wildlife and have focused on upland birds...currently working in Nebraska as a wildlife biologist. I'm sure the figures I gave would have quite a large range depending on region, and source.

Also I should add that the food plots do provide great brood rearing habitat if left fallow allowing weeds, foxtail etc. to take over...so a bigger food plot on rotation for harvest/planting/left fallow could be quite beneficial.

Looking at MN harvest corn bushel/acre I realized I overestimated...an average of closer to 150 in the norm in MN.....

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PurpleFloyd - I did not specifically account for other wildlife feeding on the same resources and I don't know as many specifics on deer, raccoons etc. for how much of the resource they typically will consume. Obviously a lot of wildlife will use waste grain as well besides food plots developed for them. I did attempt equate for their use by underestimating typical farm ground bushels/acre in MN and even at 200 bushel/acre at two acres would be 400 bushels...aka 400 pheasants vs. 100 I used in the example...leaving a spare 300 bushels...I also left quite a bit of wiggle room in the bushel/pheasant comparison. I don't have specific links for my figures at this time...just wrote it off the top of my head, but went to school for wildlife and have focused on upland birds...currently working in Nebraska as a wildlife biologist. I'm sure the figures I gave would have quite a large range depending on region, and source.

Also I should add that the food plots do provide great brood rearing habitat if left fallow allowing weeds, foxtail etc. to take over...so a bigger food plot on rotation for harvest/planting/left fallow could be quite beneficial.

Looking at MN harvest corn bushel/acre I realized I overestimated...an average of closer to 150 in the norm in MN.....

Been in similar discussions on here before and ultimately just became a couple of guys trying to shout me down by repeating the dead hens can't produce broods argument.

Biggest issue in MN is the pheasant range has a little less than 6% of the total landscape in undisturbed grassland. About 15% of the landscape in the pheasant range is disturbed grassland (pasture, hay, small grains etc.)but most of that is involved in grazing for Dairy production or alfalfa which contributes very little to successful pheasant brood production.

What information I can gather on the subject is that the carrying capacity of the available winter cover and the available food sources is much higher than the current (or recent) population. Certainly there are isolated or individual situations where this isn't the case but in the macro sense of the whole pheasant range this seems to be true.

As you suggest increasing the % of undisturbed grassland (for agricultural purposes not wildlife management purposes) would be the primary key to a big change in pheasant populations and harvest results. Certainly addressing winter cover & food sources in specific situations would be important but that alone is not going to get an average harvest up over 500,000 roosters annually. To get there I think we are talking undisturbed grass percentages that approach 10% of the landscape.

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creepworm

There are some promising ag practices that are on the horizon; whether it's better varieties of cereals crops, or cellulose (switchgrass) ethanol. Farmers are in the business of raising crops. Not wildlife. Forcing them to do anything will cause backlash. There are willing land owners out there wishing to participate in current programs, but due to red tape, back log, whatever, they cannot get their acres enrolled in the programs we already have. Streamline the process for existing programs before wasting a bunch of time and resources on new problems.

This is a great paragraph. Sums up the situation perfectly.

All the big players in Ag are spending many millions of dollars boosting their research and breeding programs of small grains, specifically, wheat. Wheat makes fantastic nesting habitat for upland nesting birds. According to some studies I have read, Winter Wheat provides for more successful broods than any other kind of cover. Ducks Unlimited has realized this and had research agronomists on staff doing studies trying to increase wheat yields for many years.

I work in the Ag industry and at just about every "training" I go to, they have a talk about wheat. I am convinced that big, big changes are coming as far as that is concerned. In the next 10-15 years, I see wheat being a viable third crop in a rotation, even throughout southern MN.

One of the biggest things people wanting habitat can do is contact legislators to raise funding for conservation programs to the levels they were prior to this new farm bill. People blame farmers for taking ground out of CRP, even though they can not re-enroll their land into CRP. The funding is maxed out, there is not enough money to pay the farmers to keep their land idle. In farm country of southern MN you can not get land enrolled in CRP even if funding is available, unless it is a special circumstance such as highly erodible land or a buffer along a ditch, and even that is iffy. Funding needs to be increased for this program if you want to see more pheasants.

Cue Landdr with the "DEAD HENS DON'T LAY EGGS" and thermal cover talk.

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This is a great paragraph. Sums up the situation perfectly.

All the big players in Ag are spending many millions of dollars boosting their research and breeding programs of small grains, specifically, wheat. Wheat makes fantastic nesting habitat for upland nesting birds. According to some studies I have read, Winter Wheat provides for more successful broods than any other kind of cover. Ducks Unlimited has realized this and had research agronomists on staff doing studies trying to increase wheat yields for many years.

I work in the Ag industry and at just about every "training" I go to, they have a talk about wheat. I am convinced that big, big changes are coming as far as that is concerned. In the next 10-15 years, I see wheat being a viable third crop in a rotation, even throughout southern MN.

One of the biggest things people wanting habitat can do is contact legislators to raise funding for conservation programs to the levels they were prior to this new farm bill. People blame farmers for taking ground out of CRP, even though they can not re-enroll their land into CRP. The funding is maxed out, there is not enough money to pay the farmers to keep their land idle. In farm country of southern MN you can not get land enrolled in CRP even if funding is available, unless it is a special circumstance such as highly erodible land or a buffer along a ditch, and even that is iffy. Funding needs to be increased for this program if you want to see more pheasants.

Cue Landdr with the "DEAD HENS DON'T LAY EGGS" and thermal cover talk.

From what information I can gather winter wheat is second only to diverse CRP type grasslands when it comes to hen usage for nesting and brood rearing cover. General comments indicate perfectly acceptable nest success rates in winter wheat as well but I have not been able to find a definitive nest success % that has been published in any study. Most information suggests pheasants need a 42% nest success rate to maintain stable populations and anything over that will allow for population growth. The only problem with winter wheat is you need early season nesting success and in some years (like this one) when the weather doesn't cooperate the winter wheat won't contribute much towards successful re-nesting efforts.

What is the Ag market situation for wheat? Is there enough stable long-term demand to keep prices at a point where farmers would continue to use it in consistent crop rotation? It would be great if that were the case because I could see winter wheat helping to fill the gap left by all of the large block CRP that is exiting the program.

Agree 100% that as a society we need to fund conservation programs that incent producers to protect sensitive areas and also incent them to set aside a % of the marginally productive areas in the interest of diversity. What could work in my opinion is a combination of long-term programs like CREP, WRP etc. for the sensitive areas and then short-term (5-year?) CRP contracts where the less sensitive but marginally productive areas are rotated in and out of crop production.

To me the big key here is that it needs to be designed as a multi-purpose conservation plan that benefits all wildlife and all conservation needs (clean water, soil conservation etc.) and then sold to the general public as a benefit to all stakeholders. Making an effort like this solely about pheasants, ducks, hunting etc. will just alienate people who don't share those interests but whose tax dollars will be needed to fund the programs.

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LandDr

P.Floyd...correct...PLM's Management by Thirds accommodates many species feeding from the same plate and staying in the same house.

It's a design and concept for maximum carrying capacity for game species, of which nongame species will be present as well.

If you design with 10-15%, you will still see an increase, but not reach maximum carrying capacity. I have had this in test for almost 20 years now and that is just how it works out.

There are also weather factors. Many conservation lands are on very marginal soils, therefore don't expect the high yields in your food sources. There are also smaller yields just because you are typically not putting as much into it as you would production ag. Numbers and expectations have to be adjusted as such. Again, I have tested this for nearly 20 years and that is just how it works out. There is science behind it, but then there is also the actuality of what really happens.

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LandDr

There are areas in ND, SD and MN of vast amounts of undisturbed grassland...and the pheasant numbers are down. Why?

I have extensive winter cover (about 30% of my landscape), extensive food sources (about 25% of my landscape) and the balance in native prairie (not massive acres of undisturbed grassland)...and I have pheasants all over. Why?

Plant all of the grassland you want...hens don't make it through the winter and all it will be is grassland without pheasants. Grassland does not get hens through the winter. Remember...we are in Minnesota.

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brittman

Agree. Edges and a mix of habitat work best. Most ag land is not purchased and developed for wildlife and most regular farmers push the land to bring the best return possible.

That said, CRP does provide extensive nesting cover and offers hens better/safer nesting cover than ditches. Ditches are narrow and linear and predators are often more successful in finding hens (pheasants, huns, ducks).

CRP is better than endless soybean and corn fields. When the grassland is near neighboring winter cover (woody or real large cattail sloughs) there is a multiplier on the impact of the grassland.

The amount of habitat created by CRP (Ag) programs is huge compared to specific Wildlife lands. It creates a lot of habitat without subtracting from other efforts.

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brittman

Pheasants need close access to crop land. Those large expanses of grassland in ND, SD and NW MN is grouse and prairie chicken land. smile

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LandDr

Large acres of grassland are barely better than cropland...just look at the carrying capacity.

People keep mentioning hens nesting in CRP grassland...what hens? Oh...the very few that make it through the winter?

The fact is that properly designed and implemented woody cover protecting properly designed and implemented food sources is REQUIRED in MN for maximum carrying capacity to get hens through the winter. THEN add the nesting cover. Over the past 10 years or so all I see being pushed by the non-profits and govt agencies is grass, grass, grass...and it is not thick cover, rather it is high diversity grasses and flowers that provide thinner cover in the fall and winter.

Hens are prolific nesters...with or without large undisturbed blocks of grass, they will nest. Whether your wife finds a hospital bed or not...she will have the baby. smile Please don't use the argument that hens will then nest in hayfields where their heads will get chopped off...yes, some will, but when you have hundreds of hens making it through the winter versus just a handful, I will tolerate some hen loss in the hayfield for the larger hens reproducing population.

I have said it before and I will say it again...large fields of grasslands have also caused substantially increased winter mortalities. Where birds once could come out of the thickets or cattails to crop food immediately adjacent to the cover, now they have to travel long distances to get to the food. DNR RESEARCH proved the farther a pheasant has to go from cover to food, mortality increases exponentially. This is a FACT and it is DNR RESEARCH...so where along the line did the govt and non-profits decide to ignore that research? Is there an agenda they are hiding? Why are govt and non-profits not planting woody cover and food sources on properties that are supposed to be managed for deer and pheasants...why does it look more like "prairie" management and management for buffalo and prairie chickens?

Time to take the dogs out and harvest lunch for anther wonderful Vikings game. smile

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creepworm

Large acres of grassland are barely better than cropland...just look at the carrying capacity.

This is a joke, right? Why don't we look at carrying capacity. A 40 acre field of plowed crops has a carrying capacity of roughly 0. A 40 acre CRP field has a carrying capacity of considerably more than 0. Sure, the carrying capacity is not as high as well planned wildlife habitat but it is a heck of a lot better than a cropland and the fact that you even hint at questioning that really makes me wonder where you obtained your knowledge of wildlife and habitat from.

I realize you make your living form habitat development and are trying to sell every person here your services, but you need to start looking at things realistically. The vast majority of pheasants are raised on private land, owned by someone that does not manage for wildlife. These people worry about farming the land to make a living, first and foremost. In order to help the environment and provide habitat programs such as CRP are available. No farmer is in right mind will implement a long term 20-30 year habitat plan in place by planting shrubs and trees and other thermal cover, when their land is under contract to be in this program for 10 years. It simply will not happen. Grass is about the only thing that is reasonable for them to plant because it will allow the ground to be farmed again with minimal effort. Unlike woody plants. Therefore, grass is what we will be stuck with for the most part and is the easiest route to considerably higher pheasant populations. And, despite what Landdr says, it is much better than crop land for the pheasants.

Landdr, I realize what you are saying. However, you have to realize that your scheme of habitat creation is unrealistic on a vast majority of the ground in MN. It is a niche. It would work with people that own land specifically for wildlife and possibly with WMA's. However, a large increase in pheasant numbers will only happen on private ground owned by farmers, and they are not going to put the time and risk into long term habitat solutions.

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brittman

LandDr:

Pheasants do not stay in snow filled CRP grass, they relocate to woodlots and larger cattail sloughs.

While a 160 acre wildlife sanctuary maybe ideal for a someone owning land for hunting ... it is not practical.

More likely the habitat corridor will be a few square miles or even a township.

The number of duck and pheasant nests counted in large expanses of grassland can be impressive. Nesting success improves too.

CRP is cost effective because the Ag program is paying for it ... it does not come out of the wildlife management budget.

Flipside ... there are many MN WMAs that are all winter habitat. Assume that they are often tax forfeited land turned over to the DNR. If neighbors have crop and grassland nearby ... a nice combination unfolds.

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LandDr

Go find several 40 acres of cropland areas and walk it to see what you get out for wildlife while the crop is standing.

Go find several 40 acres of high diversity native prairies and walk them to see what you get out of them. (not stands of switch grass as that is not high diversity like they are pushing right now)

My guess is that you will not see much difference when the crop is standing and the high diversity prairie is standing. To be fare, make sure you are not selecting high diversity prairies adjacent to food source just to be fare to not find standing crop next to good winter habitat...if you really want to compare "cropland" to "grassland".

Do the same test in the winter and check both sites...my guess is you won't find much difference again. Per 40 acres, I would guess you would not find more than 5 to 10 birds in either one of them on average.

To compare, find several 40ac properties with 20-30% conifers protecting 20%+- food sources with remaining in grassland...how many birds will you find there in the summer, fall, winter and spring? How many deer, etc.

If you want 5 to 10 pheasants on 40ac of grassland that is subject to Minnesota winters, then be happy with 40ac of grassland. If you want 40 to 50 birds or more per 40ac, then implement PLM's Management by Thirds.

Brittman...

Pheasants "relocate"...why do they need to relocate? Relocation causes higher mortalities and exposure. Why not design the woody cover and food on the same property so they don't have to "relocate"? Why force the mortality issue and increase the chances of mortality?

Why is designing 160ac to PLM's Management by Thirds impractical? I do it all them time working with landowners...it is not impractical at all...actually pretty easy.

Nests in large expanses of grasslands is impressive...unless there are hardly any hens that make it through the winter! We don't shoot hens...so why is SD and MN having pheasant summits? There should be hens all over...but there isn't. I would take more hens with less nesting cover over less hens and more nesting cover. Each hen produces 4 chicks on average that reach the hunting season...on average 50% of them are roosters. My 30 hens on 40ac will produce on average 120 birds to the hunting season of which 60 of them will be roosters. 40ac of solid high diversity prairie will provide maybe 5 hens (maybe more on mild winters) that will produce 20 birds to the nesting season of which 10 will be roosters. If you feel my 30 is too high, reduce it to 20...results in 80 birds of which 40 are roosters. It all has to do with carrying capacity and population dynamics...as well as understanding extremely well the importance of the survival of the hen. I have learned that importance with deer management as well and the results there are also amazing.

Think outside the box

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LandDr

Creepworm...half my customers are farmers. Almost all farm operations have high risk areas on their farming operations somewhere. I'm not going to get into it all, but if farmers can see the value, either financially or that it works with their operation, they will consider it and often do it.

40ac of plowed crop next to winter cover provides a lot of benefit. 40ac of high diversity prairie next to winter cover provides nothing. 40ac of high diversity prairie next to winter cover and next to food sources provides a lot...but now we are describing PLM's Management by Thirds.

Is that what I am trying to do..."sell" everyone on my services? You don't know me very well if that is what you think of me. Please don't judge my values and I won't judge yours. I learned a long time ago that there are several ways to make a difference working with landowners...either stay in my USDA job with all of the politics and red tape working in one county, or, start a non-profit and struggle, or, go private and work with every landowner I can taking the money I earn and putting it right back into doing more. I chose to work with every landowner I can and put everything right back into doing more. I have been at this for 20+ years and I am VERY well aware of the reality of what is going on and where things are going. I am also very good at what I do and I see the opportunity to get it going in the right direction. Keep saying it can't be done and it won't work...but I will keep doing what I am doing for as long as there are landowners to work with.

Farmers and landowners are the key...I have also expressed that over 90% of the wildlife are born and raised on private land. Give me a fund to develop long term habitat and I will show you farmers that are willing to work with it. It is not as hard as you think...but it requires thinking differently.

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creepworm

Creepworm...half my customers are farmers.

The farmers that work with you are the farmers that WANT habitat for animals, that is why they call you. The ones we need in order to see any great increase in pheasant numbers are the ones that are indifferent or would rather farm the ground. Farmers own a vast majority of the land that would be available for habitat projects. The fact that only half of your customers are farmers should SCREAM that PLM's projects are not feasible on a majority of acres.

Also, these government programs are about protecting land and water, not pheasant habitat. Habitat is a side benefit. If these programs switch to making habitat a main concern, support will fall drastically and it will be the beginning of the end of these programs. Sorry, but the vast majority of people don't care if there are more pheasants on the landscape for hunters to shoot. They do care if water is clean and if the land is eroding. So, seeing that PLM's management ideals are expensive, time consuming, and take a lot of resources, while adding relatively low value to the environment (not animal habitat, environment) compared to grassland, PLM's management ideals are not realistic in a vast majority of the real world. It's a niche for people that want habitat for pheasants, that is all it is.

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LandDr

How does 15+ species mixes for programs protect land and water? If the programs are ONLY for protecting land and water (as you say), then why not just plant a solid stand of switch grass or a low diversity native mix at the least?

I disagree with you...programs are designed for wildlife as well...it's just that their design and use of the programs is not benefiting game species as much as it could...in fact, doing more harm than good in many cases.

We can agree to disagree...you keep doing what you are doing and I will keep doing what I am doing.

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