Scott Rall: Never a dull moment in habitat management
The saying “tis the season” is quickly coming to an end.
The archery season for deer ends on Dec. 31 and the pheasant season ends Jan. 1. For the benefit of continuity they should make those both of those seasons end on the first. I went to the calendar on the DNR website and found that there is still lots of hunting opportunity if you don’t mind snow, but high and wind chills well below zero.
You can hunt rabbits and squirrels till March 15. Raccoon are on the lists as well. I don’t chase these quarries but others do. It takes all kinds to make the world go around. I did go for a wildlife ride Christmas day looking for deer and pheasants and other wildlife, and all we saw was one pheasant hen.This is not all bad. When you see wildlife like pheasants out in the middle of the day it often means they are having a hard time finding food. A pheasant will normally fly out of cover and feed in early morning and again toward sunset. If they can find food quickly, this effort takes only a few minutes and the birds will return to the cover that provides thermal cover to help them keep warm. It also provides protection from the other birds and animals that would like to make a meal of them.If a bird is out in the wide open during the middle of the day, this an indication that they are having to work harder and longer to get a meal. So if your trip results in seeing nothing, that can be good or bad depending on the timing of your ride.A ride at 8 a.m. or 4 p.m. will get you the best chance to see wildlife. If you don’t see wildlife in the middle of that day, that is actually a good sign but makes for a boring wildlife ride.So what is an outdoorsman to do in the months of January and February? For me it is time to clean and oil the shotgun and store it properly, and then start planning for the many wildlife meetings and conventions that take place in the winter.The first of those is the state meeting for Pheasants Forever, which is being held in Granite Falls Jan. 17-18. This meeting is a state level review of the past year and the time when new conservaton iniatitives are announced. A few awards for different catagories are also part of the weekend. There are not a lot of work sessions and most of the time is spent updating policies and catching up with folks that share a common interest. You don’t need to be currently involved to attend and any interested party is welcome to join in this educational effort. Contact me for information if you are interested.This is followed up by the National Pheasant Fest convention that will take place in Milwaukee, Wis., on the weekend of my birthday on Feb. 13-15. This is a long drive, but I have never missed one since they started about 10 years ago and I am not about to start now.You have heard of people who have gone to the Super Bowl for decades and have never missed one. I am that person for Pheasant Fest. The big difference between them and me is the ticket to get into my event is only about 30 bucks and not thousands. My seat is better too. Ticket information is availble on the national webiste under Pheasant Fest. This is for all practical purposes a “Valley Fair for Hunters.”The date of the local Pheasants Forever banquet has been scheduled and you need to mark your calender for Friday, April 4 at 5:30 at the Long Branch Saloon. They will again be sharing all of the habitat accomplishments of the prior year, and this has been another great year. Last year was the 30th annual and the chapter had completed 30 land acquisitions in that time — all open to public hunitng and other outdoor recreational pastimes. Another habitat acquisition is possibly on the horizon.Then you can plan for the sports shows in Sioux Falls. There is one on the 17th of January and another on February 27. Add in a few trips to places like Cabelas, Scheels, Gander Mountain or Joe’s Sporting Goods and Runnings locally and you can fill up a few weekend days working your way to warmer temperatures. Don’t forget to check out Runnings as I have heard that they are expanding their sporting goods sections across all of their stores. It is nice to have greater selections close to home.There was a time that I could not pass one of theses stores without a stop and a purchase of some sort. After 35 years in the field and on the water my needs are mostly satisfied. I still try to make sure the three musketeers have new Pheasants Forever collars every year. I no longer need six of every new lure in every color available, and this leaves more money to actually spend more time outdoors.After the season of your choice closes and the winter weekend schedule is all arranged, make sure to take some time to plan what you are going to do for wildlife and wildlife habitat in 2014. Habitat does not just happen. It takes planning, organization and partnerships to get the joob done. I am already lining up the help needed for my spring nativee grass habitat burns that will take place in early May. The burn breaks for those burns were mowed and prepped back in October. Habit work is kind of like being in the purchasing department in the world of fashion. Winter fashions are photgraphed and prepped nine months in advance. You are always working months ahead to be ready when you need to be.Make a new Years’ resolution to to something, anything habitat related in the year of 2014. If everyone can do one little thing and lots of people participate, together we can and will make a big difference.I, along with many others are also working deligently in preparation for the 2014 Governors’ Hunt in Nobles County the second week in October 2014. If you have property that has habitat on it and are willing to allow the Governors’ party to hunt on it for a few hours on opening day only, please call me at (507) 360-6027. This is quite an honor and we want to do a really good job. Please consider this request and try to help us out if you can.Like I said, habitat is a year-round effort. Winter is planning time and it looks like we will be having at least three more months of the white stuff. A week with high temperatures around zero will help make ice on the lake and freeze a few water lines as well. There is 14 inches of ice on Upper Red Lake and the bite is really good, so consider that as well.Make 2014 a great year and introduce a youngster to the outdoors. If you don’t do it, who will?