Thanks for all the kind wordsWORTHINGTON — I am lucky enough to have a niece, Katie Rall, who is way more computer savvy than I am. For Christmas two years ago, she went online with the help of the editorial staff at the Daily Globe and hunted down every outdoor article I had ever written. I had kept paper copies, but the file was getting pretty thick. At the end of the day, a CD with all of my writing on it takes up very little room.
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — I am lucky enough to have a niece, Katie Rall, who is way more computer savvy than I am. For Christmas two years ago, she went online with the help of the editorial staff at the Daily Globe and hunted down every outdoor article I had ever written. I had kept paper copies, but the file was getting pretty thick. At the end of the day, a CD with all of my writing on it takes up very little room.
I am still a terrible typist, but then I never claimed to be a good one. I am just an avid outdoorsman that shares some bits and pieces of my outdoor pursuits with you every week. My first column was written on 9-03-03 and I was recently looking over some of my first efforts.
What I found was that after more than 425 columns, there is still much to share in the way of nature’s wonders and the enthusiasm with which I pursue them. I jot down column ideas and tape them to my computer tower for future consideration and readers are always welcome to suggest their own ideas regarding what interests them. What is also the same is just how many of you stop me on the street to tell me to “keep it up.” Hardly a week goes by without a reader calling or stopping me on the street to make a comment on an outdoor issue or story they found interesting.
I wanted to make a special effort to say thank you for your interest and encouragement. My amateur writing career started out as my way of getting some press for stories and issues that often fall through the cracks. It has turned into much more. I still stink at typing and I still don’t write in a manner that fits into the Associated Press bible of writing standards. From your comments, this seems to suit you just fine. Thank you again and feel free to send your story ideas to me at email@example.com.
This date the same time a year ago looked very different from Dec. 2, 2011. My unscientific recollection of one year ago was that we had 34 inches of snow accumulation on the ground. For the past two pheasant hunting seasons the hunting was, for all practical purposes, done by the first of this month. The pheasant season extends to Jan. 1, as it has for the past four years or so, but there was virtually no hunting opportunity in December last year or the year before.
With that much snowfall you just could not get close to pheasant no matter how hard you tried. We even tried hunting in snowshoes, but the only ones that have any luck in those conditions are the foxes, coyotes and birds of prey. This season looks to be different, but that can change overnight with a big weather system.
I have been out and about quite a bit the past few weeks and I am seeing a moderate amount of pheasants. Last night I flushed six hens close and two roosters outsmarted me and busted 100 yards ahead. They both cackled really loud as if to rub it in that they were smarter than me and my dogs. The pheasant population is determined primarily by winter severity and spring moisture. We had a terrible winter last year and the wettest spring in about 20 years.
Bad winters require pheasants spend more time foraging for food, which makes them more vulnerable to predation. If a pheasant can feed and make it back to cover in 15 minutes, it is far better than foraging for half a day to get the same job done. Lengthy days foraging is often required with big snow packs. The other issue with big snow accumulations is that marginal areas of cover become unusable. This concentrates birds in fewer spots and makes the fox’s job all that much easier as they have fewer acres to hunt in order to find a meal.
Wet springs on the other hand spread out the hatch and far more chicks die of exposure than in a normal year. We have had a one-two punch this past year and a bad winter the year before. This has seriously reduced the pheasant population. Hunting, on the other hand, has far less to do with pheasant populations than almost anyone will admit. Even many pheasant hunters don’t completely understand the effect hunting has on their favorite bird.
I am not a pheasant biologist, but I know many smart ones and have spent a lot of time with them learning much along the way. Here are the facts: One rooster pheasant can and does take care of the needs of many hens each spring. There is no evidence that hen pheasants go un-bred in the spring. If rooster populations were too low, this could happen. This is not happening. If every surviving hen is bred in the spring then there are enough roosters on the landscape.
The key to good pheasant populations is enough quality, undisturbed nesting cover and enough hens that are in good physical condition when the nesting season starts. Couple this with suitable weather and a few roosters and pheasant populations thrive. Hunting rooster pheasants in the fall just harvests the excess roosters not needed to ensure every hen gets bred in the spring.
The season was extended by about 10 days a few years back and now runs until Jan. 1. The vast majority of the pheasant harvest takes place in the first few weeks of the season. I visited with an out-of-the-area group earlier this week and the four-member party harvested two roosters in an all-day hunt. These birds are smart and harvest late in the season is almost zero on a comparative basis.
Populations will rise and fall depending on a variety of factors, but hunting the excess roosters will have no measurable effect on the overall long-term population. I often wonder just how many pheasants there would be if it weren’t for pheasant hunters who dedicate their time, effort, energy and money to ensure they have the proper habitat to survive and thrive.
With all of the pressures that exist on the landscape today — super high land prices and record commodity prices — I think the pheasant would be far better off if more people took up the sport and joined the ranks of pheasant hunters. Pheasant habitat has always been under pressure from competing interests and that pressure continues to build.
I am proud to call myself a pheasant hunter, and will continue my volunteer efforts to ensure pheasants have what they need so my grandchildren and yours will be able to continue the hunting traditions that have been around since man started walking upright and carrying a hunting stick.