Weather and habitat

PeteRevvv

Active member
View attachment 7442

At the end of the Pheasant Brood Survey Report – 2017 on the SDGFP site is the graph above. Overall the acres of hay, small grains and CRP are on a downward line from 13mil to 7mil since 1960 while the pheasant population has varied but in a mostly upward trend since the late 70s. There is no correlation here for the 2002-2008 spike in the amount of habitat.

I've been told that the majority of pheasant hatching and rearing takes place in unmowed ditches and requires rain at the right time. Once those are in place, the rest is secondary.

This graph makes me wonder if habitat for winter cover and year round predator evasion has that big of an overall effect in the bigger picture. Makes me think that weather and predatory management/ditch mowing care could be a bigger deal than they get press for, especially what we are seeing this year with the weather impact.
 

PeteRevvv

Active member
From UofM Extension office publications- MN’s Complete Guide to Pheasant Habitat

BROOD REARING HABITAT
Recent analyses indicate that, in Minnesota,
chick survival is the most sensitive
parameter influencing proportional
pheasant population increases. What this
means is that improving brood habitat can
have a very significant effect on pheasant
populations. Largely to date, brood habitat
has not been addressed specifically, although some diverse nesting
habitats make fair brood habitat.
 

PeteRevvv

Active member
We are hunting focused, so we have a conformation bias towards good hunting habitat like CRP. We show up and find the birds in the grass or crops and assume that's where they are hatched, raised and survive. However tall grass is not nesting cover- broadleaf weeds (produces bugs and overhead cover), moisture (dew drops the first day required for chick survival) and shelter from cool spring winds are the primary habitat. That means ditches in farm country- not tall grass, row crops nor early season small grain fields. They can fly for miles to find CRP, cattails, fence lines and tree windbreaks as mature birds. Therefore I'm questioning conventional wisdom about CRP acreage is directly equivalent to bird numbers.

These are what I have been told by year round locals that have farmed and hunted for generations in SD as top factors for bird numbers-

Weather- mild winter, warm spring, just enough rain early but not too much or hail coming through.
Ditches- not spraying for broad leaf, not mowed until mid-july after hatching and feathered out.
Predators- shoot on site for feral cats, skunks, raccoons and badgers.

You might get short term increase from CRP, feeding programs, pen raised releases but they never last long. These factors above wipe them out. There's not a lot of difference between northern Iowa, and SW Minnesota from a landscape perspective but they do have a different farmer ethic. Outside of SD it tends to be all ditch to ditch farming and/or mow early and often. Systematic elimination of a predator species from an area would invite a game cop crack down and removal of year round hunting seasons in MN or IA if not already taken away like they did for wolves. But you cross the border and all of a sudden the bird numbers start picking up.
 

Chip

Member
In South Dakota the farmer is taxed to the center of the road including the ditch. The ditch seems to be an emotional issue for many landowner. Most believe that is their property and they will do as they please. Some don't like the restrictions place on them by the state and I don't blame them. If i were paying taxes on a piece of land i wouldn't like being told what I should be doing to it. I agree the uncut ditch provides nesting area but don't count on some law heavily regulating it
 

PeteRevvv

Active member
Very unpopular attitude in SD with many farmers to take shortsighted gains and pass up good money for huntable land that if managed right can produce much more than ditch grass bales. Those that don't, hear it from neighbors about it and it means more than you think in those small communities.

But more to my point is that if you want to increase bird numbers on the land you do control, pay more attention to your ditches, fence lines and wetlands. Plant nesting varieties around them and keep long grass down. Be aggressive with predator eradication and make sure your land managers are on board with that. You have a better chance of making it through the bad weather you don't control. After that worry about grassland strips for hunting. No federal program is ever going to focus on increasing bird numbers.
 

haymaker

Well-known member
Very unpopular attitude in SD with many farmers to take shortsighted gains and pass up good money for huntable land that if managed right can produce much more than ditch grass bales. Those that don't, hear it from neighbors about it and it means more than you think in those small communities.

But more to my point is that if you want to increase bird numbers on the land you do control, pay more attention to your ditches, fence lines and wetlands. Plant nesting varieties around them and keep long grass down. Be aggressive with predator eradication and make sure your land managers are on board with that. You have a better chance of making it through the bad weather you don't control. After that worry about grassland strips for hunting. No federal program is ever going to focus on increasing bird numbers.

Very unpopular? I have lived here all my life, never heard a complaint yet. Unpopular with out of state hunters. Amazing how many people that don't live here are sure that the people that do don't know what to do with our ditches that as stated earlier we pay taxes on. State law that they have to be cut before winter.
 

BigRand

Active member
Personally I would like to see them cut as they can make it almost impossible to see a deer in the ditch. My only hope is that it would be cut between August 1st and October 31st.
 

PeteRevvv

Active member
I think we are in agreement that out-state hunters are primarily concerned with lack of hunting locations. So they support programs like CRP and CREP to make more hunting spot available and join PF for often the same reason. But then that leads to the common wisdom floating around that CRP = more bird numbers. I went looking for the data on the SDGFP site and the biologist reports which I posted and they didn't seem to support that.

But back to my point again, if you are managing land for pheasants numbers, focus on breeding habitat and predator control is more important than anything. But it's almost absurd to think there will be a sticky thread on ditch weeds or a conversion from "we are in control of our pheasant destiny with CRP" mindset to just accepting the weather is going to set the number regardless of what we do.
 

haymaker

Well-known member
I think we are in agreement that out-state hunters are primarily concerned with lack of hunting locations. So they support programs like CRP and CREP to make more hunting spot available and join PF for often the same reason. But then that leads to the common wisdom floating around that CRP = more bird numbers. I went looking for the data on the SDGFP site and the biologist reports which I posted and they didn't seem to support that.

But back to my point again, if you are managing land for pheasants numbers, focus on breeding habitat and predator control is more important than anything. But it's almost absurd to think there will be a sticky thread on ditch weeds or a conversion from "we are in control of our pheasant destiny with CRP" mindset to just accepting the weather is going to set the number regardless of what we do.

We do agree that weather is a big factor. Those good years that you talk about were mild winters. Ditches are just as good hunting for predators as two legged hunters. If there isn't anything else they may be productive. Also agree about skunks and raccoons. Raptors can be an issue too.
 
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