Dick Herfindahl: No quick fix for dwindling pheasant population

Published 12:32 am Saturday, September 9, 2017

Woods & Water by Dick Herfindahl

Minnesota has lost about 686,800 acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres statewide since 2007. This, not the weather, is the main reason why the pheasant numbers in our state are dwindling. I have emphasized in many of my past columns the importance of access to hunting land being made available to the public. With many farmers choosing to opt out of the CRP program in favor of gaining more land for growing crops the future of small game hunting as we once knew it seems uncertain.

We have many farmers in our area who are doing their part to maintain wildlife habitat and to those folks I say thank you. I know that farming is a business that can be fragile when it comes to profit margins. The thing that bothers me is when I am taking a drive in the country and I see open fields as far as the eye can see and I wonder where the fence lines and windrows have gone. Just the loss of that little bit of habitat can have and has had a huge impact on our small game numbers.

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I can remember many times in the past when I would drive down a gravel road and it was common to see a pheasant fly out of the ditch not far ahead of me. This, to me, was a sign that all was well with the environment and that our outdoors heritage was intact. Over the past few years I have noticed that flocks of turkeys have become more abundant not only in our area but also around the state.

I know that change is always going to happen but not all change is good. Just like the Mille Lacs walleye dilemma I see no easy fix for the decline of the pheasant population unless the government makes it economically feasible for farmers to reinvest in habitat. On the other hand, we shouldn’t always have to rely on the government for all things and there are those in government that don’t necessarily see the whole picture. Minnesota has the RIM program which, from what I can decipher, is meant to do something similar to what the CRP program does for creating habitat and public land.

I have definitely been enjoying the cooler weather that we have been experiencing. Warm days and cool nights — what’s not to like! I am getting antsy to be sitting on a lake one early morning casting a top water lure as the sun peeks over the horizon. To me there has always been something magical about being on a lake early enough in the morning to greet the first glimmer of sunlight as it peeks through the trees on the eastern shore. This is what it is all about, savoring the moment and being one with nature.

Last week I ran a picture of my grandson Dylan with a nice, fat, fall northern pike. He was only 15 at the time of the picture and is in college now. On that note, I plan on going to the cabin with Dylan and Brad, his dad, for a few days of fishing and hunting in early October. I often think back to the time of that picture and of the fun time that we had and of the success that we had catching nice pike on that trip.

I don’t believe that there is a better feeling to me than sitting on a lake in early morning and having cast your lure as it breaks the peace of the moment when it plops on the surface spreading ripples over the surface. I can’t envision anything more exhilarating than taking a deep breath of that cool, crisp fall air.

By the time we get to our cabin the colors will have peaked but that doesn’t really matter because fall in October is always special. Hopefully we will have some decent days so that we can enjoy fall fishing at its finest. I am looking forward to enjoying the fire in the woodstove that will heat the cabin to its cozy, comfortable best.

Until next time: enjoy the nice weather that we are experiencing and take a little time to go for a drive in the country or even visit one of the many parks that we have available to us locally. While you are at it, you may want to throw a fishing pole in your vehicle; just in case you get the urge.

Please take some time to honor those that have sacrificed so much for the freedoms that we enjoy today, also take a little extra time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops serving today.