A phone call this morning began with deer and ended with pheasants in south central No Dak in 1983. And it was some good chatter with about as many different way’s to flush it as a cattail slough for pheasants. Just so many different possibilities, but I think you’ll appreciate some perspective. I’ll lead and follow with some thoughts.
Pheasant numbers outside(Cass, Richland, Sargent) of the main historical area(SW corner) are way down–I won’t argue that. But I’ll point out that maybe we got a little spoiled being able to find pheasants “ all over the place” Did we really think shooting a limit of roosters in Cass County was normal? North Dakota is the northern edge of pheasant habitat and north of I94 and east of the Missouri River just really get’s “iffy” in terms of having huntable numbers of pheasants for multiple years and back to back to back…so from the early 2000’s 2009 maybe our “hopes” became a bit to entrenched in a false reality? Taking this a bit further. There’s a generation of hunters who started hunting that had about 10 years of what an old-timer would call GREAT hunting. But this guy thinks it’s always been that way. More on this later.
We’ve lost a pile of CRP and PLOTS–and again I won’t argue the loss of about ½ the CRP we had in the BOOM years of 2006 is -over 3million acres and less than 2million..depending on when and how you cut it, we’ve lost ½ our CRP. But…CRP didn’t hit the ground until around 1985-1986 and it didn’t all go from 0-3million..and it took time to add in and establish. So I’ll also relay what remains..around 1.7million acres. Is still 1.7 million MORE than we had in 1983. Can’t argue that. Can we do better? Sure. Would be like to? you bet.
Our PLOTs acreage has really taken a hit–no arguement here. from over 1.1million acres down to about 750,000. It follows the flow of CRP as well. But take a step back. And do you remember 1996? That was before PLOTS existed. So we’ve got 750,000 more PLOTs acres than we had in 1996 still.
Let me wrap this up with a few more random thoughts. When I grew up in LaMoure back in the 1980s before PLOTS and before CRP I still have a vivid picture of my Dad, his friend Bob and myself with a couple rooster pheasants. Not a limit. Not a 3 man limit taken in 3 hours. But just a couple ragged roosters from the ‘edge’ of pheasant country. And we still went hunting. What’s different now is when I reference how -after around a decade of great pheasant numbers in the edge counties- that people’s view of reality changed. Those numbers were not realistically sustainable. But the numbers don’t lie. It did happen and now I fear some of these hunters might not be as satisfied as we were back in 1983–heading out chasing roosters and being excited for 3 guys’ and 3 birds. time will tell.