Better AG Practices = More Pheasants and More Profit - Page 2 - The HuntingPA.com Outdoor Community
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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Unread 01-14-2020, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by R. S. B. View Post
Besides the habitat fragmentation in Pennsylvania there are some additional things that factor into the differences in pheasant numbers between Pennsylvania and South Dakota.

One of those factors is that where there are hay fields pheasants prefer them for nesting. In South Dakota there is very little hay mowing and most fields are either planted in crops or reserved for for grazing. In Pennsylvania a high percentage of our agricultural lands experience hay mowing and the mowing is done early in the year with fast moving equipment. Some studies have indicated that as many as 90% of the nesting hens are killed on the nest by early hay mowing. When you kill the nesting hens you are out of the pheasant propagation business.

Another factor that plays into the pheasant numbers for South Dakota hunters verse Pennsylvania hunters comes in the little known fact that South Dakota typically stocks about 500,000 pheasants a year before their hunting season. That is more than twice as many as are stocked in Pennsylvania.

Also in South Dakota only roosters are legal to harvest so they keep a lot more hens each fall to replenish their wild pheasant populations each year. That works there because they aren't chopping the heads off their nesting hens while mowing the hay fields the next spring. Here we might as well allow hunters to harvest the hens in the fall as having scavengers eating them after the hay mower kills them on their nests the next spring.

There are some really big differences between the two states. Those differences make it impossible to say what works there should also work here. There is no question habitat plays a huge rule in each state but there are other factors that have to be weighed in as well.

Dick Bodenhorn

Always funny to talk to the guys that returned from SD telling me they hunted 'wild' pheasants. Then when you ask them about the dog work, turns out they really only saw roosters ("What a great place!" you'll often hear)......in the third week of the season. Hmmm. Then dig a bit farther and see some pictures of the roosters with funny nostrils, big enough to hold blinders.....
But I will disagree a little bit Dick. Pretty sure they stock weekly, not just once
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Unread 01-14-2020, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by cmrosko View Post
Crop management practices and equipment upgrades, changes in pesticide types, changes in government subsidies, all went through significant changes through the 70's and 80's to the detriment of upland wildlife including pheasants. I distinctly remember a farm in the northeast hills portion of Ohio that had good pheasant populations that declined dramatically with changes in farm subsidies and set asides. Almost all of the grassland meadows in that area were turned over to crop production, mostly corn, in the early 70's and the pheasants pretty much all disappeared within 2 years. That area had a native quail population that also disappeared then.

Yep. Add that rapidly expanding suburban development. Here in Dauphin and Cumberland Counties, the days of wild birds was quickly coming to an end by the early 70's, and by the early 80's they were all gone. And that was 40 years ago (man, that makes me feel old).
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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Unread 01-14-2020, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Vonfoust View Post
Always funny to talk to the guys that returned from SD telling me they hunted 'wild' pheasants. Then when you ask them about the dog work, turns out they really only saw roosters ("What a great place!" you'll often hear)......in the third week of the season. Hmmm. Then dig a bit farther and see some pictures of the roosters with funny nostrils, big enough to hold blinders.....
But I will disagree a little bit Dick. Pretty sure they stock weekly, not just once
Have you ever been to South Dakota?
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Unread 01-15-2020, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by One Horn View Post
I find it hard to believe the habitat fragmentation theory. The demise was so sudden it seemed to happen in a few short years. We were wearing them out when I was 12 (1971) and they were gone in 8-9 yrs. The habitat or farming practices did not change at all in that time period.

Your observations mirror mine. Turned 12 in '72. My Dad raised and hunted English setters and our area of Franklin Co. was loaded with wild birds. Their demise was very sudden. Habitat was the same, predators the same....there was one BIG difference (or two)….no-till farming. Instead of corn fields having fox tail grass growing in them and being knocked over by the picker about knee high then plowed under in the spring, they were now sprayed with round-up, seed drilled and when harvested, the whole stalk was taken leaving only stubble and no cover. Also, that was the time (as RSB pointed out) that they started cutting hay very early in the spring.


In my mind, those two farming practice changes were what caused the complete demise of our wild pheasants.
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Unread 01-15-2020, 09:38 AM
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Have you ever been to South Dakota?

Yes. Not knocking it at all. It's the guys that look down their nose at PA pheasants while telling me they just returned from SD hunting 'wild' pheasants.

“Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Fourteen percent of all people know that.”

“Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.”

Last edited by Vonfoust; 01-15-2020 at 09:43 AM.
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post #16 of 17 (permalink) Unread 01-15-2020, 07:12 PM
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Originally Posted by fall gobbler View Post
Your observations mirror mine. Turned 12 in '72. My Dad raised and hunted English setters and our area of Franklin Co. was loaded with wild birds. Their demise was very sudden. Habitat was the same, predators the same....there was one BIG difference (or two)….no-till farming. Instead of corn fields having fox tail grass growing in them and being knocked over by the picker about knee high then plowed under in the spring, they were now sprayed with round-up, seed drilled and when harvested, the whole stalk was taken leaving only stubble and no cover. Also, that was the time (as RSB pointed out) that they started cutting hay very early in the spring.

In my mind, those two farming practice changes were what caused the complete demise of our wild pheasants.
I grew up on a farm in SE PA and we had loads of wild pheasants, and so did many farms in our area.

I agree with most of your points. The downfall was very sudden. It was a CRASH. The numbers went from loads of pheasants to very few to none in a short while.

The landscape was changing, but it did not change that fast.

What you described about the corn is correct.

IMHO, the pheasants' main habitat was the corn fields. There were weeds between the corn which provided seeds to eat, and the bugs that lived on those weeds.

And even after the corn was picked there was enough stubble and corn stalks left to provide cover.

We did not use Roundup. We cultivated for weeds when the corn was still small. But that still left plenty of weeds in between the corn plants.

By summer time the corn got too tall to cultivate, so the weeds carpeted the ground under the corn. It was good habitat for pheasants.

The Roundup killing all the weeds under the corn is the main cause of the pheasants demise, IMHO.

Regarding early hay cutting. We were lucky to have a mild climate and well drained soil so we did 4 cuttings of hay most years, and one year we did 5. (In most of PA, 3 cuttings is typical.)

So we cut hay early and often. And yet we had pheasants galore. And also lots of rabbits.

We used a sickle bar mower on an old, small, SLOW Ford tractor, so that probably allowed many pheasants and rabbits to escape, that would not escape the haying machinery of today, which runs much faster.
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post #17 of 17 (permalink) Unread 02-10-2020, 01:28 PM
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In the mid-70/s , Sec of Ag Earl Butz declared that we should be farming from "road to road".

A gun will get you thru times of no money better than money will get you thru times of no gun.
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