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Illinois hunting and fishing

From left to right are Don Welch, Jerry Foley and Doug Oberhelman with five Peoria County quail that survived the recent ice storms.

Upland survivors of the ice

January 01, 2009 at 11:23 PM

This latest ice storm really worried me. Losing power was one concern. But once the lights stayed on, I still fretted.

How could pheasants and quail survive with a thick coating of ice over everything?

If you hunt upland birds, you’ve no doubt heard terrible tales about back-to-back winters in the late 1970s that killed quail and pheasants by the thousands. Some blame those storms for the demise of Illinois bird hunting, though I’d argue a steady decline in habitat is the true culprit.

Whatever the cause, the precarious status of upland critters nowadays leaves little room for killer storms.

So once the ice melted, I headed back to the uplands with trepidation. Slowly but surely, concern is giving way to a celebration of the amazing resilience of wild critters. Somehow they live through conditions that send humans into a panic.

No doubt some critters died during the recent winter storm. The harsh side of Mother Nature was spelled out in a partially eaten rabbit that greeted me during my first hunt this week.

But there were more survivors than carcasses last Sunday when Tim Sefried and I found a covey of quail along a Peoria County fencerow. Over the next few days friends reported numerous pheasant sightings. My buddy The Farmer even called to brag about bagging a plump rooster in Stark County.

Then came more encouragement on Wednesday. During a hunt with Caterpillar Inc. group president Doug Oberhelman on his Peoria County farm, we kicked up two coveys of quail and located the roost location of a third.

Both coveys had more than 12 birds. Both provided fun shooting for our group, which included Don Welch of Peoria and Jerry Foley of Camp Grove and three dogs — Welch’s two German wirehaired pointers and my little Llewellin setter.

Best of all, rambling through a relatively new prairie grass planting produced an unexpected flush of a pheasant.

“Did you see that,” an excited Oberhelman said several times as the hen flew off. “This is the first year we’ve seen pheasants out here.”

Oberhelman has owned the property for 12 years. In the past three he has been busy converting about 250 acres into warm-season grasses and native forbs.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “All we had to do was plant the habitat and they showed up.”

And survived.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Thats right just plant the habitat and they will show up.  Of course the weakest will die during an ice storm but if the proper cover is available they can make it through. 

I remember working over in Ford County in the early 90’s withe the then Soil Conservation Service when USDA had the annual “setaside acres” that paid farmers to idle cropland.  Many planted that to oats and it provided a one year cover for wildlife.  That was when I always recall seeing pheasants every time I went out to the farms to work.  Nowadays we have better programs that provide more long term habitat.  Just last week here in Tazewell County we processed a handful of applications for new habitat.  A couple of CRP SAFE applications that totalled nearly 22 acres of dry irrigation corners. Some CRP filter strip re-enrollments and new CP-33 Field Borders.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/02 at 10:37 AM

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