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How Much is Upland Hunting Worth to You?

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July 20, 2011

How Much is Upland Hunting Worth to You?

By Chad Love

When I read news stories about the upcoming hunting season, it's no great stretch to make the assumption that one of my dogs is going to be getting a whole lot more mouthfuls of feathers than the other one. Duck populations (depending on species) are at record or near-record highs while many upland bird species continue to slide toward historic lows.

Just in my region, the lesser prairie chicken - once the most populous upland gamebird species on the southern plains, so numerous it was market-hunted by the millions - will most likely be listed under the ESA. Meanwhile, populations of the bobwhite quail, King Bob (in many hunters' minds the very epitome of the upland hunting experience) are at range-wide, all-time, never-seen-before, staring-into-the-abyss lows.

But it wasn't that long ago when duck hunters were the ones asking themselves if this was the beginning of the end. And if it was, they were at least going to go down swinging. So began the federal duck stamp program in 1934. Anyone wishing to hunt waterfowl would be required to buy a federal migratory bird hunting stamp. The result is, of course, our beautiful, priceless, world-famous, uniquely American and completely self-funded national wildlife refuge system. Where would modern American wildfowling be without the myriad benefits of the duck stamp program? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure it'd be nowhere near what it is today.

With that in mind, here's a question: How much is upland hunting worth to you? Can you assign a monetary value to the experience of watching your dogs work a field, or taking your child on their first bird hunt? What's the economic threshold of your commitment? Would, say, an additional fifteen bucks or so be enough to reach the tipping point at which you say screw it and go take up something utterly worthless and banal, like golf?

Last week on the Quail Forever website I asked if it was time for a federal upland bird stamp.

But here’s a question I’ve been kicking around in my head for a while now: would it be possible to emulate the structure and the success of the duck stamp program, but with upland gamebirds as the target species? And if it were possible, would now be the time to do it?

I think the parallels between the basic problems facing ducks at the turn of the century and upland birds now are obvious: precipitous declines in populations brought on by a steep and ever-accelerating loss of habitat. Of course, there are also some fundamental differences, too. Ducks and geese are migratory and therefore require a certain level of federal involvement, whereas most upland species are not. For lack of a better term (and for better or worse) upland birds like quail are “states’ rights” birds.

And to what uses or goals would those funds be applied and allocated? National wildlife refuges focused on upland habitat? Research? Education? And more importantly, what species? Admittedly, there are a host of technical and ecological roadblocks to implementing a federal upland bird recovery program. Daunting, to be sure, but not insurmountable. And with the looming threat of federal involvement in the management of several threatened upland bird species, anyway, perhaps it’s time to look forward by taking a look back into history. What do you think? Would you be in favor of a federal upland bird stamp structured like the duck stamp program? I’d buy a federal quail stamp, how about you?

Comments (27)

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from Greenhead wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I wouldn't mind chipping in a little extra, but I don't know what good giving that money to the feds would do. Since upland birds are non-migratory, we would have to have refuges everywhere. That is a good idea, but is federal involvement necessary? Perhaps have a federal stamp, but give all revenues to the states to use for upland preservation?

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from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Having seen accelerated habitat loss at home in Iowa I would -- and always have been -- be in favor of an upland bird stamp if the proceeds went to acquiring and improving upland habitat, or to fund walk-in programs like the WIHA in Kansas.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bob81 wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I expect that this will quickly turn into a states-rights and small-versus big government argument.

Regardless of whether it is "right" for the Feds to manage this, for me the proof is in the pudding. The states have not done an adequate job in preserving habitat and supporting bird populations. If they had, we would not be having this discussion.

At some point, I think it is necessary to throw out ideaology in favor of what actually works.

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from HuntinAl wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

The easy part is saying that "yes" I'd throw money at the problem. I'd gladly spend more than $15 in all honesty. Compare that to the gas, shells, training for dogs, hotels, and everything else that we all spend on upland hunting. We support all these other entities, but what about throwing money into the pot of the entity that without it none of the others would matter. The difficult part is solving the solution of who and how as already stated.

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from spiaailtli wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

My state already has a upland stamp required for anyone hunting upland birds. They also have a state duck stamp needed along with the federal stamp..

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from JBgrouse23 wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I would be fine with a federal upland stamp. I've been buying a number of licenses I wouldn't normally buy in the last few years. If I get to go great, if not, our state needs the cash anyway. A $15 stamp would be completely reasonable, as would a more expensive stamp. The thing that needs to be watched is where the money goes. It has to be used for conservation efforts especially with the environmental cuts that are inevitably coming.

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from benjaminwc wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Right now I cringe at the thought of the federal government getting more involved in the lives of sportsmen and conservation. I feel that we have become too reliant on “Grandpa Fed” to help us out. I would much rather trust the private sector and grass roots organizations to address and solve these challenges facing sportsmen. And then go to our legislatures and tell them “this is what we want to do.” Having said that I do like the ideas behind the CRP program, along with the BLM, Forest Service and other public lands. Yet there needs to be more management flexibility, with a holistic management focus, towards habitat, game, and resource management. Here in Idaho a large piece of land was recently acquired by Pheasants Forever that bridged a corridor between two already stellar pieces of conservation land. The idea behind that needs to be fostered and built upon from the grassroots level. Conservation only really succeeds from the grassroots level. When it comes to wildlife habitat conservation a quote from Aldo Leopold always begins that the core of my thought process, “Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.” WE need to be working and solving these issues ourselves. Then tell our governments what we want them to do for us.

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from rob wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Two things show the dedication of a waterfowler - Ducks Unlimited and the duck stamp, both state and federal. It's a great idea, but I can tell you the federal idea of a stamp, with feds buying more land, is going to hit a wall in some states from the locals. It's a great state idea, because state managers have proven time and again that they know more about the local environment than the feds. Look at the wolf situation.
Or look at South Dakota, where the farmers have learned the dollar value of a pheasant. Huge money. Quail in the south are losing out to the panache of the turkey and rats with bushy whitetails. Sad to say, but put the economic impact of deer to quail, and the situation would turn overnight.

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from Nathan Ross wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Here in Iowa, farmers have to stopped planting fence line to fence line, planting waterways. I'm lucky to have family that keeps a large amount of crop ground in the CRP program they've always had pheasants and this year is looking to be a good one. The again they have over a dozen ponds and wetlands on their property for years and still don't get too many ducks. You can build the habitat but you need wild animals to fill it.

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from Serious Birdman wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

GREAT column Chad! We'll give our 2 cents at SeriousBirdHunting.com

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from Bushwackers wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I would have no problem spending $15 for a stamp, even though here in western Iowa i havent seen a Phesant or Quail for years,we already have to buy a "habitat" stamp to hunt anything. Funny thing is our upland habitat is almost nonexistant. Pheasant season used to be a big deal around here, now you dont even HEAR of anybody even mention pheasant hunting anymore.

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from johntalbott wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I am def a "small gvt" guy. But I would GLADLY pay to help quail recover here in the South. I know a LOT of people who love to quail hunt, but rarely do it or don't hunt them at all because of poor bird numbers. Upland hunting with all the time and money invested in dogs in impractical in many places simply because the rewards of seeing enough coveys or flushes are too low.

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from 8Crow wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Great question, Chad! Several thoughts on this topic...

I'm not a regular upland hunter--I go occasionally when I can find someone with a dog. But I do see this decline as a real problem that all outdoorsmen should be concerned about and I would gladly give $15 or more to help fix it. Like others, though, I don't know what role the federal government should play.

The problem in my neck of the woods, as I see it, is partly farmer mentality. I grew up on a farm and knew all the surrounding farmers well, and I still make it home regularly. So I know firsthand that most farmers around here like fescue and they like a field edge that looks clean. Just about every square inch of fallow ground you'll find around here is in fescue and by this time of year it's mowed down to the point it looks like my front yard. Upland game just isn't going to thrive in that environment. CRP helps, but it could be better. Most of our farm was in CRP 20 years ago but it was mostly fescue. Yes, we had more quail, but how much more would we have had if warm season grasses were used instead? Bottom line, farmers just don't see the need to use warm season grasses, and they generally can't stand to let their field edges grow up.

The other thing I've noticed is an explosion in the raccoon, bobcat, and coyote populations. I've read that raccoons take a pretty good toll on any sort of egg...quail, turkey, etc... Nobody really hunts or traps these critters anymore.

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from GregMc wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Absolutely I'd pay for it.
For those who say they don't the feds involved, I say look at how poorly the states are doing.
We need to do something different because our current system isn't working. If I can pay $20 for a Federal upland stamp and USFWS can do something that would help my kids and grandkids have a chance to hunt, I'd do it in a second.

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from nesland wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I like the idea. By all means I would buy an Upland Bird Stamp.

The States could run the programs even if there is a limited Federal level input to help coordinate the various State efforts.

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from Trapper Vic wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

A lot of great comments. the truth is as the world keeps getting smaller so will wild life habitat. Do not let the government budget or control funds for habitat. They can't control what they have now. Why would we expect them to be able to control habitat money. They would use it up appointing people to run it. If you truly want to see Quail again join a quail forever or Pheasants forever chapter. All money is used locally to plant, and conserve habitat by volunteers who really care about wildlife. It is a tough business to produce habitat with volunteers. Unlike any other nonprofit it is the degree of effort that produces the degree of sucess.I am a life member of PF and volunteer as often as possible but owning my business and running a farm with 50 acres of habitat is a full time job. When I retire hopefully PF will be my full time job. There are hundreds of retirees out there all you usually have to do is ask.

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from quailguy wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I appreciate Chad's article and his out-of-box thinking. The dire status of bobwhites and other gamebird populations demands major change from traditional approaches. However, compared with ducks, the federal/state situation and the land management challenges are very different for upland game birds. Wetlands comprise about 5% of the landscape, into which ducks can be concentrated in high numbers, creating good opportunities for land acquisition. Upland gamebird habitats--or former habitats--comprise most of the rest of the landscape, and these birds do not migrate; thus, by sheer volume, acquisition of refuges is not a practical solution at range-wide scales.

Modest changes in how humans use land are the long-term solution. The good news for bobwhites is that quail managers have the technical know-how to manage working lands in ways compatible with habitat, huntable populations and economic benefits for landowners. What we haven't fully figured out is how to change deeply ingrained human cultures and policies that are detrimental to upland game birds.

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (www.bringbackbobwhites.org) is the unified strategy to restore wild quail. The 25-state NBCI lays out a national, habitat-based recovery plan, identifying the best locations for quail restoration, and the type of land-management changes that need to occur. This strategy forms the framework for coordinated national, state and local conservation initiatives and partnerships that have potential to build the critical mass for change. The NBCI seeks to remove barriers, eliminate harmful policies and create positive opportunities for landscape-scale restoration of grassland bird habitat. Big new ideas like Chad's stamp proposal can add real value in a coordinated game bird restoration movement. This is a huge challenge, but the dedication and passion exhibited in his article and the following comments are the source of hope.

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from shane wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

"The states have not done an adequate job in preserving habitat and supporting bird populations. If they had, we would not be having this discussion.

At some point, I think it is necessary to throw out ideaology in favor of what actually works."

You don't say!

We get it. You don't like the feds. OK fine. Nobody does, but something has to give here. What we've been doing is failing. What we did for ducks and wild lands and conservation early in the last century in the days of Roosevelt and Leopold was unprecedented and wildly successful. There are some that will call what we did then socialist, and maybe they're right, but our lives would be very different without it. There probably wouldn't even be a reason to have this forum now.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Commercializing hunting is certainly not the answer. Oh, it might be if you're a millionaire, but there is no future for hunting or the game animals if it becomes a thing for the rich and famous. I would rather see a trophy fee charged to anyone taking game on land excluded from public hunting and the proceeds used to promote CRP and block management programs like they have in Montana. Also, any farmer who gets paid by the government to leave his land dormant should not be allowed to make money from charging people to hunt the land the taxpayers are subsidizing. That's just plain wrong! The public owns the game animals and I'll be danged if I want my tax dollars used to finance some rancher's private hunting operation expressly to exclude me from freely accessing the animals/birds whose shelter and habitat I am paying for. That garbage has got to stop! Yeah, don't tell me what a wonderful job private enterprise is doing. The goose hunting on the entire Texas panhandle is leased up by private enterprise. The snow goose situation in particular is an environmental disaster as a result. Their nesting grounds are being devastated by the excess population, perhaps forever. Poor land use, particularly development of "scenic" areas (waterways, canyons, etc.) is the greatest threat to fowl hunters of any ilk. The feds can't just take the land and protect it like Teddy Roosevelt did. Therefore, it would seem to me that we must make poor land use bad business. That can be done by readjusting the land taxes or licensing systems. But that would mean locking horns with the real estate agents lobby. I'm betting there's a ton of guys on here making a living that way. Or it would mean locking horns with the ranchers and farmers who have been getting fat off privately exploiting our public resources - the game animals.

A federal upland stamp would never fly because the birds don't fly across state borders. Or at least not to the extent necessary to involve interstate commerce. There is nothing, however, to stop the states from agreeing to give up that states right to the federal government for the good of all. Good luck with that idea though. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the way the feds have assisted the states in the management of waterfowl. I think that in many cases the feds involvement has helped take the pressure from local commercial interests off of state managers. I can tell you I saw a LOT of pressurized state mis-management of big game in Montana when I lived there.

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from bj264 wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I would be willing to buy an upland stamp of some kind. I agree with some of the previous coments about the states. So far the states have dropped the ball when it comes to upland hunting. As far a grass roots organizations like Pheasants Forever, well they are not getting it done. Here in Ohio upland bird hunting is almost none existant.

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from Frank Harris wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I would be willing to purchase an upland stamp. There are several national organizations promoting bob white quail. Quail Forever is one. They have a good system for habitat devlopment, except that they ignore predators.I am a board memeber of a small state wide organization, AQH, that promotes quail habitat.I beleive that sportsman organizations are the key. Being said they, state and national organizations need an umbrella to work under like NBCI.Field trial organizations have a lot of influence,but do little towards habitat.
I have an idea that sportsman organizations could raise cash and it could be put to work through our farm organizations such as USDA Farm Service Agency.This would provide distribution of funds, oversight and technical knowledge where needed. Efforts to improve quail habitat need to be concentrated so that you get the most for your investment.Government funding for reseeding pastures with fescue needs to be prohibited.Same could be said for reseeding mine spoils in fescue and chinese lespedeza which is required by the government. It would be just as easy to demand that use of fescue etc. to reseed spoils be prohibited.
Quail recovery is a complex problem, but it can be accomplished. Habitat is the key,not releasing pen raised birds. Frank H.

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from Steve Clubine wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Of all the comments, Frank comes the closest to getting at the problem. Throughout the historic quail range, we've lost the breadbasket of nesting and brood habitat and have been trying to fix it with programs that don't address the problem. No stamp, state or federal, will help if we don't address the problem. Prior to the 70s, 75% of quail were produced in native or 'unimproved' pastures, none in introduced grass (fescue, bermuda, bahia) pastures, and 25% in cropfield border, idle corners,etc. Pastures today throughout most of the quail range are introduced pastures which still produce no quail and we are trying to fix the problem by planting crop borders, trees, and food plots. The duck progroms didn't work until they matched each acre of water with 2-3 acres of nesting cover. Of course with ducks, shallow water doubles as brood cover and fall shooting areas which we haven't been able do for quail. Idle grass such as the Conservation Reserve Program provides some nesting cover but without growing season disturbance such as moderate grazing, it isn't good for nesting very long and is relatively poor brood cover.
Frank gets at part of the solution, prohibit any federal dollars for planting fescue, bermuda, bahia, etc., but subsidize producers who opt for wildlife friendly choices that provide nesting and brood cover. Unfortunatly, we have few state, federal or university administrators or mangers who know what quail habitat is or how to get and manage it. Most US F & W folks are way overpaid for the little expertise they possess and deer, turkey and waterfowl drive the state agency bus. Private organizations tend to put more dollars into the right habitat but fundraisers take in 3 dollars for every dollar put on habitat. NCBI is finally getting at the problem but there is a long way to go.

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from jamesti wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

i would be for it if it was a state stamp and the money stayed in the state.

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from KASchaible wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I would certainly be in favor of an upland bird stamp program. All types of upland birds would benefit from acquiring more upland habitat, and the improvement of these lands. The unanswerable question would be how this program is managed, who has to power to make decisions, and where does the money go. But, I want to make sure there is land and birds for me and my future kids to hunt.

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from spentcartridge wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

A lot of guys seem to be deterred by the mention of 'Federal' in this proposal. It might raise less ire if we talked about federal funding instead. CRP and CP33 are both proven programs and their funding will likely be cut, possibly substantially, over the next few years. An upland stamp would replace at least some of these funds.

Keep in mind that these funds can (and should) be administered by the states, much as other types of federally collected funds are. I would look to the NBCI for a proposal on how the $$ should be distributed and who at the state and local level would manage distribution.

An upland stamp is a very reasonable and feasible option for raising funds that promote habitat improvement. Without funding, habitat improvement will be spotty at best. No bucks, no bobs.

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from HT Trainer wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Missouri ha a site for making farms and areas more hospitable to quail:
http://mdc.mo.gov/blogs/more-quail.

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from Tom Thoelke wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

I am a bit more skeptical. I have seen no noticeable difference where I live in the Oklahoma panhandle in waterfowl hunting. It is non existent here but quail and pheasant is huge here. I cannot see anything grassroots working in my local area because of the amount of state lease land under private lease control as well as the refusal of local landowners to allow a non profit conservation organization to do anything with their land. I know from experience I started and subsequently attempted to lead a chapter of QU that ultimately failed because of lack of local cooperation with projects. We had a large following and were more than willing to undertake any project we could but we had no takers including the state when we offered to participate in the habitat restoration and improvement of a 20,000 acre parcel of abandoned WMR and NWR in our area. No local farmers, ranchers, landowners or even the state would allow us access to do anything with their land. If the fed proved to me they were willing to coordinate with the state of Oklahoma and purchase land and perform habitat restoration programs along with studies concerning the decline of quail habitat and quail numbers as a whole and could provide proof to me that their research was coming to conclusions the were believable and that there were suggestions being made to remedy the problem then I would be more than willing to pay for an upland stamp. Unti the Fed stops wasting money on fruitless research that is based on assumptions and biases rather than facts and throwing money to the states who in turn allocate it to other purposes I would not be willing to give them a damn dime. Prove to me the money will be used to fix the problem and I would be more than willing to not only buy a stamp but to actively participate in remedying the problem.

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from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Having seen accelerated habitat loss at home in Iowa I would -- and always have been -- be in favor of an upland bird stamp if the proceeds went to acquiring and improving upland habitat, or to fund walk-in programs like the WIHA in Kansas.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from benjaminwc wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Right now I cringe at the thought of the federal government getting more involved in the lives of sportsmen and conservation. I feel that we have become too reliant on “Grandpa Fed” to help us out. I would much rather trust the private sector and grass roots organizations to address and solve these challenges facing sportsmen. And then go to our legislatures and tell them “this is what we want to do.” Having said that I do like the ideas behind the CRP program, along with the BLM, Forest Service and other public lands. Yet there needs to be more management flexibility, with a holistic management focus, towards habitat, game, and resource management. Here in Idaho a large piece of land was recently acquired by Pheasants Forever that bridged a corridor between two already stellar pieces of conservation land. The idea behind that needs to be fostered and built upon from the grassroots level. Conservation only really succeeds from the grassroots level. When it comes to wildlife habitat conservation a quote from Aldo Leopold always begins that the core of my thought process, “Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.” WE need to be working and solving these issues ourselves. Then tell our governments what we want them to do for us.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from rob wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Two things show the dedication of a waterfowler - Ducks Unlimited and the duck stamp, both state and federal. It's a great idea, but I can tell you the federal idea of a stamp, with feds buying more land, is going to hit a wall in some states from the locals. It's a great state idea, because state managers have proven time and again that they know more about the local environment than the feds. Look at the wolf situation.
Or look at South Dakota, where the farmers have learned the dollar value of a pheasant. Huge money. Quail in the south are losing out to the panache of the turkey and rats with bushy whitetails. Sad to say, but put the economic impact of deer to quail, and the situation would turn overnight.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from HuntinAl wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

The easy part is saying that "yes" I'd throw money at the problem. I'd gladly spend more than $15 in all honesty. Compare that to the gas, shells, training for dogs, hotels, and everything else that we all spend on upland hunting. We support all these other entities, but what about throwing money into the pot of the entity that without it none of the others would matter. The difficult part is solving the solution of who and how as already stated.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from johntalbott wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I am def a "small gvt" guy. But I would GLADLY pay to help quail recover here in the South. I know a LOT of people who love to quail hunt, but rarely do it or don't hunt them at all because of poor bird numbers. Upland hunting with all the time and money invested in dogs in impractical in many places simply because the rewards of seeing enough coveys or flushes are too low.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Frank Harris wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I would be willing to purchase an upland stamp. There are several national organizations promoting bob white quail. Quail Forever is one. They have a good system for habitat devlopment, except that they ignore predators.I am a board memeber of a small state wide organization, AQH, that promotes quail habitat.I beleive that sportsman organizations are the key. Being said they, state and national organizations need an umbrella to work under like NBCI.Field trial organizations have a lot of influence,but do little towards habitat.
I have an idea that sportsman organizations could raise cash and it could be put to work through our farm organizations such as USDA Farm Service Agency.This would provide distribution of funds, oversight and technical knowledge where needed. Efforts to improve quail habitat need to be concentrated so that you get the most for your investment.Government funding for reseeding pastures with fescue needs to be prohibited.Same could be said for reseeding mine spoils in fescue and chinese lespedeza which is required by the government. It would be just as easy to demand that use of fescue etc. to reseed spoils be prohibited.
Quail recovery is a complex problem, but it can be accomplished. Habitat is the key,not releasing pen raised birds. Frank H.

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from Bob81 wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I expect that this will quickly turn into a states-rights and small-versus big government argument.

Regardless of whether it is "right" for the Feds to manage this, for me the proof is in the pudding. The states have not done an adequate job in preserving habitat and supporting bird populations. If they had, we would not be having this discussion.

At some point, I think it is necessary to throw out ideaology in favor of what actually works.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JBgrouse23 wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I would be fine with a federal upland stamp. I've been buying a number of licenses I wouldn't normally buy in the last few years. If I get to go great, if not, our state needs the cash anyway. A $15 stamp would be completely reasonable, as would a more expensive stamp. The thing that needs to be watched is where the money goes. It has to be used for conservation efforts especially with the environmental cuts that are inevitably coming.

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from Nathan Ross wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Here in Iowa, farmers have to stopped planting fence line to fence line, planting waterways. I'm lucky to have family that keeps a large amount of crop ground in the CRP program they've always had pheasants and this year is looking to be a good one. The again they have over a dozen ponds and wetlands on their property for years and still don't get too many ducks. You can build the habitat but you need wild animals to fill it.

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from Serious Birdman wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

GREAT column Chad! We'll give our 2 cents at SeriousBirdHunting.com

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from Bushwackers wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I would have no problem spending $15 for a stamp, even though here in western Iowa i havent seen a Phesant or Quail for years,we already have to buy a "habitat" stamp to hunt anything. Funny thing is our upland habitat is almost nonexistant. Pheasant season used to be a big deal around here, now you dont even HEAR of anybody even mention pheasant hunting anymore.

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from 8Crow wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Great question, Chad! Several thoughts on this topic...

I'm not a regular upland hunter--I go occasionally when I can find someone with a dog. But I do see this decline as a real problem that all outdoorsmen should be concerned about and I would gladly give $15 or more to help fix it. Like others, though, I don't know what role the federal government should play.

The problem in my neck of the woods, as I see it, is partly farmer mentality. I grew up on a farm and knew all the surrounding farmers well, and I still make it home regularly. So I know firsthand that most farmers around here like fescue and they like a field edge that looks clean. Just about every square inch of fallow ground you'll find around here is in fescue and by this time of year it's mowed down to the point it looks like my front yard. Upland game just isn't going to thrive in that environment. CRP helps, but it could be better. Most of our farm was in CRP 20 years ago but it was mostly fescue. Yes, we had more quail, but how much more would we have had if warm season grasses were used instead? Bottom line, farmers just don't see the need to use warm season grasses, and they generally can't stand to let their field edges grow up.

The other thing I've noticed is an explosion in the raccoon, bobcat, and coyote populations. I've read that raccoons take a pretty good toll on any sort of egg...quail, turkey, etc... Nobody really hunts or traps these critters anymore.

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from GregMc wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Absolutely I'd pay for it.
For those who say they don't the feds involved, I say look at how poorly the states are doing.
We need to do something different because our current system isn't working. If I can pay $20 for a Federal upland stamp and USFWS can do something that would help my kids and grandkids have a chance to hunt, I'd do it in a second.

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from nesland wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I like the idea. By all means I would buy an Upland Bird Stamp.

The States could run the programs even if there is a limited Federal level input to help coordinate the various State efforts.

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from quailguy wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I appreciate Chad's article and his out-of-box thinking. The dire status of bobwhites and other gamebird populations demands major change from traditional approaches. However, compared with ducks, the federal/state situation and the land management challenges are very different for upland game birds. Wetlands comprise about 5% of the landscape, into which ducks can be concentrated in high numbers, creating good opportunities for land acquisition. Upland gamebird habitats--or former habitats--comprise most of the rest of the landscape, and these birds do not migrate; thus, by sheer volume, acquisition of refuges is not a practical solution at range-wide scales.

Modest changes in how humans use land are the long-term solution. The good news for bobwhites is that quail managers have the technical know-how to manage working lands in ways compatible with habitat, huntable populations and economic benefits for landowners. What we haven't fully figured out is how to change deeply ingrained human cultures and policies that are detrimental to upland game birds.

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (www.bringbackbobwhites.org) is the unified strategy to restore wild quail. The 25-state NBCI lays out a national, habitat-based recovery plan, identifying the best locations for quail restoration, and the type of land-management changes that need to occur. This strategy forms the framework for coordinated national, state and local conservation initiatives and partnerships that have potential to build the critical mass for change. The NBCI seeks to remove barriers, eliminate harmful policies and create positive opportunities for landscape-scale restoration of grassland bird habitat. Big new ideas like Chad's stamp proposal can add real value in a coordinated game bird restoration movement. This is a huge challenge, but the dedication and passion exhibited in his article and the following comments are the source of hope.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Commercializing hunting is certainly not the answer. Oh, it might be if you're a millionaire, but there is no future for hunting or the game animals if it becomes a thing for the rich and famous. I would rather see a trophy fee charged to anyone taking game on land excluded from public hunting and the proceeds used to promote CRP and block management programs like they have in Montana. Also, any farmer who gets paid by the government to leave his land dormant should not be allowed to make money from charging people to hunt the land the taxpayers are subsidizing. That's just plain wrong! The public owns the game animals and I'll be danged if I want my tax dollars used to finance some rancher's private hunting operation expressly to exclude me from freely accessing the animals/birds whose shelter and habitat I am paying for. That garbage has got to stop! Yeah, don't tell me what a wonderful job private enterprise is doing. The goose hunting on the entire Texas panhandle is leased up by private enterprise. The snow goose situation in particular is an environmental disaster as a result. Their nesting grounds are being devastated by the excess population, perhaps forever. Poor land use, particularly development of "scenic" areas (waterways, canyons, etc.) is the greatest threat to fowl hunters of any ilk. The feds can't just take the land and protect it like Teddy Roosevelt did. Therefore, it would seem to me that we must make poor land use bad business. That can be done by readjusting the land taxes or licensing systems. But that would mean locking horns with the real estate agents lobby. I'm betting there's a ton of guys on here making a living that way. Or it would mean locking horns with the ranchers and farmers who have been getting fat off privately exploiting our public resources - the game animals.

A federal upland stamp would never fly because the birds don't fly across state borders. Or at least not to the extent necessary to involve interstate commerce. There is nothing, however, to stop the states from agreeing to give up that states right to the federal government for the good of all. Good luck with that idea though. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the way the feds have assisted the states in the management of waterfowl. I think that in many cases the feds involvement has helped take the pressure from local commercial interests off of state managers. I can tell you I saw a LOT of pressurized state mis-management of big game in Montana when I lived there.

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from bj264 wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I would be willing to buy an upland stamp of some kind. I agree with some of the previous coments about the states. So far the states have dropped the ball when it comes to upland hunting. As far a grass roots organizations like Pheasants Forever, well they are not getting it done. Here in Ohio upland bird hunting is almost none existant.

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from jamesti wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

i would be for it if it was a state stamp and the money stayed in the state.

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from KASchaible wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I would certainly be in favor of an upland bird stamp program. All types of upland birds would benefit from acquiring more upland habitat, and the improvement of these lands. The unanswerable question would be how this program is managed, who has to power to make decisions, and where does the money go. But, I want to make sure there is land and birds for me and my future kids to hunt.

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from Greenhead wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

I wouldn't mind chipping in a little extra, but I don't know what good giving that money to the feds would do. Since upland birds are non-migratory, we would have to have refuges everywhere. That is a good idea, but is federal involvement necessary? Perhaps have a federal stamp, but give all revenues to the states to use for upland preservation?

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from spiaailtli wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

My state already has a upland stamp required for anyone hunting upland birds. They also have a state duck stamp needed along with the federal stamp..

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from Trapper Vic wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

A lot of great comments. the truth is as the world keeps getting smaller so will wild life habitat. Do not let the government budget or control funds for habitat. They can't control what they have now. Why would we expect them to be able to control habitat money. They would use it up appointing people to run it. If you truly want to see Quail again join a quail forever or Pheasants forever chapter. All money is used locally to plant, and conserve habitat by volunteers who really care about wildlife. It is a tough business to produce habitat with volunteers. Unlike any other nonprofit it is the degree of effort that produces the degree of sucess.I am a life member of PF and volunteer as often as possible but owning my business and running a farm with 50 acres of habitat is a full time job. When I retire hopefully PF will be my full time job. There are hundreds of retirees out there all you usually have to do is ask.

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from shane wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

"The states have not done an adequate job in preserving habitat and supporting bird populations. If they had, we would not be having this discussion.

At some point, I think it is necessary to throw out ideaology in favor of what actually works."

You don't say!

We get it. You don't like the feds. OK fine. Nobody does, but something has to give here. What we've been doing is failing. What we did for ducks and wild lands and conservation early in the last century in the days of Roosevelt and Leopold was unprecedented and wildly successful. There are some that will call what we did then socialist, and maybe they're right, but our lives would be very different without it. There probably wouldn't even be a reason to have this forum now.

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from Steve Clubine wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Of all the comments, Frank comes the closest to getting at the problem. Throughout the historic quail range, we've lost the breadbasket of nesting and brood habitat and have been trying to fix it with programs that don't address the problem. No stamp, state or federal, will help if we don't address the problem. Prior to the 70s, 75% of quail were produced in native or 'unimproved' pastures, none in introduced grass (fescue, bermuda, bahia) pastures, and 25% in cropfield border, idle corners,etc. Pastures today throughout most of the quail range are introduced pastures which still produce no quail and we are trying to fix the problem by planting crop borders, trees, and food plots. The duck progroms didn't work until they matched each acre of water with 2-3 acres of nesting cover. Of course with ducks, shallow water doubles as brood cover and fall shooting areas which we haven't been able do for quail. Idle grass such as the Conservation Reserve Program provides some nesting cover but without growing season disturbance such as moderate grazing, it isn't good for nesting very long and is relatively poor brood cover.
Frank gets at part of the solution, prohibit any federal dollars for planting fescue, bermuda, bahia, etc., but subsidize producers who opt for wildlife friendly choices that provide nesting and brood cover. Unfortunatly, we have few state, federal or university administrators or mangers who know what quail habitat is or how to get and manage it. Most US F & W folks are way overpaid for the little expertise they possess and deer, turkey and waterfowl drive the state agency bus. Private organizations tend to put more dollars into the right habitat but fundraisers take in 3 dollars for every dollar put on habitat. NCBI is finally getting at the problem but there is a long way to go.

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from spentcartridge wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

A lot of guys seem to be deterred by the mention of 'Federal' in this proposal. It might raise less ire if we talked about federal funding instead. CRP and CP33 are both proven programs and their funding will likely be cut, possibly substantially, over the next few years. An upland stamp would replace at least some of these funds.

Keep in mind that these funds can (and should) be administered by the states, much as other types of federally collected funds are. I would look to the NBCI for a proposal on how the $$ should be distributed and who at the state and local level would manage distribution.

An upland stamp is a very reasonable and feasible option for raising funds that promote habitat improvement. Without funding, habitat improvement will be spotty at best. No bucks, no bobs.

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from HT Trainer wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Missouri ha a site for making farms and areas more hospitable to quail:
http://mdc.mo.gov/blogs/more-quail.

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from Tom Thoelke wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

I am a bit more skeptical. I have seen no noticeable difference where I live in the Oklahoma panhandle in waterfowl hunting. It is non existent here but quail and pheasant is huge here. I cannot see anything grassroots working in my local area because of the amount of state lease land under private lease control as well as the refusal of local landowners to allow a non profit conservation organization to do anything with their land. I know from experience I started and subsequently attempted to lead a chapter of QU that ultimately failed because of lack of local cooperation with projects. We had a large following and were more than willing to undertake any project we could but we had no takers including the state when we offered to participate in the habitat restoration and improvement of a 20,000 acre parcel of abandoned WMR and NWR in our area. No local farmers, ranchers, landowners or even the state would allow us access to do anything with their land. If the fed proved to me they were willing to coordinate with the state of Oklahoma and purchase land and perform habitat restoration programs along with studies concerning the decline of quail habitat and quail numbers as a whole and could provide proof to me that their research was coming to conclusions the were believable and that there were suggestions being made to remedy the problem then I would be more than willing to pay for an upland stamp. Unti the Fed stops wasting money on fruitless research that is based on assumptions and biases rather than facts and throwing money to the states who in turn allocate it to other purposes I would not be willing to give them a damn dime. Prove to me the money will be used to fix the problem and I would be more than willing to not only buy a stamp but to actively participate in remedying the problem.

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