Anderson: An open letter to Dayton for the Governor's Pheasant Opener

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 11, 2013 - 12:33 AM

Hunters want Dayton to know they care about land use and the vanishing ringneck.

Dear Gov. Dayton:

Minnesota pheasant hunters and other conservationists appreciate that you’ll preside over the Governor’s Pheasant Opener this weekend in Madelia, in Watonwan County, not too far from the Iowa border.

You’ll undoubtedly note while in Madelia that its slogan is “Pheasant Capital of Minnesota.” Being in politics yourself, you’ll forgive the boosterish hyperbole here, because the description is a stretch.

This is not to diminish the good people of Madelia and the grand party they are throwing. But consider these numbers:

A half-century ago, not far from Madelia, state game managers in their annual August roadside surveys counted as many as 800 pheasants per 100 miles driven.

That’s a lot of birds!

Especially when you consider that in 2011, the number of pheasants counted in the region per 100 miles driven was … wait for it … 11!

The state’s ringneck hunters, some 100,000 of them, believe this is an important fact for a governor to know, because such a spectacular falloff signals that very dramatic land-use changes have occurred in recent decades, and not just in Watonwan County, but across the state’s pheasant range.

Many of these changes would have happened in any event, and they have the important benefit of producing a lot of food relatively cheaply for a lot of people. That said, if an experiment were designed to eliminate pheasants, it could not have been more effectively constructed than the one that has played itself out in southern Minnesota.

Some history:

Pheasants were first successfully introduced in Minnesota in 1916, and the following year the Legislature appropriated $17,000 for their propagation at the state game farm on Big Island, in Lake Minnetonka.

In the next two years, the state released some 4,000 pheasants and provided 6,000 pheasant eggs to sportsmen’s clubs. In 1924, the first pheasant hunt followed, as ringnecks found Minnesota to their liking — so much so that in 1941, hunters killed an incredible 1.8 million birds.

During that period, state game managers either believed that continuing to raise and release pheasants was boosting the population or — more likely — the politics of the day required them to remain in the business to satisfy sportsmen’s clubs and others who had been accustomed to receiving the birds.

But changes in game management theory were afoot, largely in the writings of Aldo Leopold, who promoted a holistic view of wildlife propagation. He argued (correctly) that optimum game and nongame numbers are achieved not by releasing domesticated stock, but by managing habitat.

Yet Minnesota was slow to catch on, and 160 acres were purchased near Madelia by the state in 1929 to raise and release pheasants — a practice that continued until 1955.

Meanwhile, another DNR bird-rearing operation at Carlos Avery just north of the Twin Cities remained in the same futile business until the early 1970s, with politics again accounting for the late closure.

Headquartered today at the old Madelia bird farm is the DNR’s Farmland Wildlife Populations and Research Group, whose biologists are highly educated and equally highly motivated.

But they aren’t magicians. They can’t change the fact that the six-year rotations among hay, corn, oats and similar crops that once dominated regional farmlands today are rotated mostly between corn and beans, if they’re rotated at all.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland 86 FINAL
Indiana 93
Washington 81 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Golden State 113 FINAL
Toronto 89
New York 121 FINAL
Detroit 115
Orlando 88 FINAL
Atlanta 95
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Boston 106
LA Clippers 97 FINAL
Memphis 79
Brooklyn 98 FINAL
Houston 102
Miami 102 FINAL
New Orleans 104
Minnesota 89 FINAL
Chicago 96
Utah 104 FINAL
Denver 82
San Antonio 107 FINAL
Sacramento 96
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
LA Lakers 101
Oklahoma City 112 FINAL
Portland 115
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 2
Calgary 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Washington 0 FINAL
Carolina 3
Chicago 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Colorado 5 FINAL(SO)
Dallas 4
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Siena 63 FINAL
Quinnipiac 73
Harvard 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Penn 69 FINAL
Brown 75
Fairfield 65 FINAL
Canisius 72
Manhattan 75 FINAL
Iona 79
Saint Peters 67 FINAL
Marist 69
Princeton 60 FINAL
Yale 81
Ohio 58 FINAL
Akron 70
Dartmouth 84 FINAL
Columbia 71
Valparaiso 56 FINAL
Cleveland State 53
Louisiana Tech 75 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 88
Seton Hall 77 FINAL
Xavier 60
Cornell 54 FINAL
Harvard 60
Yale 49 FINAL
(14) Princeton 67
Elon 51 FINAL
Drexel 54
Northeastern 47 FINAL
James Madison 82
St Johns 60 FINAL
Butler 49
Creighton 71 FINAL
Georgetown 62
Brown 58 FINAL
Penn 75
Columbia 50 FINAL
Dartmouth 60
Canisius 54 FINAL
Siena 58
St Josephs Brooklyn 35 FINAL
NJIT 78
Western Carolina 86 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 80
Colorado 66 FINAL
Arizona 51
Southern Ill 72 FINAL
Bradley 66
Drake 59 FINAL
Wichita State 80
Indiana State 71 FINAL
Evansville 53
Illinois State 53 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 67
Northern Iowa 70 FINAL
Missouri State 72
Utah 42 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 46
Providence 62 FINAL
Villanova 71
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close