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.

Consequently, insects whose life cycles were interrupted by the broader rotations now must be wiped out by insecticides, which with the herbicides and fertilizer required to grow today’s monolithic crops create quite a toxic soup affecting the state’s waters, while generating a hostile environment for wildlife.

Unfortunately, because there’s big money to be made in Big Ag, policymakers mostly just shrug in response. State laws aren’t even enforced to keep farmers from plowing up public roadsides to plant corn and beans where only grasses are legally allowed.

No big deal, you say?

It is when you remember that 500,000 acres of roadsides exist in the state’s pheasant range, making each acre critical if you’re a bird.

Again, governor, none of this is meant to rain on your parade this weekend. Pheasant hunters and other conservationists really do appreciate that you’ll show up.

And if the good people of Madelia want to call their city the Pheasant Capital, who’s to argue?

The way things are going, someday soon 11 birds counted per 100 miles driven might be enough to regain the title.

 

Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

  • 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 - WP: C. Allen 4 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: G. Holland 3
Baltimore - W. Chen 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - M. Pineda
Kansas City - D. Duffy 6:05 PM
Cleveland - C. Carrasco
Seattle - J. Paxton 6:07 PM
Toronto - J. Happ
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt 6:08 PM
Detroit - K. Lobstein
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Houston - N. Tropeano 7:05 PM
Texas - D. Holland
St. Louis - A. Wainwright 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - T. Wood
Arizona - J. Collmenter 7:10 PM
Minnesota - R. Nolasco
LA Angels - C. Wilson 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
San Francisco - J. Peavy 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - D. Haren
Colorado - T. Matzek 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Ottawa 5:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 0 2nd Prd
NY Rangers 0
Detroit 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Washington 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
St. Louis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Colorado
Colorado 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Arizona
Arizona 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
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