Bob St. Pierre

Bob St. Pierre is director of marketing and public relations for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. A lifelong bird hunter, he chases upland birds each fall from Michigan to Montana with his German shorthaired pointer. He's often on the FAN Outdoors show, 6 to 8 a.m. Saturdays on 1130 AM.

Posts about Birding

BOOK REVIEW: Hank Shaw’s “Duck, Duck, Goose”

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre Updated: November 1, 2013 - 8:41 AM
The author, Hank Shaw, will also appear at National Pheasant Fest 2014 in Milwaukee
The author, Hank Shaw, will also appear at National Pheasant Fest 2014 in Milwaukee

Over my careers working for Pheasants Forever, in the front office of a minor league baseball team, and co-hosting on KFAN radio, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some relatively famous people.  (WARNING – NAME DROPS COMING)  I’ve had the good fortune to pitch baseballs to the likes of Bill Murray and Andrew Dawson, play catch with Alan Trammell and Rollie Fingers, manage press pools for President George W. Bush, organize meet & greets with Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day and Michael Stipe of R.E.M., and interview four different members of the Swamp People. Out of all those experiences, I’ve come to value a person’s genuine friendliness above all else.

 

While Hank Shaw doesn’t yet have the name recognition of a Grammy winner, he recently added a James Beard award to his resume as the country’s best food blogger. More importantly, Hank is a guy anyone could drink a beer with while talking about the day’s bird hunt and becoming fast friends. Hank has a way of emulating your oldest drinking buddy.

 

Much to Hank’s chagrin, I always attribute his friendliness to the fact he served as a political reporter while Jesse “The Body” Ventura was Governor of Minnesota and then as beat reporter for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger before embracing his culinary career. Anyone having to endure those tenures as a journalist was bound to come out the other end either jaded by the world or able to see the good in humanity under any situation. Thankfully, Hank escaped as the later.

 

Over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten to know Hank through his appearances at National Pheasant Fest where he speaks on the event’s Cooking Stage. During the show when he’s not speaking, Hank hangs out in the Press Room with me and my cohorts. He tells us of his favorite hunts, evening’s dining plans and the scuttlebutt across America’s wild game food scene. More importantly, he jumps in and helps whenever he can. On a moment’s notice, he’s helped me do a live pheasant cooking demonstration for a television station and then the next moment he’s helping haul boxes to a special banquet event upstairs. Want to grab a beer after the day, Hank’s buying.

 

And did I mention, he won the James Beard Award this year as the country’s best food blogger. Basically, he’s the MVP of food writers. And his new book Duck, Duck, Goose lives up to the standard you’d expect coming from the Heisman of honker cooking. Duck, Duck, Goose is filled with exciting recipes featuring wild edibles like morel mushrooms and ramps, as well as fun new approaches like duck sliders and buffalo duck wings.

 

However what I found most interesting was Hank’s review of different species of ducks and geese as table fare. Did you know a specklebelly goose is nicknamed “ribeye in the sky” for its exquisiteness on the plate? I’ve heard the sandhill crane called the ribeye or “flying fillet” before, but never the speck. Hank’s favorite waterfowl for dinner at his own home, the canvasback.

 

Duck, Duck, Goose is a marvelous addition to any bird hunter’s collection. It’s filled with beautiful photography and a good mix of both simple and complex dishes. It’s hard bound and perfectly suited as a gift for the upcoming holiday season. Equally as important, Hank is an independently employed good guy. Your purchase of this book doesn’t furnish a beach house in the Bahamas or a bank account in the Caymans. Your purchase of this book helps a guy like you pay for his hunting license, a box of Prairie Storm and a six pack of suds to wash down a dinner of roast duck.

 

Hank Shaw on a diver duck hunt
Hank Shaw on a diver duck hunt

MARK YOUR CALENDARS

 

Hank is slated to speak on the cooking stage again at National Pheasant Fest 2014 in Milwaukee on February 14, 15 & 16, 2014. His topics include:

  • Happy Hour: Pairing beer & wine with wild game
  • Getting the most from your upland birds
  • Wild game sausage and other curing techniques

 

And lastly, you can listen to Hank with me this Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors. “The Captain” Billy Hildebrand and I will be interviewing Hank about the new book and his fall hunting & book tour across the country. I’ll also do my best to persuade Hank to begin writing an upland-oriented book for his third hardbound endeavor. So far, he’s refuted my advances, but we’ll see if 100,000 watt radio can change his mind. Tune in at 6:30AM this Saturday on FM 100.3 or anywhere in the world at www.KFAN.com.

 

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever's Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

Wild Game, It’s what’s For Dinner

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre Updated: October 18, 2013 - 2:32 PM

Hunt_Meat_Graph1

“Hunters are increasingly motivated by meat,” that’s the headline of a report released on Wednesday by Responsive Management, an international survey research firm. According to their findings, the percentage of hunters identifying “for the meat” as the most important reason for hunting participation rose from 22 percent in 2006 up to 35 percent during this year’s study.

The report attributes the 13 percent climb to three factors; 1) the recession, 2) the locavore movement and 3) the increased participation of females in hunting. Summarizing the findings, Responsive Management concludes our country’s economic downturn has reinvigorated people’s food acquisition through hunting because of its relative affordability (they obviously haven’t accompanied me to Gander Mountain). Their research also indicates women have a slightly greater propensity to choose “for the meat” as a motivation over their male counterparts.

While I agree the economy and gender have played a role in the rise of wild game meat motivation, it’s the “locavore movement” I believe has had the most influence in this quest for game meats. As I look across “pop culture;” from television to magazines to books to restaurants.  I see prime time shows featuring Andrew Zimmern on a squirrel hunt, I see Hank Shaw’s books climbing Amazon’s best sellers list, I read about Lily Raff McCaulou leading Elle magazine on a rabbit hunt and I see restaurant menus featuring quail eggs.  Further, almost every episode of the hugely popular Duck Dynasty series ends with a family dinner around a plate of frog legs or mallard breasts. In fact, I believe this new embrace of wild meats is fostering a greater understanding of hunting across society.

While I’m certain Aldo Leopold never would have imagined Zimmern’s propensity for bug-eating, I do think Zimmern and today’s other locavore leaders can attribute their local food roots direct to Leopold’s 1949 philosophy from A Sand County Almanac:

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm.  One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” – Aldo Leopold

The obvious hope of organizations like Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever is today’s locavore trend will take one additional step toward Leopold’s writings – wildlife habitat conservation. Whether you favor beef or venison, chicken or pheasant, the common connector is our land. It is my belief society’s need for food and water will someday soon change our seemingly insatiable appetite to tile our uplands and drain our wetlands.  Or to put it more plainly, local food will lead to local conservation.

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The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

The Dogless Pheasant Hunter

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre Updated: October 17, 2013 - 3:41 PM
Plain and simple, the dog work of a pheasant hunt provides a very high percent of the enjoyment for me in the field.
It's hard to hunt pheasants without a good bird dog, but not impossible.

A fan of Pheasants Forever on Facebook recently posed the following question:  "Is it hard to hunt pheasants without a dog?"  I believe the answer to this is as easy as adding 2 plus 2.  There is no doubt hunting pheasants without a dog is harder; simply no doubt in my mind.

 

However, there is a question I think provides greater room for debate: "Is it even possible to successfully hunt pheasants without a bird dog?"

 

First of all, I am a dog guy.  Plain and simple, the dog work of a pheasant hunt provides a lot of enjoyment for me in the field.  That being said, I do believe I'm unbiased in saying a dog is more important in pheasant hunting than in any other bird hunt.  Unlike virtually every other gamebird, a pheasants' first survival instinct leads them to run rather than fly from danger.  Consequently, pheasants can run circles around a dogless hunter without providing any indication of its existence.  Pheasants are also tough birds to kill in the air.  Personally, I am an average shot, and I believe my dog saves at least 90 percent of the birds I cripple from going completely unrecovered.

 

So back to the question.  My answer is a qualified "yes."  Here are the four instances I think you can successfully hunt pheasants without a dog:

 

1)      Walking linear cover.  Roadsides, drainage ditches, and fence rows create linear habitat a pheasant hunter can walk without a dog until he/she pushes a bird out the end or squeezes one out the side.

2)      Small Patches.  Same basic principle as walking linear cover.  If you can push a small piece of habitat completely surrounded by plowed fields, then your odds of boosting a bird multiplies.

3)      The Big Group Push.  If you have enough guys to walk close together, it's possible to push a big field and jump the young birds that lack the elusiveness of running around your footsteps.

4)      Game Farms & Preserves.  There is no doubt that pen-reared birds lack the survival instincts of a wild pheasant that has evaded predation its entire existence.

 

I'll add two caveats.  First, in all four of these scenarios, it's possible to flush a rooster without the assistance of a dog; however, finding a winged bird without a dog is another story all together.  Any ethical pheasant hunter entering the field without a bird dog should take great care in making high percentage, quality shots.  Second, I would wager a good bird dog will lead to twice as many birds flushed walking these same scenarios as hunting without one.

 

I'm sure there are dozens of dogless pheasant hunters reading this blog who have harvested wild roosters in vast expanses of cover without the aid of a canine companion . . . Where are the holes in my opinion?

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

Reading your Bird Dog's "Tells"

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre Updated: October 8, 2013 - 8:22 AM
Trammell goes on point with ears at attention
Trammell goes on point with ears at attention

Successful poker players often talk about identifying opposing player's "tells" in route to victory.  Some card players can't look others in the eye when they've got a good hand, or they start tapping their fingers on the table when they're bluffing.  Baseball pitchers are known to have similar "tells."  I can remember one pitcher from high school who would only grunt when delivering a curve ball.  Fastball = no grunt.  Curve = grunt.  I hit pretty well off that guy.

 

I believe a parallel can be drawn between successful hunter and dog teams.  Without the ability to talk, the hunter is left to interpret the pup's body language in the field to determine what that dog's nose is communicating to the rest of its body.  Most of us refer to this interchange of scent to body language as a dog getting "birdy."

 

While there are common traits consistent across bird dogs, I believe each birdy dog's tells are as unique as batting stances in the Hall of Fame.  In my opinion, the basic birdy dog indicators are a pup's tail, ears, eyes and pace.  The key to being a successful hunter over your bird dog is honing in on how your dog's tail, ears, eyes and pace behave when your pup's hot after a bird.

 

My shorthair has a couple of surefire tells.  The biggest indicator for me is the pace at which her tail wags left to right.  The faster it goes, the surer she is to be on a bird's trail.  Contrastingly, as soon as she believes she's located it, her tail and the rest of her body goes "rock solid" into a point and her ears are pricked at attention.  In essence, the more statuesque she is, the more certain she has the bird pinned in the cover somewhere in front of her nose.  As long as I'm not behind her, she'll also make eye contact with me; making sure I see her and know she's got one located.  I absolutely get a rush out of the eye contact.  To me, it galvanizes the passing of the baton from her job to mine as the shooter.

 

While Trammell's tail and eye contact tells aren't unique to her, she does have another tell that I've yet to witness in anyone else's bird dog.  When Tram is hot on the trail of a running rooster, but she simply can't locate it after an extended chase, she'll let out a whine.  When I hear that whine, I pick up the pace as fast as I safely can with shotgun in hand, because based on past experience that whine tells me she's on the scent of a wily old rooster that is going to flush before he ever lets her get close to a point.

 

When it comes to pace as a tell, my buddy Matt Kucharski's Lab, Lucy, provides my best example.  There is no doubt a dog's chasing speed picks up as it zeros in on a rooster.  Matt's Lucy is no exception.  As the scent grows in intensity, so does Lucy's horse power, until Lucy finally zeros in on a rooster pinned under grass.  At that point, Lucy stops, looks up to locate Matt, and then immediately pounces on the clump of grass concealing the bird.

 

What is your dog's surefire "tell" when on a bird?

 

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

To Mom & Dad: Thanks for giving me a life outdoors

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre Updated: September 18, 2013 - 9:07 PM

On December 22, 1982 - my 9th birthday - my parents bucked a trend that would ultimately shape who I'd become as an individual.  The trend they bucked?  My dad gave up his good paying city job outside of Detroit to move our family into the rural woods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  I became a "Yooper."  From that point forward, my life included ruffed grouse, a Brittany named "Tinker," musky fishing, canoeing, and camping.  Growing up in the country was the greatest birthday gift I would ever receive. 

Unfortunately, the opposite decision - to move to the city - is the norm for most families in today's society.  In my opinion, this is the singular catalyst that has set a domino of other trends in motion; all leading to one disturbing truth that's got me and everyone else passionate about hunting and fishing shaking in our Irish Setters - kids today don't spend time in the outdoors like we used to when we were youngsters. 

Now, don't take this as a condemnation of city life.  I fully recognize the cultural, economic, and societal advantages associated with living in an urban area.  However, the city life has made getting outdoors complicated.  My generation's dangerous Red Ryder BB gun is no match for the dangers lurking in America's alley today.  Our children's safety and the fear associated with their protection have made organized, sanctioned activities, team sports, dance lessons, and video games a safe alternative to 24-hour surveillance.  Again, don't take this as a condemnation of baseball, hockey, football, or dance.  I cherish my own Little League memories. 

The point is today's youngsters don't get home from school, grab a fishing pole and head to the river like I did just two decades ago.  "Big deal," you may retort.  You may even point a finger and call me a "latch key kid;" yes that dreaded stereotype from the '80s.  Well, it's those "latch key" trips to the river or through the grouse woods where I learned about nature, the land, myself, and life.  I found snapping turtles laying eggs, uncovered salamanders, caught smallmouth bass on orange jointed Rapalas, and bagged flushing ruffed grouse with my Ithaca Model 37.  It was a utopian environment for any kid to grow up within.  A utopia that's difficult to find out the door of most youngsters' homes today.

I don't have the answer to reversing this trend and I'm not sure that anyone does.  But, I do believe the trend does need to be reversed.  I'll leave you with one final thought - "If those of us who care about our hunting traditions don't take the initiative to pass down our passion for the outdoors, then who will?" 

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

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