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Why America’s Hidden Birds Count

Upland Bird Conservation Quail

The release of the latest State of the Birds Report confirms Americans are faced with the loss of some of our most iconic game birds. The report, first produced in 2009, called attention to the dire need for conservation action, but seven years later, the number of resident game birds continues to decline and has been declining for over 50 years. The North American Bird Conservation Initiative findings identify 75% of resident game birds as being of Conservation Concern while at least six species are of high Conservation Concern meaning they have a high vulnerability to extinction. It’s a story hunters passionate about upland game do not often hear. A conservation movement for upland birds is needed more today than it was seven years ago. And, the future of upland game birds depends on collaboration between the sportsman and the scientist, who are uniquely qualified to share a passion for game birds with those in this country who may never see these hidden birds and so do not yet know what’s at stake if we lose them.

When we introduced the idea of a new and dedicated funding source for upland bird conservation in the article It’s Time for a Federal Upland Stamp, the most prevalent discussion by state wildlife agency officials and conservation representatives centered around jurisdiction with the emphasis being that management of resident birds is not with the federal government. We refused to believe that jurisdiction or lack of funding was reason enough to turn our backs on new ideas or opportunities to involve a broader audience in the conservation conversation and followed up with a survey of all state agency resident game bird biologists. Below are the responses from 31 states. These responses provide a nationwide view of state management of resident game birds and offer a clue to the collective efforts needed to restore upland species.

 

State Upland Priority

Most state upland biologists gave small game species a “High priority” rating. To hunters, the value of game birds is not just in their economic value, beauty or the fact that they reflect the health of an ecosystem. As hunters, we spend time in the fields where birds live, not just as wildlife viewers, but as participants in shared environments. There’s an unspoken understanding that birds are the essence of the country they inhabit. Because of their propensity to hide and blend with their environments, resident game birds often remain hidden treasures unknown to most who do not pursue them.

Upland hunters who cherish upland birds and the storied history of their pursuit, are just as invested in their success and sustainability. The troubling state of upland bird populations nationwide warrants a high priority rating as well as the projects and initiatives in response to that rating.  And, it’s a call for all naturalists to communicate and collaborate on effective solutions.

 

State Upland Bird Survey

In order to understand the downward trajectory of upland bird populations, we first wanted to understand how each state was calculating the number of resident game birds. What we found was that the majority of states do not estimate game bird populations but rather collect and rely on “trend data.” What is the difference between a trend and an actual population estimate and why is it important? Most wildlife biologists consider a trend a length of 10 years and, for over five decades, trend data documents an uncontrolled decline.

More accurate population estimates are possible and obtained, as proven by estimates done for the Sage Grouse and Lesser Prairie-chicken after they were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act or in states like South Dakota where high economic value and hunter interest is attributed to estimating pheasant population. This sends the message that when urgent action is necessitated by threat of a Federal listing or a business need, accurate estimates and effective initiatives are formed. When three out of four game bird species are of Conservation Concern, how can any conservation-minded citizen accept a business as usual approach?

If we are engaged, we must recognize that bird hunters are underutilized in our capacity to provide data, raise our voices for conservation, and share our passion, not just purchase a license and pay our taxes. When accurate population estimates are generated and harvest data collected for nearly all big game species as well as waterfowl, why are upland birds of high conservation concern the exception to a widely-accepted management practice?

 

What is the single biggest issue facing upland bird species in your state? And What is the biggest initiative your agency is undertaking to address this in the coming year?

Last year, we interviewed the leading upland bird conservation organizations about their programs, accomplishments, goals and challenges to provide a side by side comparison in the article, Conservations Invisible Birds. Most of the organizations we spoke with stated the biggest issue facing upland species today was loss of habitat, and the states surveyed agreed. Over 90% of responses identified habitat loss as the single biggest issue, however many gave different reasons for the cause of habitat loss, and most considered federally-funded programs administered in coordination with non-profits as their biggest initiative and/or successful upland program.

 

What is the total upland game budget for your state? And Would additional dedicated funding sources for upland species and upland habitat assist your state’s upland programs?

State Upland Budgets

Two-thirds of state upland biologists were unable to provide the total upland game budget because the budgets are not broken down by species, upland game does not have a dedicated budget, budgets vary from year to year, and/or budgets are broken down by region. Yet 87% agree that additional dedicated funding could assist in conservation and management, however many identified limiting factors associated with programs (such as in Pittman-Robertson) which require matching funds.

State Upland Stamps

Only six out of 50 states utilize upland stamps. One of the reasons for this may be the perception by both managers and hunters that upland hunters are financially tapped out. However, the average 2015 resident small game license in the U.S. costs less than a box of premium shotgun shells at $21.40 with a rare requirement toward conservation funding, making upland hunting one of the least expensive entries into the sport. Bird hunters are not financially strapped, but we have witnessed a half-century of documented declines without a clear picture of what’s at stake, what’s being done to reverse the decline, or how we can contribute.

Without higher levels of accountability, trust and progress cannot occur. If additional funds and better information are needed and bird hunters are willing to provide those funds and data, game managers must be held accountable to a higher standard of transparency and communication of results.

 

Are volunteers or private landowners able to get involved in state run habitat and/or upland projects? How does your agency communicate or facilitate public involvement in projects?

All of states responding to the survey involve private landowners in upland projects, however not all states conduct outreach efforts or utilize their agency website, media outlets, or social media. According to the PEW Research Center 85% of Americans now have household internet access and 64% own smartphones with which they access the internet. States which collect harvest data with random surveys still mail them to license holders, and only reach a small segment of hunters.

 

Where game management shows progress hunters are engaged. It wasn’t until duck hunters made restoring wetlands and waterfowl their single mission and became directly involved that the steep decline in waterfowl populations reversed in less than a century of active management. Upland hunters continue to be an underutilized source of information and collaboration when we represent a virtual army of citizen scientists and volunteers. In today’s more daunting conservation environment, we must pursue new possibilities for effective communication and results.

Many hunters share the sentiment of lifelong hunter and outdoorsman Gene Heller, now 76 years of age, who has yet to receive Ohio’s Annual Small Game Survey. “I’ve had an Ohio Hunting license for 60 years, hunted my entire life in this state. Over that time I’ve seen grouse, pheasant and quail virtually disappear. Now, I look back and think how it feels as if we’ve been just a spectator. I don’t blame the State, but it’d be nice to know just how bad it really is, instead of seeing the same seasons year in and year out without justification or change.”

When the history of North American game birds tells a story of more than a half-century decline, it is not an act of treason to ask agencies to do more without insinuating “with less.” There’s no ill-will in advancing ideas that encourage or create greater monitoring of bird populations and distributions or a discussion on how sportsmen and women might help do this as well as carry the cost of national initiatives that benefit the game species we hunt. As hunters, our relationship with wild birds, the country they inhabit, and our passion for the dogs, guns, and skills we use to take game does not come without responsibility. If we monitor our game fields and bird populations every season, we have valuable information we can supply state game managers in the form of data, opinions, and ideas, not just funds.

If we are at a point where more hunters accept defeat rather than the possibility of victory in the game fields as well as in the conservation arena, it will no longer matter who has jurisdiction (the states or the Federal government) or who or what is responsible for the absence of funding. When declining trends turn into empty fields and forests, it will be too late to accept a slogan or platitude as news enough. Better engagement requires real communication, collaboration, and big ideas – we can all contribute something. Exploring ideas that require better accountability and communication, dedicated funding sources, or mandatory harvest reporting challenge the status quo, but now is the time it needs to be challenged.

Join us by signing the petition for a Federal Upland Stamp or share your ideas at ultimateupland.com/conservation/ and be a part of conservation and grassroots history today.

 

2015 Gift Guide for Bird Hunters

‘Tis the giving season once again. It has been another solid year of putting outdoor gear to the test. Contributors Kali Parmley and Britney Starr add their wishes to this year’s list for outfitting the bird hunters in your life.

Ruffwear

 

Having dogs share the load can save a lot of leg on a pack-in to upland camp. Ruffwear builds hard core active-dog gear. The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack ($60) has all the right adjustment points, fits close to the dog’s body and distributes loads evenly. It took a little time for Rio the setter to learn her new dimensions while carrying her food and first aid kit, but soon she was scurrying uphill without losing a step. When the Bivy Bowl ($23) is collapsed flat it takes up almost no space in the backpack yet when expanded it still has the rigid sidewalls to which my dogs are accustomed. This is a perfect holiday combo for your camping bird dog and we even used the Approach with light loads to help build strength and endurance leading up to the hunting season.

Garmin VIRB

To list all the features of this duo in a gift guide is daunting. Garmin used to be known simply for preventing hunters from getting lost.  But it seems they are doubling down on their commitment to outdoorsman offering wearables, cameras and sporting dog gear. They are becoming an outdoor brand.

The Fenix 3 ($400) hasn’t left my wrist for anything but charging since the spring. It’s tracked my preseason workouts, warned of coming storms, pointed me in the right direction, foretold sunrise and sunsets, showed distances I’ve travelled and marked the truck’s location. An amazing piece of wearable tech that I still am not utilizing a fraction of its total potential. And now I can use it to control the VIRB XE ($399) action cameras to take first person video and stills.

Besides the 1080p video, 12MP capabilities and waterproof to 50M without a case, the stand out feature of the VIRB XE is the incorporation of data overlay which can track speed, g-force, position….. attach the VIRB to a bird dog and the possibilities become mind boggling. You’ll be seeing more and more video from Ultimate Upland in the coming months as we continue to explore this Garmin duo in bird hunting applications.

Keens

I’m always in search of the next great boot because footwear design and materials evolve so quickly relative to other outdoor gear. Every season there is something new and every season we’re hiking hundreds of miles in all kinds of conditions making the perfect grinder to test innovation. I’ve owned a few pairs of Keen before this season and noted them as lightweight, solid construction and extremely comfortable. When I learned about the Keen American Built initiative I knew it was time to take the new style Logans ($130-$160) to the field. Right now 25% of Keen’s line are built in its Portland factory, with hopes to one day have 100% made in the US footwear. That’s a tall order for boots with price points below $160. Comfortable straight out of the box, I’ve worn the Logan exclusively this season, Keen Logan in good weather and Keen Logan Mid when conditions turn sour. Single boots weigh right around a pound, less for Women’s Logan. Aggressive soles, waterproof membranes, solid stitching, synthetic miracle materials….. American Built. I’m sold.

Blitz Wipes

Blitz had it’s origins in jewelry cleaning but has expanded their offerings to include hunters’ bling. Besides being non-petroleum based and made in the USA, the Blitz Firearm Wipes ($7) just work really well. I’m not sure what proprietary oil is used, but every bird hunter should have a pack of these in the truck to wipe the stink off guns before returning them to the case.

Dagger

The NEMO Equipment Dagger 2 Person Tent weighed in a full 2 lbs. lighter than my old backpacking tent. That may not sound like much but when you’re talking about hauling a crammed backpack miles up a mountain over 9,000′ above sea level, those couple pounds are fairly pronounced. We’ve become fans of NEMO’s equipment which is well thought out and designed. Easy setup, ample floor space for two bird dogs and one hunter (jump up to the 3P if another hunter is in tow), roomy vestibules for extra gear and extra headroom in this tent created by a single pole system means you never end up leaving poles on the mountain in a rushed pack out.

TRCPlogo

While we’re on the topic of camping and hunting in wild places, these opportunities depend on healthy habitat and good access for sportsmen. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) fights for all these and more in its mission to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish. The TRCP is the only group that seeks to unite all sportsmen around important federal issues that affect fish and wildlife habitat, funding for conservation programs, and sportsmen’s access.

This holiday season become a donor and take part in the Public Lands Challenge: from now through December 31, The Orvis Company will match any NEW donor’s gift to the TRCP or any gift INCREASE from a past donor. All donations will support the TRCP’s efforts to keep public lands public (and there are a number of great thank-you gifts to select in exchange for your donation).

You can help make the voice of sportsmen even stronger by supporting the TRCP today.

Learn more, sign up, and donate at www.TRCP.org.

OrvisUplandShell

Besides doing their part to support public access, Orvis is also making some great improvements to their upland gear. When the leaves have yet to drop and shooting windows are minute, the ruffed grouse leave no time for thinking or for fumbling with the mount of the shotgun. The thing I like most about the Orvis Upland Shell ($198) is it provides warmth and water resistance without bulk. Tough fabric stands up to the briars but still breathes. The adjustable cuffs and addition of a blaze orange options are a big improvement from the previous model which I wore for years. When the weather turns cold this jacket has found permanent residence under my vest.

Nitize Spotlit

That conniving black lab of mine will no longer use cover of night to perform acts of mischief. Now I clip on a Nite Ize Disco SPOTLIT ($6) and he gives me the look of disdain as I send him outside to do his business. No more losing track of the dark dog in the darkness.

Benchmade Steep Country

I’ve lost two knives to briars and saplings snagging the pocket clip. Maddening. I decided this season I would teach the pick pocket coverts a lesson and hunt with a sheathed fix blade. To be honest, I still like the feel of a knife in my pocket, probably because most of my brush pants have a permanent impression from years of carry. But the edge retention, hunter orange santoprene polymer handle, the heft of this Benchmade Steep Country ($98) feels great in the hand. Whether it’s an upland bird or a Ponderosa pine, when I have this knife I feel like I can render it to pieces.

endurance

When I informed the folks at Hawke Optics that I needed a pair of high-power, high-performance, lightweight binoculars for upland hunting I’m pretty certain they thought I’d sprung a leak. Not really the kind of equipment one thinks of for pursuit of traditional upland game. But when I explained we’d be chasing Himalayan Snowcock in Nevada high country where the challenges of spotting birds before they jump from cliffs is real, Hawke recommended their Endurance 10×42 ($240). For the entire month of September the Endurance were our eyes during brutal mountain ascents and backcountry antics as the Snowcock turned us inside out. We never closed the distance on these spooky birds but still managed to fall on these Hawke binocs no less than three times in loose rocky terrain. None the worse for wear, they are great value, really good glass and live up to the name.

UST Wetfire

A human can survive without food for three weeks. Hypothermia and exposure are the real killers in the wild. I’ve added the UST WetFire™ Tinder ($7) to my vest as part of my mobile first aid and survival gear. In the event I can’t make it back to the truck due to weather, injury or poor navigation skills I will now always be able to start a fire and stay warm.

UA Base 4.0

I’m not normally a long john kind of guy because trudging through thick cover tends to produce enough body heat that shedding layers is more likely the norm. But last year hunting late season we got caught in a Midwest blizzard with winds cutting at ridiculous speeds and ambient temps in the teens. That’s when I broke out the Under Armour Base 4.0 and it made me a believer ($80 crew/ $80 legs). I felt like Spiderman when I stretched into this base layer. It hugs the body while still putting a cushion of air next to the skin. With windchills reaching deep negatives and freezing rain coming in sideways the hunt continued…. until I could no longer feel my face. Hoping UA Base 4.0 for the face comes out this year.

RudyProjectMags

Everyone considers eye protection at the range required equipment. But vision is probably more at risk when bird hunters are afield. I’ve grown tired of taking sticks to the eye when busting cover. I didn’t think there were glasses that could perform in all the varying terrains and conditions I choose to hunt especially when those change throughout the day. I was wrong. Rudy Project Magster with ImpactX-2 photochromic clear-to-red lenses ($275) transition to any light condition afield. Insanely lightweight with what seems infinite adjustment, I often forget I’m even wearing eye protection. Rudy Project is adding shooting sports to their lineup for elite athletes. Other lens options exist, all with lifetime warranty and frames have a 3-year warranty. I expect these Magster will be with me for a long time because I’m no longer willing to risk my sight while hunting.

Cabela's Fleece

If you’ve stumbled into a Cabela’s store recently – and it’s tough not to because they are popping up like Whac-A-Mole – you may notice that more and more of the gear they sell is Cabela’s brand. It appears they’ve used the market research from selling all manner of other brands to produce the top sellers on their own, often at lower price points. I’ve been a skeptic of much of their clothing which in the early days seemed cheap and of inferior production. But my last visit I noticed a number of items that have made a quality leap. That’s how I came to own this Cabela’s Long-Sleeve Fleece ($60) .The shirt looks like an old-school thick wool flannel, but actually is super soft fleece, well-constructed, durable and the right weight over a t-shirt for hanging around a campfire in brisk air of a fall camp.


Kali Parmley’s Picks:

FirstLiteandCabelas

With a myriad of upland gear available for men, women bird-chasers don’t have it that easy. Cabela’s has come to the rescue with their “OutfitHER” women’s specific line of clothing (no pink involved). Ladies looking for a reliable, comfortable, and durable pair of field pants for their adventures chasing ringnecks should turn to the Cabela’s OutfitHER Upland Pants ($60). Made from 100% cotton canvas, the pants are equipped with nylon weave panels that resist the toughest of brambles and thickets, and are lined with hunter orange to help with safety in the field. Best part: their price-point won’t break the bank.

Looking for a softshell jacket that can be warn in your early and late season hunts? Consider the North Branch Softshell from FirstLite ($250) as your go-to jacket. The softshell is lightweight, durable and provides warmth without bulk—a bird chasers best friend. The jacket is fleece lined, but breathable, highly water resistant, wind proof and quiet—all makings of the perfect field jacket. I’ve worn this as my go-to upland jacket this season, and couldn’t have been more pleased. Finding myself in different weather conditions while chasing Sharptails in North Dakota, the North Branch stood up against rain, snow and wind, all the while keeping me warm, comfortable, and still able to swing my shotgun with ease.

cabelasgundog

Traveling with your favorite four-legged hunting companion just got easier with Cabela’s Gun Dog Food and Hydration Pack ($70) that makes storing food for a long road trip to hunt camp simple. The pack not only keeps up to 8lbs. of food dry with its roll-top closure, it also holds 1.5 liters of water. Bonus features: A zip-open food-dispensing spout and pour valve for water. Also included is a zip-away food/water bowl, perfect for meals on the road. This pack stored food for 10 days, with plenty of room to spare, on my long road-trip to chase wild birds with my lab, Lincoln. This is a must-have for the hunter and dog on the go.

campchefrainier

Small and portable, the Camp Chef Rainier Campers Combo Stove ($153) is complete with a one-burner stove, and a non-stick griddle and grill. The griddle and grill are easily switched for making pancakes in the morning, to grilling venison for dinner. Complete with a matchless ignition for ease of use, the Camper’s Combo is the perfect stove for hunting and camping adventures. I was fortunate enough to use the Rainier Camper’s Combo in North Dakota during my 3-day wild bird hunt camp. The stove performed flawlessly while cooking antelope over the grill, and even in tight quarters as my fellow hunters and I squeezed into a smaller camper to avoid freezing rain. Venison was grilled to medium-rare perfection, while noodles were boiling on the burner.


Britney Starr’s Picks:

Mabton Vest

Despite the fact that women’s hunting gear has come a long way, overall, since I first started busting brush, it can still be slim pickins when it comes to female-specific upland gear. Luckily, there are a few companies who are doing it right, not just men’s sizing made smaller, but actual women-designed and women-tailored gear. One of those companies is Eddie Bauer. I’ve worn their Mabton Flats vest ($199) for three seasons in Michigan’s North Woods, and South Dakota, and it’s held up beautifully. The vest is made of durable, water-resistant material, that really does stay dry … Except for if you fall, armpit deep, into a bog while hunting swamp grouse, but I digress. The back pouch is roomy enough for a limit of birds, as well as a water bottle for the dog, and the front pockets can fit an entire box of shells each – if you like to burn powder like I do, you’ll probably want to have that many. Overall, the Mabton Flats vest is a solid staple piece to your upland wardrobe and well worth the investment.

Mud River

My mom always told me to invest in nice luggage, well, that goes for toting your hunting gear, also. My Mud River Rolling Duffel ($192) has been to Africa, Saskatchewan, and multiple states in the US, and still looks as good as the day I bought it. The hard-sided bottom adds an extra measure of protection, as well as a great storage space. Mud River also offers a host of dog accessories to make your travels easier, including the Crate Cushion ($20 – $27) that gets “two paws up” from my GSP Wesson.

SportDOG1875

This comprehensive e-collar + beeper system is a great package for any uplander on your Christmas list. With a 1-mile range on the e-collar and 500-yard audible range on the beeper, the SportDOG Brand® UplandHunter® 1875 ($385) makes it just as easy to keep tabs on your big-running dog, as it is to locate your close-working pup in dense cover.

Packed with features like DRYTEK® waterproofing, expandability to add up to 3 dogs on one transmitter, seven levels of momentary and continuous stimulation, as well as the option to train with vibrate and tone, SportDOG Brand follows through with its motto of “Gear the Way You’d Design It.”

To make things even better, SportDOG Brand is offering a $50 rebate on gear priced $199 and above, now through 12/31/2015!


There’s nothing like chasing some late season birds to help get the blood flowing and burn off the extra mugs of eggnog. Get all that shopping done and get outside. 

It’s Time for The Federal Upland Stamp

The Upland Stamp

Authors: Christine Cunningham and Brian Koch
Prototype Stamp Artist: Shari Erickson

American landscapes are forever changing as we face the loss of some of our most iconic game bird species. Grassland birds are among the fastest and most consistently declining bird populations in North America and grassland and prairie habitats are the fastest disappearing habitats in the US.  Last year, the Gunnison sage grouse and Lesser Prairie-chicken were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The Greater Sage Grouse, Greater Prairie-chicken, Sooty Grouse, and Northern Bobwhite have experienced a 40% rate of decline in the last 40 years. Scaled Quail and Sharp-tailed Grouse are also showing steep declines with loss of habitat being the primary cause and ultimate solution.

Upland game are now resting on the same precarious perch as waterfowl stood a century ago. But waterfowl did not survive the early market hunting, farming and development demands of an ever-increasing human population on their own. If it were not for the duck stamp, it’s quite possible certain waterfowl species would never have recovered. It wasn’t until 1934, when a deep concern for the plight of migratory birds set into motion a program that has since raised over $800 million for conservation and added 6 million acres to the National Wildlife Refuge System. Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling’s idea of a Federal Waterfowl Stamp required for hunting migratory waterfowl became a reality with the passage of the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt. The duck stamp has since become an unrivaled conservation legacy.

Duck stamp funds are used to purchase land and ongoing management of those lands providing habitat for critical bird breeding, resting and wintering necessary to support waterfowl populations as well as other wetland dependent species. The majority of stamps are purchased by hunters, providing hunters with recognition for supplying funds that support a natural resource that is enjoyed by all. It is a living example of stewardship and demonstrates the responsibility hunters take for the birds we pursue. The stamp has provided a pattern of inclusiveness that allows for a healthy relationship between sportsmen and the wildlife viewing public. It’s a pattern for success that bird hunters and bird enthusiasts can replicate for upland species.

Today most upland bird hunters consider the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to be the best mechanism for upland habitat conservation. However, the Program’s focus is to provide technical and financial assistance to eligible farmers and ranchers to address soil, water and related natural resource concerns on their lands. Habitat improvements and benefits to wildlife are a fortunate byproduct of the Program, not the focus or intent. The Program cannot keep pace with the price of commodities. In the last five years, there has been a 23% decrease in the land enrolled. The average lease payment to landowners is $66 per acre, drastically lagging crop profits and costing $1.5 billion in tax dollars annually. In contrast, average profits for an acre of corn vary between $200- $325 per acre depending on yield and fuel, fertilizer and other outlays. It stands to reason that, in order to prevent further loss of enrolled land, CRP payments would need to compete with crop returns.

The Conservation Reserve Program is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture  (USDA) and embedded in the Farm Bill. The strategic plan of the USDA is to expand markets for agricultural products, support international economic development, expand job opportunities, improve infrastructure in rural America, enhance food safety, improve nutrition and health, and manage and protect public and private lands. Although CRP provides large scale, direct and measurable benefits to wildlife and habitat, the Farm Bill is a politically-charged piece of legislation addressing food, farms and jobs. Funds allocated for conservation in the latest Farm Bill have decreased by $4 billion over a five-year span. A conservation mechanism outside of agricultural interests and free of commodity demands is necessary to continue to prevent habitat loss and fragmentation for declining upland game species as well as other non-game grassland species.

In a country that values agriculture, ranching, and oil and gas exploration and takes pride in the work ethic of farmers and laborers, a balance has not yet been reached between maximizing productivity and conserving the existing landscape and wildlife. The effect of insatiable growth on native birds is fragmentation of habitat and disruption of their movement and mating patterns, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Upland game species do not require untouched wilderness to thrive. Just the opposite is often true. A healthy population of upland birds indicates a healthy ecosystem, and many species can thrive around agriculture so long as the working landscape does not squander its hedgerows, thickets, fence rows, woodlots, and other shelters allowing birds the cover they need.

What could an upland stamp do?

Ding Darling’s idea for a federal duck stamp combined his abilities as an artist and ardent conservationist to create the stamp both as an idea and a reality. The first stamp featured his own brush and ink design of two mallards dropping down to a body of water and was the first in a long history of stamp designs meant to arouse a positive emotional response from the viewer. The benefits of an upland stamp to conservationists, collectors, and artists includes an educational aspect and opportunity to highlight the cultural value of upland game species to broader audiences.

The existence of a healthy population of upland birds represents the American countryside at its best. Unlike waterfowl, which migrate and are easily seen in the sky and on the water, upland birds are often nesting in our neighboring woods and fields. They are elusive and camouflaged to their varied environments, hiding invisibly in fence lines, coverts, plum thickets and sagebrush. The stories of upland game birds that hunters have cherished for over two centuries are coming face to face with becoming a forgotten past.

An upland stamp will face hurdles. There will be opportunities to discuss mechanisms and decide appropriate use of funds generated by an upland stamp managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Ultimately, the recovery of declining wildlife populations requires the voice of conservationists, and it is the objective of the Fish and Wildlife Service to assist in the development and application of an environmental stewardship ethic for our society, based on ecological principles, scientific knowledge of fish and wildlife, and a sense of moral responsibility as well as administer a national program to provide the public opportunities to understand, appreciate, and wisely use fish and wildlife resources.

Now is the time to call for saving our upland bird heritage. Now is the time to make upland conservation a priority alongside economic interest. Upland hunters have a unique understanding of why upland conservation must be a priority, and we have an opportunity to lead the charge, much like waterfowl hunters have with the purchase of stamps for decades.

Join us in calling for the creation of the Federal Upland Stamp and be a part of conservation and grassroots history by signing the petition today.

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Linguine and Pheasant Sauce

I tend to just make up recipes, don’t measure out ingredients and promptly forget not long after eating exactly how something came together. So before I forget, here’s a quick and easy pheasant pasta that we cooked up on a whim. Total prep time was around 30 minutes.


Ingredients:

4 pheasant breasts (or combination breasts and thighs)

1/2 Bottle White Wine — be sure it’s something you like to drink too

6 Cloves Garlic

Parsley

Grated Parmesan Cheese

3/4 Stick of Butter

Flour (a few tablespoons)

Half n Half, or cream

Salt, Pepper

Your Favorite Pasta  (we used spinach pasta)

——————————–

First, get your pasta water salted and boiling so that you aren’t waiting for your pasta to cook once you finish the sauce.

On a cutting board pound out your pheasant to a uniform thickness. This helps tenderize tough birds – cover with plastic wrap to keep the mess to a minimum. Next, cut your pheasant across grain in thin strips – think clam size since the inspiration of this recipe is Linguine and Clam Sauce.  Mince the garlic gloves and a good handful of the parsley just so you have all the knife work done.

Place a large skillet on the stove on high heat and begin melting the butter. Once it is good and hot,  slide the pheasant in and begin sautéing. When the meat is cut into this strips like this, it really takes very little time to cook through. Cooking in butter helps keep lean pheasant moist. Add the garlic, salt, pepper and stir. Once your meat is cooked through, sprinkle enough floor into the pan to soak up the remaining butter when mixed – won’t take much, maybe a few tablespoons. We’re using the flour as a thickener.

Now pop the cork on that wine and add about a half bottle, stirring into the meat mixture. Once it comes back up to temperature, you’ll get a good idea of how thick your sauce is. Add more wine if it’s too thick for your liking. Add the handful of parsley and let some of the alcohol continue to burn off.  I like creamy sauces that coat the noodles, so here’s where I included a liberal splash of half-n-half. Finally add the grated parmesan – how much really depends on how cheesy you like it, but 1/4 cup is a good starting place.

Your pasta should be drained and ready to plate. Give your sauce a taste first for seasoning, add pepper and salt as needed. Then spoon a generous helping over your pasta. Garlic bread would be a great addition. Enjoy!

2014 Gift Guide for Bird Hunters

Another year of putting great upland gear to the test has resulted in a list of field tested items that will make any bird hunter ready to unwrap this holiday. We enlisted the assistance of author and huntress Christine Cunningham to help round out our gift ideas for the female uplander in your life. Here are some gift ideas that shouldn’t need to include a receipt:

Brute Cooler

 

The Brute Cooler is appropriately named — hard core, roto-molded, large handles, rubber latches — it’s got it all. Made in America by Brute, a family run company with excellent customer service. The 50 qt. ($319) will keep your birds chilled for at least five days, but go with the 75 qt. ($369) if you want to throw lunch and drinks on board too.

 

1816 by Remington Gunsmith Shirt

 

The 1816 by Remington Gunsmith Shirt ($90) and Upland Bird Pant ($158) belong together afield. The shirt is a heavy weight blend of hemp and cotton, feels soft but sturdy enough to be bullet proof. Wore the pants daily for the entire first half of the season in all kinds of weather and cover for over 250 miles. Looks like they may have another 250 miles in them, but it might be time to wash them once. On Cyber Monday 1816 is offering 20% off and Free Shipping to all Ultimate Uplanders. Use promo code ULTIMATEUP

 

Filson Stryker

 

 

We ended up hunting in South Dakota in some of the most brutal conditions I’ve ever experienced afield. Filson’s Stryker Jacket ($325) gave us the perfect balance between insulation and weight. We had no problem wearing our strap vest over top and staying warm. The best part is we could still smoothly mount the shotgun without feeling over burdened by too many layers.

 

 

Ruffwear Mt. Bachelor Pad

If you own bird dogs, you need to know about Ruffwear. Their dog boots have been a part of our essential gear for years because of the premium design and construction. And now Ruffwear is making the Mt. Bachelor Pad dog bed ($70 – $90) which shares the same awesome construction of their other products and is perfect for road trips. When you’re done with the trip, throw it in the washing machine and then roll it up and stow it.

Helio Shower

 

 

Hunting in Alaska this year I went 20 days without a shower. Never again. NEMO makes the Helio Pressure Shower ($99) specifically for these backcountry adventures. It’s also a great solution for hosing off bird dogs that have rolled in mystery stench. Honestly, in Alaska I may have smelled worse than the dogs. The Helio packs up small and tucks away in a corner until needed.

Sage Fly Rod

 

 

 

 

 

Normally I’m all blast and no cast. But even the toughest bird dogs need to take breaks. Sage convinced us that during these down times we should try slinging some flies. It is addictive. The Sage One Fly Rod and 4250 Reel combo ($995) and a handful of flies gave us everything we needed to chase fish while the dogs recuperated from tough days afield. We’ll have the One in the truck on all our trips now.

 

 

The W.R. Case Pheasant Hunter ($120) may look like a collector’s edition but don’t be fooled. The stag handle and fixed blade feel great in hand and are perfect for taking apart birds in the field. When finished filleting, slide it back into the leather sheath, throw it in the truck console and head to the next field.

Case Pheasant Hunter Knife

Nite Ize Steelie

 

Turn your vehicle into a mobile bird hunting command unit just by adding the Nite Ize Steelie Car Mount ($35). Whoever is riding shotgun can use a smart phone or tablet with the Socket ($19) to checkout GPS and satellite imagery in real time while headed to the next covert.

 

 

 

Hoppes WipesHoppes Air Freshener

 

I hate when I go to clean the shotgun while traveling and find the bottle of solvent has leaked and is empty. These Hoppes 9 Wipes ($9) put an end to that. And to make sure the truck still has that new gun aroma, I’ve added the Hoppes 9 Air Freshener.

 

 

 

SportDOG Launcher

 

The SportDOG Launcher System ($425) is a great tool for owners of pointing breeds hoping to train steadiness to flush and shot. To add realism to training, the transmitter can signal the launcher to emit the sound of a pheasant cackle or shotgun report eliminating the need for multiple assistants or cap guns. SportDOG continues to make quality products that allow you to fully train your own bird dog.

 

 

Whether you have a mom, sister, wife, daughter or girlfriend who is an upland hunter, there’s no shortage of upland stuff they will want or need. Here’s Christine’s picks for the female hunter.

Dublin River Boots

Jameson BootsA new pair of shoes does not have to be a pair of luxury heels to be exhilarating. Waterproof and breathable field boots that transition well from the field to the everyday are a great gift for women hunters. My favorite are Dublin River Boots ($199). Another classic is the Le Chameau Jameson Lady Zip GTX ($520).  These are not a good choice for chukar hunts in sheep country, but they are a stylish option for most game fields.

 

Beretta Sweater

 

 

 

A well-constructed wool shooting sweater that keeps you warm in the field can pull double duty as an outer layer. The Beretta Windshield Sweater ($125) with its soft wool exterior and windproof liner, is an attractive mid-layer that acts as a wind block.

 

 

Eddie Bauer VestBarbour Vest

 

 

 

The Eddie Bauer Micro Therm StormDown Vest ($149) or padded vest by Barbour ($99) offer the perfect form-fitting mid-layer for the field.

 

 

 

My favorite merino socks are from Darn Tough Vermont ($20) and are guaranteed for life. The Merino beanie from First Lite ($35) is available in a variety of colors including Hunter Orange. Merino wool glove liners from Minus33 ($18) are perfect for inside mittens.

Merino SocksMerino BeanieMerino Gloves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ammo Jewelry

 

 

Camo Ammo and SureShot jewelry have their gauges covered for shotgun casing jewelry and offer spent shell bracelets, necklaces, earrings and even a bejeweled flask. If you go with the flask, include a bottle of Bird Dog Whiskey.

 

 

 

This year, Syren USA, a division of Caesar Guerini, produced a line of field and target shotguns designed exclusively for women. I reviewed the Syren Elos Venti ($2,980) in 20 gauge this fall and fell in love with it. Why not make it a his and hers shotgun holiday, pickup an Ellipse in 20 gauge too ($4,325).

Syren ELOS

Caesar Guerini Ellipse

Women Hunting AlaskaMouthful of Feathers

There’s nothing like curling up by the fire with a good book. Christine’s Women Hunting Alaska ($19) makes a great read for inspiring the women in your life to challenge themselves afield. And Mouthful of Feathers – Upland in the West ($5) is a great compilation by talented writers of bird hunting tales for your tablet.

 

Be sure to get outside, stretch the legs and burn some powder with family and friends over this holiday season. 

 

 

2013 Gift Guide for Bird Hunters

It’s hard to believe it is already that time of year again. The waning bird hunting season has given everyone a chance to test their hunting equipment. We’ve put our share of gadgets through the wringer as well in search of the best gear for Ultimate Uplanders. Here’s our list of items that are required gear for the bird hunter. Click the included links to finish shopping for your uplander.

Kevin's Gun Case and Cleaning Kit

We figured a company featuring a Bobwhite in their logo must know a little something about upland hunting. And it turns out we were right. Lugging our gun cleaning gear around in a plastic bag was getting old. Kevin’s Saddle Leather and Canvas Roll-Up Cleaning Kit ($89) offers a stylish solution for carrying all your gun cleaning supplies combined with a nifty scratch-free surface to break down shotguns. Once your shooting stick is properly shined, stow it in the matching Kevin’s English Canvas Gun Slip ($119). We can’t guarantee that putting your favorite shotgun to bed in this high-quality case will make it shoot better…. but it worked for us. Because Kevin’s is a full-service retailer, pick up some cleaning supplies as stocking stuffers to go with this perfect duo for shotgunners. Click here to get your Kevin’s Gear.

WingOne

Brothers Tom and Jerry Black have an infectious enthusiasm that is just fun to be around. And they have reason to be excited; their WingOne Clay Thrower ($34.95) is a huge leap forward in product design. It beats the pants off the cheap plastic hand throwers that everyone is familiar with. No more shattering clays when loading and you get extra an umph with less throwing effort with the American made WingOne. Be sure to check out some of their videos for bonus holiday entertainment when visiting their site to purchase your WingOne.

Aloe Care Comb

 

Early this season in Montana we spent 45 minutes after a morning hunt untangling collected cockle burs from Rio’s coat. Left unattended, burs can work their way into a dog’s pits and cause irritation while running. Then we found the Aloe Care Fine Tooth Pet Comb ($2.19) let’s you pull burs free from the hair with very little fuss in a fraction of the time of trying to untangle and clip out by hand. If you own a long hair dog it is a must have item for your travel kit.

 

 

 

Fitbit Flex

At the start of the season we began wearing the Fitbit Flex ($99.95) to track exactly how many miles we hike on a hunt. It has become an invaluable tool to help us learn more about our hunting habits. Unlike a bulky GPS, the Flex is a small unit always powered up that you wear on a wrist. Full charges by the supplied USB dongle tend to last 4-5 days. There is an easy online setup at fitbit.com that allows you to set goals and get started. Based on weight and height it tracks your calorie usage and distance among other things. A couple of taps of the Flex and small display lights on the unit show progress against your daily goal. Tracking is also available on your Bluetooth enabled smartphone. Once you reach your daily goal, the Flex vibrates to let you know. We’ve always figured that the dogs cover at least twice as much distance as we do. By setting our goal at five miles it gave us a quick visual reference to know when it was near quitting time to keep the dogs from burning themselves out in a single day. It’s a long season; I have walked 467 miles so far — 966,00 steps and 263,000 calories. Click here to start tracking your hunts too and let’s get upland fit together.

Wolverine Terrain II Boots

Every one of our miles afield this season the Wolverine Terrain II Mid-Cut Waterproof Trail Hiker ($142) have been on our feet. Aggressive soles, waterproof and rugged — you really can’t ask for much more from a hunting boot. But when you cover as much ground as we do, weight is the primary concern. The Terrain II weigh in at a slight 15 ounces each which is exactly why we’ve looked beyond Wolverine’s expansive hunting line to a boot they classify as hiking. We like to combine a low cut boot with a pant inseam a bit long for best results in the upland field. Wolverine makes these boots in standard and extra-wide to fit any foot. Click here to get your pair.

SportDOG Training Bumpers

Your bird dog works hard and deserves a present too. Our lab Wyatt goes bonkers for these SportDOG Orange Plastic Dummies. They come in both a regular and jumbo size and work great for both water and land retrieving practice. The 3-packs are the way to go ( Reg. $17.94 / Jumbo $24.95).  Stock up on SportDOG Brand® hats, t’s and gear bags for you too. They are offering  50% off apparel this Cyber Monday, 12/2 only.  Visit www.sportdog.com/apparel.

Blackwood Pet Food

You get your fill of turkey during the holidays, shouldn’t your four-legged hunting buddy get some turkey too. Blackwood Pet Foods offers canned foods containing all-natural grain-free premium ingredients. There’s no artificial flavor or colors in this Turkey and Tripe recipe which should satisfy your dogs holiday hunger. We also use this top-notch food to help stimulate hunger and keep weight on hard working bird dogs that often choose to pass on eating; just mix with regular dry food. A case of 24 cans ($67) should get you through the holidays and the rest of the hunting season.

 

Our friend and gunzel Britney Starr recommends the Eddie Bauer Mabton Flats vest ($199) for Ultimate Upland ladies. According to Britney, Eddie Bauer has a women’s-specific vest that will suit even the most hardcore upland huntress. It isn’t just a man’s vest in a smaller size, either. Cut with the female body in mind, the Mabton Flats vest allows for unrestricted arm movement. It has plenty of pockets for gear, and has external loops to hang a whistle or e-collar remote. The zippered game bag allows for easy access to birds when the hunt is over. Be sure to check out all of Britney’s gear selections for women.

 

ThermaCELL

There is a lot of down time during the season. Early on when the weather is still hot, that down time brings a whole host of annoying biting bugs to camp which make getting rest a challenge. We have to admit that we had our doubts with the plastic appearance of the ThermaCELL ($26.99). At our wit’s end we were willing to try anything and this little unit delivered.  Biting flies and mosquitos hate it, which guarantees we love it. You can’t put DEET on the dogs and it’s probably not a great idea to cake it on yourself either and with the ThermaCELL you no longer have to. Purchase a ThermaCELL.

 

 

Filson Belt

Filson is widely renowned for their indestructible Tin Cloth clothing. But this season we’ve been especially impressed with the quality of their leather. The Filson Double-Thick Belt ($88) may be the last belt you ever purchase. Sturdy is an understatement. Eat as much as you want over the holidays, we guarantee it can strap it in. This belt will last two lifetimes, plan on willing it to your favorite child. You may as well add the Filson Original Goat Skin Gloves ($88) to your cart as well — they’re a great combination of supple and durable. These gloves are just the right thickness for shotgunning and seem to retain a tackiness that lets your safety thumb still sing. If you spend $100 with Filson this Cyber Monday, you’ll get an American-made water bottle for free to go with your new leather gear.

 

Ganola Bars

Everyone needs a great snack to pair with that large cup of eggnog. In place of those empty holiday cookies try these healthy all-natural Ganola Cinnamon Coffee Bean Bars.  Ganola is giving Ultimate Uplanders 20% off  when you purchase a case. Use coupon code BirdBoom13 when you place your order and help fill out the stockings with these snacks.
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And remember, as the holiday stresses tend to pile up there is no better therapy than heading to the field with a shotgun for a brisk walk. Be safe, have fun and finish 2013 in Ultimate Upland style.

Super Bowl of Pheasant Chili

Here’s an easy recipe for game day. When you serve some rooster chili everyone is a guaranteed winner.

Ingredients:
2 Poblano (Anaheim) peppers, chopped
2 Jalapeño peppers, chopped
1 Cherry Pepper, diced
1 Large Onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 lb pheasant breast and thighs (2 birds), 1/2″ cubed
2-3 c. Chicken broth (depending how thick you like your chili)
3 cans cannelini beans, drained
4 T. butter
2 t. Cumin
Salt and white pepper to taste
Shredded white cheddar for topping

Directions:
1. In large pot, saute onion and pheasant in butter until the cubed meat is browned
2. Season with salt, white pepper and cumin
3. Add the pepper trio
4. Cook on med-high until peppers are soft
5. Add garlic
6. Add chicken broth to desired consistency (2-3 cups)
7. Purée one can of beans and fold into the mix, they act as a thickener.
8. Add the other two cans of whole beans
8. Simmer until thickens, about one hour or longer if thicker consistency desired
9. Serve with tortilla chips and top with a big handful of cheese

Enjoy!

2012 Gift Guide for Bird Hunters

There’s a little something for everyone on the Ultimate Upland wish list for bird hunters. We’ve put a lot of gear through the wringer to come up with a number of products that we believe uplanders will truly enjoy.

Pachmayr Snap Caps
Snap caps are cheap insurance for a stored shotgun. These little buggers allow you to safely dry fire the weapon and relieve hammer spring tension. They make a great stocking stuffer and are an afterthought that many bird hunters don’t already own. Get a set or six in multiple gauges. ($9.98 set of two) Click here.

 

The Benchmade Custom Griptilian Knife
There may be blades more appropriate for breaking down birds, but being able to design your own knife in real-time online makes this Benchmade a must-have. You can choose from 12 different handle colors, three blades, different pocket clips and component colors….. the possibilities seem endless. After you have the knife formatted to your liking you can upload text and graphics to have lasermarked on the blade. (Of course we suggest “Ultimate Upland” and our pointing dog will make perfect additions.) We like the drop-point straight blade with thumb stud in hi-vis orange for starters. The custom order takes at least 3 weeks, so get your order in today. ($125) Click here.

 

Wigwam Socks
Wigwam has been around for over a century making socks in the US — and they have become very good at it. We’re fairly certain you can’t go wrong with any of their styles because the quality standards are extremely high. Our feet have sported Wigwam all season long without complaint in all kinds of conditions. We like the Hiking/Outdoor Pro ($12.99)  and the Merino Comfort Sportsman ($15.99).

 

 

 

The SportDOG TEK GPS + E-Collar
The trend toward technology is a turnoff for many traditionalist bird hunters. So it was with some hesitation that we strapped the SportDOG TEK on our young setter Rio this fall. The anxiety of becoming a slave to technology soon faded. This collar gives you the confidence to allow an inexperienced dog to explore, make mistakes and realize for themselves the value of proximity to the gun. And it removes the stress of losing the dog; the 7-mile range insures that you’ll be able to collect even the most wayward explorer. There are a number of unique features which set this collar apart, but the ability to separate the trainer from the GPS and the vibrate on-point alert are two of our favorites.($499 / $399 for the GPS sans trainer). Click here.

 

Prois Women’s High Plains Brush Pants
So much for women having to fend for themselves in upland gear. Prois has quickly become the premier maker of hunting gear for the fasting growing segment in the sport. And these upland pants have all the hallmarks of quality that will take a beating and last for years. Better still, they get the seal of approval from our favorite female gunzel and owner of Starr & Bodill African Safaris, Britney Starr. So we know they have to be great. ($139.99) Click here.

Enter promo code BSTARR at checkout and receive 15% off!

Checkout Britney’s other holiday
gift recommendations 
for the outdoorswoman.

 


 

 

 

Winchester Super-X Super Pheasant Shells
You can never have too much ammo. We’ve long been fans of copper-plated shot for bird lethality. Though Winchester has named their latest offering Super Pheasant, don’t hesitate to use the #6 loads on all medium to large upland game. We actually prefer the 2-3/4″ shells which we’ve found highly effective at reaching out to the long flushers. But if you want to amp up the distance and impact, shells are available in shots size 4-6 and come in the 3″ variety as well. ($18.99 box / $179.90 case) Click here for 12ga or here for 20 ga.

 


Smith Optics Aegis Echo
The importance of eye protection in shooting sports is often overlooked. And the peril to sight is real. Designed for tactical applications, the reason the Aegis Echo got our attention was the extremely light weight and minimal contact points which make them perfectly comfortable for long walks in the field. And the interchangeable lens PivLock system is easy and fast. The flat frames allow you to wear ear protection over the glasses so they’re great for that round of clays too. ($105 for 3 lens combo) Click here.

 

Timex Watches
We like having the backup to the backup to the backup when we’re in the field. And these Timex watches incorporate a compass which can help return you to camp or car if your GPS, smartphone or sense of direction falters. An Expedition series hasn’t left my wrist in over two years of hunting in every imaginable condition and is ‘still ticking’ as billed. If you like digital we suggest the Expedition Digital Compass ($75).  But if you prefer analog the Intelligent Quartz Tide Temp Compass will also let you know exactly how cold it is when the birds are holding ($170).

 

 

 

Grouse Feathers by Burton Spiller
This book is a classic that was first published in 1934. There’s no better way to get some perspective in the off season than to listen to Spiller recount the heydays of Ruffed pursuit. It’s a fast read, even available in Kindle version. ($16.55 paperback/ $12.62 Kindle) Click here.

 


 

Cabela’s Unlined Deerskin Gloves
When afield we like leather gloves that have balance. We need maximum feel and functionality so that we can click off the safety and pull the trigger. But gloves still need to provide enough protection to remove sand spurs from the dog and help weasel our way through thorns in the grouse woods. These deerskin gloves strike that good mix. Here’s a quick tip for once the gloves get good and scuffed; spit in the palm and rub it in really well. It helps to make the leather a little tacky which improves the grip on the gun and thumb safeties. ($25.99) Click here.


 

 

Blackwood ExPro for the Dog
One of the best ways to keep your bird dogs at peak performance is to make sure they are getting the best nutrition. Blackwood makes ExPro in small batches from the highest quality ingredients to get a food that is 33% protein and 23% fat; a fitting meal for a four-legged athlete. Use it as a supplement with your current food to help bump up the daily calorie count for your hard working canine friends. ($54.96 for qty 4 5lb bags) Click here.


 

 

 

Mud River Traveler Duffel
You’re going to need a place to stow all your new gadgets. We like keeping our bird hunting gear consolidated in a heavy duty bag, so we can pull it out and go hunting at a moment’s notice and know we’re not leaving anything behind. These blaze orange duffels are hi-vis, water resistant and nearly indestructible. They come in three sizes, be sure to get one for the dog’s gear too. ($57-77 depending on size). Click here.

If you use promo code MR12 you can get an extra 15% off your Mud River purchase through 12/17/12.

 

And if you already have everything else on the list, then it’s obvious the thing you truly need is another bird dog. We suggest you contact our friends at Jornada Setters to add a Llewellin pup to the family. Or Mountain Star Kennels can hook you up with one of the most stylish bird dogs in the country from the lines of top IRWS Runnie.

Have a Happy Holiday.

 

Tasty Quail Inspiration

We’re always looking for new inspiration for gamebird recipes. And though restaurant critics don’t normally top our sources, Michael Bauer has collected a nice spectrum of quail potential.

I’m not sure that my chef skills are quite refined enough for these preparations, but I’m willing to try. And bravo Bay Area, hopefully your enthusiasm for upland meals will spark a few of you to head to the field and harvest your own. California quail hunting has deep roots.


  • At State Bird Provisions, chef Stuart Brioza dishes up fried quail with rotating seasonal accompaniments. Photo: Lance Iversen, The Chronicle / SF
    At State Bird Provisions, chef Stuart Brioza dishes up fried quail with rotating seasonal accompaniments. Photo: Lance Iversen, The Chronicle / SF

State Bird Provisions
The signature item on the menu where Stuart Brioza uses a dim sum approach to Western food is his fried quail with changing seasonal accompaniments. Recently the bird was served on a tangled bed of vinegar-braised onions.

25 Lusk
Quail becomes a main course at this sexy bar/restaurant tucked away on tiny Lusk Street, South of Market. Chef Matthew Dolan chicken-fries the bird ($27) and serves it with bing cherries, cherry reduction and a maitake mushroom pancake.

Campo Fina
At Ari Rosen‘s follow-up to his wildly popular Scopa in Healdsburg, the chef creates a small-plates menu that includes a crisp quail ($14.50), mostly boned and propped on grilled peaches, along with arugula, almonds and pickled onions.

Dixie
Joseph Humphrey is fulfilling his California/Southern vision at his new Presidio restaurant. He serves the bird ($15) with a roasted garlic waffle and spicy cabbage salad. On the tasting menu he pairs quail with bourbon-soaked morels.

Foreign Cinema
One of the most popular dishes on the menu at this Mission restaurant was fried chicken flavored with five spice. Now Gayle Pirie and John Clark have applied that same idea to quail, accompanying it with tomato chutney, radicchio and balsamic.

Lers Ros
At his Thai-inspired restaurant in Hayes Valley, chef Tom Silargorn coats pieces of quail ($9.95) with garlic, which falls off the skin in crisp flakes, and serves the bird with brick-red chile sauce. He offers a similar preparation for frog legs and rabbit.

Michael Bauer is The San Francisco Chronicle‘s restaurant critic. Go to sfgate.com/food to read his previous reviews. E-mail: mbauer@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @michaelbauer1 Michael Bauer is The San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic. E-mail: mbauer@sfchronicle.com

Read the full writeup.

 

Pheasant Defying Drought….. For Now

There has been a lot of news about the terribly dry conditions across the bulk of the country this year. This news sparked many early negative predictions for the upland populations.

If you read much about the lifecycle of upland birds though, most don’t require much water when they are young. So unlike harsh winters which will have devastating kill-off effects on game or extremely wet nesting months which will ruin hatches, drought may be a preferable weather catastrophe if there is such a thing.

A mild winter followed by a warm spring contributed to a significant increase in Minnesota’s pheasant count, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The pheasant population index increased 68 percent from 2011. Pheasant hunters are expected to harvest about 290,000 roosters this fall. That’s up from last year’s estimated harvest of 204,000 but roughly half the number taken during the 2005-2008 seasons when hunting was exceptionally good.

Article



The pheasants-per-mile index for 2012 is 4.21, up 18 percent from the 3.57 index of 2011.

“The mild winter of 2011-12 was the boost we needed for pheasant survival and reproductive potential,” said Jeff Vonk, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, in a news release. “It goes to show that, with the combination of good habitat and the right weather conditions, pheasants can be quite prolific.”

Article



The Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) 2012 August Upland Wildlife Roadside Survey shows the statewide pheasant population has increased 16 percent when compared to last year.

“We expected to see an increase after the first mild winter in five years and we have, but it will take another two to three years of good weather for the population to fully recover from five straight years of heavy snow and cool wet springs,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the DNR.

The average birds counted per 30 mile route statewide increased from 6.8 birds to 8 birds in 2012. The highest pheasant counts per route are in the northwest region, with 16, central region, with 13, and north central region with 10. The survey also showed an increase in the number of partridge and quail, while cottontail numbers were unchanged.

Article


Though the dry conditions may not have impacted the nesting and hatch survival I believe the danger lies ahead. The poor grain production and sparse harvest caused by the drought may be the downfall of this fall’s upswing in gamebird numbers. With less grain to fatten up on in the autumn, it could be a very tough winter for the birds. So though I’m happy to hear about a rebound in numbers I still have a sneaky suspicion that we haven’t seen this drought fully play out just yet.