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Bellville Elementary is Public Lands Proud

Ida at the podium

The halls and classrooms of Bellville Elementary flirted with the wild side with a visit from the latest addition to the Ultimate Upland Team, Ida. The nine-week-old chocolate lab puppy attended school to share the importance of socialization and enriched environments for brain development.

Brian Koch, founder of Ultimate Upland, also had the opportunity to talk to students about exploring public lands in the U.S. “Sharing this little bird dog puppy gives kids a different perspective about the ability to learn and soak up new information. And we’re always happy to talk about the wild places across this country that offer exploration beyond what many children can believe. These lands are an invaluable resource and we want to get kids engaged and invested in their future,” Koch said.

Stetson Wendling was the student who chaperoned Ida’s visit and helped introduce her to 345 new friends from grades one through five. For each of these new friends made on this day $1 will be donated by Ultimate Upland to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) as part of the ongoing #meetida campaign.

Ida and Koch will be crossing the country, making friends and sharing stories. If you’d like to take part in preservation of public lands, click the link below to sign the petition and learn more. And be sure to follow Ultimate Upland on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for all the latest updates.

SportDOG Brand & Mud River Sweepstakes

Puppy Rio Giveaway
SportDOG Brand® partners with Mud River on a giveaway that includes everything needed to get started training your dog. Spring is just around the corner and bored bird dogs need to get back to work. 

Enter to win a SportDOG Brand® FieldTrainer® 425 E-Collar, Mud River Handler Bag, Oasis Bowl, Quick Quack Bowl, Lead, Cache Cushion, Magnum Hoss Food Bag, and Hatch Leash by entering your name and email address. One random winner will be chosen on February 28th, 2017 at 9am EST. Click here to get entered today.

SportDOG Brand Giveaway

SportDOG® HoundHunter

Start the new year off right by entering to win a SportDOG® Brand HoundHunter® 3225 prize package! Products included are: (1) HoundHunter 3225 E-Collar, (1) Handler Bag, (1) Red Locator Beacon, and (1) Wax Brown Hat. Entry is simple; visit sportdog.com/giveaway and enter your name and email address. One random winner will be chosen on January 31, 2017, at 9:00am EST.

*Total retail value over $350.

Winners of 2016 Companions for Conservation Contest

Knoxville, Tennessee (August 4, 2016) – SportDOG® Brand, the industry-leading manufacturer of electronic dog training products and accessories, has announced the winners of its third annual Companions for Conservation contest. Three lucky young hunters will soon be taking ownership of started Labrador retrievers, trained SportDOG Brand® Senior ProStaff members Tom Dokken, Derek Randle, and Chris Akin.

Earlier this year, SportDOG called for families with children between the age of 8 and 18, who have an interest in hunting and conservation to submit a dog training, youth-education project, hunting, or wildlife-habitat related photo via social media or online web form. In order to be eligible, the applicants must also be members of a conservation organization.

Dokken, Randle, and Akin will provide training through the started stage for the three prize dogs, which are a black Lab, yellow Lab, and chocolate Lab, respectively – valued at $5,000 each.

11-year-old Weston Jowett from Frankfort, Michigan, will be the proud owner of the black Lab, trained by Tom Dokken. Weston is a Ducks Unlimited Legacy Greenwing.

Weston Jowett and Black Lab

Haley Singleton will welcome home a yellow Lab trained by Derek Randle. 8-year-old Haley, a Ducks Unlimited member, is from Conyers, Georgia.

Haley Singleton and Yellow Lab

Cy Young from Mountain View, Missouri, will soon enjoy hunting with a chocolate Lab, trained by Chris Akin. Cy is 12 years old, and a member of Delta Waterfowl – Riceland chapter.

Cy Young and Chocolate Lab

For more information about our conservation initiative, visit http://www.sportdog.com/companions-for- conservation.

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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:


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.


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.


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.


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. 

Upland Stamp Gains Momentum

Franklin's Spruce GrouseEarlier this year, after months of discussion on the state of upland birds and conservation in this country we released an article titled “It’s Time for the Federal Upland Stamp.” The week we published coincided with Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) biannual meeting in Omaha sponsored by the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI)  — often referred to as “The North American” by biologists and wildlife professionals, not known by many others including hunters.

The North American got its start in 1936, but credits Jay N. “Ding” Darling, founder of the duck stamp, with the vision for the national conference as an annual forum for scientists, managers, educators, administrators, and non-governmental conservation interests. Although it is a business meeting, it is also a meeting for and about the organizations and individuals who shoulder the stewardship of conservation in our country. As upland hunters who wished to make upland conservation a priority, it seemed fitting to suggest the idea for a federal upland stamp at the 100th Anniversary of a conference proposed by the founder of the federal duck stamp.

Though there are numerous conservation organization reps in attendance, the conference is primarily biologists, state and federal agency employees, the policy makers and shakers for wildlife and wild places. Hunters are not the focus here. Upland Bird hunters are even a smaller slice, especially ones from the “media.” Truth is, there was very little media at all in attendance, which we found shocking considering the depth of decision and policy being discussed and shaped at the event.

We were asked to speak about the upland stamp at the Resident Game Bird Working Group meeting which is attended by numerous state wildlife officials and members of most of the national upland conservation organizations. If there is one group in the entire country where this idea could credibly be germinated and developed, it would need to come through these members.

Honestly, our presentation to a group of upland bird biologists hit them cold. There were more questions and a general awkwardness in the room than support for the idea of a federal upland stamp. But there were glimmers of hope, private conversations with scientists who had seen the same data we researched to reach the idea for a federal upland stamp. Directors and assistant directors of state departments expressed intrigue. We left WMI with hope that the rest of the conservation establishment would join the discussion.

In July, under the leadership and vision of Director Don McKenzie, the Federal Upland Stamp received public backing of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) and their entire board comprised of conservationists and biologists. See McKenzie’s insights in his Ammoland op-ed.  

View the entire letter recommending the upland stamp to the AFWA’s recently assembled Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources, below:

NBCI Letter

Read Full Letter

Last week in New Jersey the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) held its annual meeting where McKenzie presented the stamp for discussion. Months after the idea appeared too big for serious discussion, it continues to gain momentum as the best national funding opportunity to address the glaring shortfalls in wildlife conservation for upland game birds.

Backers are no longer just forward thinking hunters. Join the conversation and become a part of conservation history by signing the petition for a Federal Upland Stamp today.


SportDOG Brand Announces Second Annual Companions for Conservation Contest

Birddog PuppyKnoxville, Tennessee (June 2, 2015) – SportDOG Brand®, an industry-leading brand of electronic dog tracking and training products, has announced the continuation of its Conservation Fund initiative. After overwhelming success in its inaugural year, the Companions for Conservation contest will again result in three lucky youths taking ownership of new hunting dogs, trained by SportDOG Brand Senior ProStaff members.

The contest seeks to give families with children ages 8 to 18, who have an interest in hunting and conservation, the opportunity to win a new hunting companion. Three of the country’s top trainers, Shawn Kinkelaar, Kim Bishop, and Chris Akin, will provide training through the started stage for the prize dogs – a pointer, hound, and retriever, respectively.

To enter, post your original dog training, youth education, hunting, or wildlife habitat related photo to the SportDOG Brand Facebook page, Twitter account, or via the online web form. The post must contain the hashtag corresponding to the dog you’d like to win (#SDC4CPointer, #SDC4CHound, or #SDC4CRetriever). All entries should be submitted between 11 a.m. ET, on June 1, 2015, and 5 p.m. ET, on July 1, 2015. A panel of seven judges will then vote and decide on three finalists for each dog, after which, public voting for the grand prize winners will take place on sportdog.com. The three lucky winner’s names will be announced at 11a.m. ET, on July 31, 2015. Complete details and official rules can be found in the Conservation Fund section of the SportDOG Brand website.

Companions for Conservation

Britney Starr Joins SportDOG

Britney Starr Joins SportDOG Brand® as Marketing Specialist

Knoxville, Tennessee (May 1, 2015) – SportDOG Brand, the industry-leading manufacturer of electronic dog training products and accessories, has announced the hiring of Britney Starr as the company’s new Marketing Specialist.

Starr brings a diverse industry background to her new position. “Our success comes from our dedication to designing products in the field, not from behind a desk,” said Gretchen Goodson, SportDOG Brand Marketing Manager. “Britney’s broad experience makes her a great fit for a culture like ours.”

A southpaw from Michigan’s “North Woods,” Starr is a lifelong outdoorswoman and shooting enthusiast with a passion for upland bird hunting, German shorthaired pointers, and over-and-under shotguns. A graduate of Western Michigan University, Britney holds a degree in journalism.

She is the captain of 2 Vets Arms 3-gun team, a pro-staffer for Próis Hunting & Field Apparel, founder of the Women’s Outdoor & Shooting Industry Dinner, a member of Safari Club International, the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ruffed Grouse Society, Pheasants Forever, and a charter member of the American Woodcock Society. Britney has written for numerous publications in the outdoor and shooting markets, and you can find her byline in American Hunter, Upland Almanac, Turkey Country, Game & Fish Magazine, African Hunting Gazette, GunUp, Ultimate Upland, OutdoorHub, Women’s Outdoor News and The Daily Caller.

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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2015 Women’s Outdoor & Shooting Industry Dinner

Prima Outdoors at GGDIt was just 3 years ago when Britney Starr, founder of the Women’s Outdoor & Shooting Industry Dinner, attended her first SHOT Show. While there she ran into friends representing different hunting and shooting sports from all over the country. She immediately recognized the need for a coordinated event in which the growing number of female members of the outdoor community could connect with each other, and the #GunGirlDinner was born. 

The only event of its kind, the Gun Girl Dinner has grown in guests and grandeur each year, attracting women from all fields in the outdoors. Lasermax, the headlining sponsor, supported the event from day one. This year, Britney was grateful to sign on many first time sponsors, including Ultimate Upland. “We’re grateful to have Brian’s support and the support of the upland community,” Britney said. She hunts with Brian and his dogs each year in her home state of Michigan. “He’s always excited about trying to get more women into upland hunting.” 

This year’s event theme was “Birds of Feather,” and attendees were encouraged to sport feather accessories to embrace the theme. Past years have included Western and Old Hollywood Glam themes. “We thought the ‘Birds of Feather’ theme was perfect. It brought together hunting and the idea of people with similar interests spending time together. Tarra Stoddard, editor of “The American Woman Shooter,” attended for the first time this year and made many connections that she hopes will last a lifetime. “It is important to have these dinners so we as a group of women can continue to support and help the women’s industry grow,” said Tarra. 

Rachel Ahtila, winner of the 2013 Prois Award, was there representing Prima Outdoors, and agrees the Gun Girl Dinner is an “event like no other,” representing a movement that is “spreading like wildfire.” Rachel said, “The women that this event brings together are second to none. They are real women, with real stories of inspiration and passion. The success of the evening is based upon the friendships that are formed, the community it supports, and the growth to include more each year. Ultimately, that is goal for all the women and the companies they represent here at the function. We stand together and support each other.”

This year, with the enthusiasm of a committee working on the dinner, many new ideas were added. It was the first time the event included a media hour, sponsored by XS Sight Systems. “We wanted to find a way to include men and women who are involved in companies that sponsor the event or are members of the media and give them a chance to network,” said Britney. There was also a silent auction benefiting the Task Force Dagger Foundation, dedicated to providing immediate assistance to wounded, ill, injured soldiers and the families of casualties from US Army Special Operations Command. 

Kali Parmley, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Communications Specialist said, “It was an honor to be invited to a dinner where so many of the women that I look up to in the outdoor industry were gathered. There are numerous female hunters who are making waves in our industry and the dinner was a perfect way for me to meet many new ladies who share the same passions as I do. We as women are a growing group in the outdoors and seeing so many ladies gathered to celebrate that was truly inspirational.” 

 The dinner surpassed all expectations with almost 300 women in attendance. “It’s not just about networking,” Britney said. “It’s about celebrating what we have achieved together as a community and the momentum continues to build.” She’s already excited about planning next year’s event and grateful to the hard working committee who have built upon her original idea. 

For more information about the Gun Girl Dinner, contact Britney Starr at gungirldinner@gmail.com

*Photos courtesy of the extremely talented huntress and photographer Carrie Zylka. 

Birds of a Feather

Ladies of GGD

Evening of GGD

GGD Sponsor Award
Locked out of the event, Ultimate Upland founder and his lady Rio admire their award.