“A pigeon, any pigeon, is a remarkable game bird. It is faster than any other bird we hunt, tougher than most, and is a treasure at the table. Call it “squab” and people will happily drop $35 for an entree at a fancy bistro. But call it “pigeon,” and people start judging you and your life choices.
I am here to say that pigeons, especially our native band-tailed pigeon, ought to be as cherished as the mountain quail and blue grouse they live among. All three are symbols of the Sierra, of early autumn days spent hiking dusty slopes, ears tuned, neck craned, shotgun ready. They are hard-won birds, to be cooked with reverence”.
“One hot afternoon in August I sat under the elm, idling, when I saw a deer pass across a small opening a quarter-mile east. A deer trail crosses our farm, and at this point any deer traveling is briefly visible from the shack.
I then realized that half an hour before I had moved my chair to the best spot for watching the deer trail; that I had done this habitually for years, without being clearly conscious of it. This led to the thought that by cutting some brush I could widen the zone of visibility. Before night the swath was cleared, and within the month I detected several deer which otherwise could likely have passed unseen.
The new deer swath was pointed out to a series of weekend guests for the purpose of watching their later reactions to it. It was soon clear that most of them forgot it quickly, while others watched it, as I did, whenever chance allowed. The upshot was the realization that there are four categories of outdoorsmen: deer hunters, duck hunters, bird hunters, and non-hunters. These categories have nothing to do with sex or age, or accoutrements; they represent four diverse habits of the human eye. The deer hunter habitually watches the next bend; the duck hunter watches the skyline; the bird hunter watches the dog; the non-hunter does not watch.
When the deer hunter sits down he sits where he can see ahead, and with his back to something. The duck hunter sits where he can see overhead, and behind something. The non-hunter sits where he is comfortable. None of these watches the dog. The bird hunter watches only the dog…”
From the chapter entitled “The Deer Swath” in A Sand County Almanac”, by Aldo Leopold.
I read this for the first time many years ago, and the basic premise of it has stuck in my mind ever since. It is classic Leopold, whose writings always seems to leave behind more thought-provoking questions than he answers. He was, and still is, one of the preeminent teachers of the natural world.
Looking back, I realize now that I have always sat with shoulders squared up to something at my back, watching.
Perhaps I am just a deer hunter at heart. It is the promise of deer, for which I wait.
The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) is the unified strategic effort of 25 state fish and wildlife agencies and various conservation organizations — all under the umbrella of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee — to restore wild populations of bobwhite quail in this country to levels comparable to 1980.
The first such effort, in 2002, was a paper-based plan by the Southeastern Quail Study Group under the umbrella of Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies. That plan, termed the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, attracted considerable attention around the country, including that of the other states in the bobwhite quail range. The result was a broad expansion of the effort and a revision of the plan (and the Southeastern Quail Study Group itself, now the National Bobwhite Technical Committee) to include 25 states in the bobwhite’s core range.
Today, NBCI is a multi-faceted initiative characterized by key elements:
an easily updated, online strategic (NBCI 2.0) plan released in March 2011
a massive and easily updated online Geographic Information System (GIS)-based conservation tool to help state biologists and other conservation planners identify and achieve individual state objectives within the overall national strategy, also released in March 2011. (Over 600 biologists within the bobwhite’s range participated in building this conservation tool.)
The NBCI Coordinated Implementation Program (CIP) to help states adapt the national strategy to the local level
A small team of specialists in grasslands, forestry, government, communications and research to work at regional and national levels to identify opportunities and remove obstacles to bobwhite restoration
Working lands habitats
Bobwhites and grassland birds can be increased and sustained on working public and private lands across their range by improving and managing native grassland and early successional habitats, accomplished through modest, voluntary adjustments in how humans manage rural land.
Landscape-scale habitat problem
Long-term, widespread population declines for bobwhites and grassland birds arise predominantly from subtle but significant landscape-scale changes occurring over several decades in how humans use and manage rural land.
Reversing long-term, widespread population declines of wild bobwhites, associated grassland birds and the native grassland ecosystems in whichthey thrive is an important wildlife conservation objective and an overdue stewardship responsibility.
Northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) are a traditional and valued part of our nation’s cultural, rural, hunting and economic heritage. Widespread restoration of huntable populations of wild quail will have myriad positive societal benefits for individuals and families, rural communities, cultures and economies.
State wildlife agencies bear legal authority and leadership responsibility for bobwhite conservation, while migratory grassland birds legally are a legal co-responsibility with the federal government; however, the vast majority of actual and potential grassland bird habitats is privately owned.
Partnerships and collaboration
Restoration success depends on a comprehensive network of deliberate, vigorous and sustained collaboration with land owners and managers by state, federal and local governments as well as by corporate, non-profit, and individual private conservationists.
Success requires a long-term, range-wide strategic campaign combined with coordinated, effective action at all levels of society and government, to create a public movement to address conservation policy barriers and opportunities that have the needed landscape-scale influences.
Adaptive resource management principles will inform and increase the efficiency of restoration and management and to satisfy multi-resource and multi-species needs.
Following a half-century of decline, landscape-scale restoration of bobwhite and grassland bird habitats and populations across their range will require determined and sustained conservation leadership, priority, funding and focus for decades to come.
You Can Help
The bobwhite quail and the suite of other species in peril won’t survive as part of America’s landscape without a larger community working toward the goal. Here are a few things you can do to help:
First, spread the word about the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative by sharing this website with friends and acquaintances who care about bobwhite quail and/or the suite of other wildlife species being wiped out by destruction of their habitat.
Keep current with efforts to save the bobwhite by subscribing to NBCI news releases and the NBCI blog, and encourage others to do the same. Keep passing that information along to others.
NBCI is an organized effort by the states for the states, so contact your state department of conservation or fish & wildlife commission (check the web links under About Us), tell them you support their efforts to restore quail to America’s landscape and ask them how you can help.
Join one of the non-governmental grassroots organizations, like Quail Forever, Quail and Upland Wildlife Foundation, Quail Coalition or the National Wild Turkey Federation (yes, they have a effort on the quail’s behalf), and put your boots on the ground to help restore habitat in areas targeted by your state. (Again, check the web links under About Us/State Quail Coordinators.)
See if any members of your Congressional delegation is a member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. If so, contact him/her about the bobwhite’s plight and the NBCI.
Contact your local county extension office and ask them what they are doing to promote improved quail habitat with agricultural interests in the county. Share the NBCI story with them.
Ask your state forestry commission how they are working with the state’s wildlife biologists to manage state forests in a way that will help recover wild quail populations. Share the NBCI story with them.
Donate dollars to the cause. NBCI, working with its headquarters institution the University of Tennessee, is establishing an avenue to allow financial contributions, including establishment of an endowment to help support what is sure to be a long-term effort.
“POETRY & REVOLUTION (OR ADVENTURE) BEFORE BREAKFAST” – EDWARD ABBEY
There’s a new internet podcast out there – and the name of the game is adventure! If you are a fan of this blog, or of all things outside, then you may find it to be the perfect complement to the written word.
Mr. Martin Lamberti has been kind enough to include one of our articles in his audio selections, and it is quite clear that he has a rare gift for voice and interpretation. We are honored to be part of the that audible experience.
So, if I may quote from the header:
“Welcome to AdventureCast! Here, we read real life adventure stories and guides, and interview amazing adventurers from around the world. Our aim is two-fold, firstly to inspire everyday people to get out there, explore and create their own adventures. And secondly to create a new platform for adventurers and writers to share their incredible stories”.
The infamous Arizona Strip is home to world class mule deer hunting, and I happened to be lucky enough to draw an archery tag. My wife and our thirteen-month-old daughter came with me and dropped me off so I could take a quick two-mile hike and meet up with them right at dark.
I had an hour and a half of light as I headed away from the road into a wilderness area with only my bow and radio. The area was nothing but thick pines and lots of fallen trees, with old two-acre spot burns every quarter mile. As I came to the last open area, I only had about forty-five minutes of shooting light left.
It was a large meadow with nothing but fallen trees and six-foot jack pines every so often. I could see a small mound directly in front of me about 20 yards away that would give me a view of the entire area, so I slowly walked to the top of it and began to scan the meadow.
As soon as I looked to my left I saw a doe staring right at me on the far side of the clearing. I froze every muscle in my body and watched her for five seconds before I saw a buck pick up its head while chewing some grass giving me the opportunity to see how big he was. I could tell he was a four-point with what looked like tall deep forks in the back. This was the buck that fits exactly what I wanted.
To his right, I then saw three or four other smaller bucks and all were still feeding. I could tell that the doe was the only one who knew I was there. I slowly grabbed my rangefinder and brought it up to my right eye.
I couldn’t get an accurate reading on her or the buck since the buck fever kicked in and I was shaking so bad. My rangefinder read 28, 238, 100, 15, 73. I took a deep breath and then ranged a big pine tree off to her left and it read 102 yards.
Since I was in full camouflage and had a very soft breeze blowing on my face, I knew the doe wasn’t too spooked as she didn’t know what I was. I stayed frozen for 10 minutes until she turned her head to the right and I slowly ducked down so that a big fallen tree hid me from her line of sight. I then belly crawled to my left about 5 feet to a tree to block myself from her view.
I could still see the bucks feeding and facing away from me. I crawled straight towards the doe making sure to keep the tree directly between us. After crawling as slow as I could for 15 minutes, I finally made it to the tree. I slowly stood up and took one step past the tree and a small buck looked up right at me.
I knew I couldn’t go any further. I grabbed my rangefinder and ranged the bigger buck, he was sixty-five yards from me. He was still feeding and stepped broadside. I attached my release and drew my bow, putting my seventy-yard pin just below the base of his belly.
At full draw, I realized that I had a six-inch gap between two small pine trees just forty yards away. I knew if I could get just the arrow between those trees the flight path to the buck would be clear. I looked back at the buck and a smaller buck had stepped out in front of him. I decided to wait at full draw to see if he would move out of the way.
After about 30 seconds he took several slow steps and he was out of the way but now the bigger buck was facing directly away from me. After roughly 5 seconds, he took one small step to his left giving me a steep quartering away shot. I moved my pins from his heart to about three-quarters of the way back on his body and I softly squeezed the trigger on my release and held my finish.
I then watched the glowing red knock fly perfectly through the six-inch window until the shaft of the arrow disappeared as it penetrated deep inside the deer’s innards only leaving the fletching of a twenty-eight-inch arrow sticking out of the buck. As he ran off the 6 smaller bucks followed.
I marked the location on my radio and then met up with my wife and daughter before it got too dark. Then after an hour wait, and a slow thirty-minute tracking, we found my buck only a few hundred yards from where I shot him. These moments are why I bow hunt, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect outcome with my family.