January 29th, 2001
The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
Archive of Readers Casts
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .
Habitat Is The Key To Game Numbers
The last day of Wyoming's upland game bird season was
really special for me. I finagled an invite to hunt
some of the best bird habitat I have ever seen in the
State. It seems that we were in pheasants most all
of the day. The morning was a mix of bountiful
sharp-tailed grouse and numerous pheasants.
If I could have hit my rear end with both hands I would
have limited out in a couple of hours, but I missed
the easy going away shots time after time. The pheasants
I got were high, passing shots on cagey old birds that
had gotten up wild and inadvertently passed too close to me.
The ground was covered with eight to 12 inches of snow
yet there was plenty of cover - wheat grasses, orchard
grass, bromes, cattails, chokecherry, wild plum,
skunkbrush, willow, nanny berry, wild rose, and
buffaloberry. Though we have experienced a tough
winter already, the three pheasants I shot had gobs
of fat. Not only were there plenty of birds, but also
they were wintering well.
Why were there so many birds and why were they doing so
well? I think it all can be attributed to the landowner.
Though he runs a cattle operation, he has taken
considerable effort to provide adequate habitat for
the game birds on his property.
He has fenced the riparian areas along the two creeks
that flow through his property. His cattle still have
access to the creeks at strategically placed water gaps.
The brush and trees that provide shade and bank stability
for the creeks are protected.
The rancher has encouraged beaver to create ponds on
one of the creeks on the property. Wyoming Game & Fish
personnel have worked with the landowner to transplant
several beavers to the creek. The beaver are making
great strides in providing marshlands, sediment reservoirs,
and trout habitat.
Rest rotation and rotation grazing plans keep the
orchard grass-brome grass-wheat grass pastures high
According to Bert Jellison, Wyoming Game & Fish habitat
biologist, the science-based grazing scheme used on the
ranch is "quick and light." The cattle are put in on
a pasture for two weeks or so and allowed to graze most
of the leafy material. Then the cattle are moved to
another pasture. The vegetation on the grazed pasture
bounces back quickly leaving lots of residual cover.
"Residual cover is important for Wyoming's upland birds,"
states Jellison, "the bigger the bird, the more cover
that is needed for it to nest successfully. Around here,
pheasants, sage grouse, and mallards need lots of cover
in order to bring off their clutches. The ranch's grazing
scheme leaves lots of residual cover and enables the
pheasants to be very successful."
Occasionally, the cattle are grazed in the riparian areas,
usually winter time, to cut down on the amount of brush
and to knock down thick grass growth.
The landowner has put in several stock ponds and reservoirs
to promote better pasture utilization, provide waterfowl
and game bird habitat, and provide for fisheries.
Deer hunters harvested 73 deer on the ranch this year so
it is evident that not only do the game birds, fish, and
waterfowl benefit from the land management practices, but
the big game as well. (Elk, antelope, and moose utilize
the property, too).
Perhaps you're thinking that this is all well and nice,
but what is the point? Well, much of this work was done
with grants from organizations like Ducks Unlimited, and
Pheasants Forever. Other help came from the Federal
Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) in the
form of a Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) grant. These
grants enabled the rancher to provide fish and wildlife
habitat at a minimal cost.
With the proper help and guidance a ranch can be run
for cattle and wildlife. They don't have to exclusive,
but inclusive. If there is plenty of water and forage
for the cattle, there can also be plenty for the wildlife
and fish. ~ Bob Krumm
Bob Krumm is a first-class guide who specializes on fishing
the Big Horn River in Montana, (and if there is terrific
fishing somewhere else he'll know about that too.) Bob has
written several other fine articles for the
Eye Of The Guides series here
on FAOL. He is also a commericial fly tier who owns the
Blue Quill Fly Company
which will even do your custom tying! You can reach him at:
1-307-673-1505 or by email at:
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