2018 Hunting Ranch Resolutions

Stop apologizing for caring about wildlife...
2017 was a tough year on the prairie in many respects.  Drought, serious health issues, problems with our "friends" at the local USDA office.  And the hunting was spotty.  Our season was cut short, and we did not shoot any deer for the first time in five years.  We had several dozen expensive decoys freeze in and are likely trashed -- won't know until May. Throw in some electrical and plumbing problems and well, welcome to our world.

But we have resolved to focus on the positive in 2018, like providing more hunting opportunities for families and kids. And we are working toward "Financial Peace", a term coined by Dave Ramsey, who sez "It's all God's money, we are just managing it."  For us that means donating hunting lease proceeds to some worthy causes in North Dakota, like Tracy's Sanctuary House in Bismarck. And free hunts for kids.

Living in and on the prairie, right in the Missouri Coteau of North Dakota, it is easy to take the landscape for granted.  In truth, our neighbors, many of whom are fourth generation landowners, lost perspective years ago; wet prairie potholes are just impediments to the plow and represent lost income. And ducks...why would anyone worry about much less hunt ducks?  It's understandable coming from people carving a living out of a windswept, often brutally cold landscape. And there have been times when we too have thrown up our hands and asked "Why are we putting up with this --- drought, flooding, snow, windstorm..."  Take your pick. 

We put up with it because every so often there are magical mornings on the prairie when the warm sunshine hits you just so over your shoulder and the meadowlarks sing their hearts out and the ducks play hopscotch all morning between ponds surrounding the house. And the prairie is alive and pulsing and claiming its rightful place on the yearly calendar and cosmos. And so are you.

Along those lines we are resolved in 2018 to no longer apologize for "taking care of the wildlife" rather than leveraging every square foot of soil into crop production.  And we put more value on relationships, with our hunting friends and the folks we work with on our hay and pasture land.  You like how we are managing our land?  Good. You don't like how we are managing our land? That's okay too, 'cause we no longer care what you think.  We are siding with wildlife, you can side with Big Ag, the chemical outfits, or your crabby uncle in Topeka.  It's a free country.  We own a piece of the most productive waterfowl breeding habitat in the world -- and we are going to take care of it.

We are planning our food plots now, and working up wildlife-friendly contracts on our hay and pasture -- delayed haying, rotational grazing.  "But your food plots are taking hayland out of production!"  Yes, they are. And they are not harvested, except by the critters.  We know the pheasants and sharpies are in our corn and sorghum plots right now, and the deer are in every night.  And that will help them get thru another winter.  Seems like a fair enough trade-off. 

In many respects we have made peace with the land, if not with production farming or other competing interests. But people come and go; in the end we are all just incidental caretakers of a land spectrum measured in eons.  For our tiny part we are helping, rather than hurting it, along the way.

In 2018, it's a good feeling. 

The author is a former US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Department of Agriculture manager. In retirement he owns and operates Prairie Smoke Ranch, located in central North Dakota, the duck hunting hub of the northern plains. All rights reserved.
 

 





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