Group aims to forever preserve hunting lands

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 18, 2003

The Annual Pheasants Forever Banquet will be held at the Austin Country Club on Saturday. The evening begins with a social hour at 5 p.m. and a buffet style banquet with two meats that will be served at 7 p.m.

This is quite an affair with a pheasant carved out of butter and an ice sculpture carved out of the Pheasants Forever logo. The evening is full of raffle drawings for a large variety of prizes to be given away.

The president of the Mower County chapter of Pheasants Forever is David Hagen. This group is in its third year in Mower County. There are more than 500 chapters of Pheasants Forever in 26 states with more than 100,000 members. The national organization recently celebrated their 28th year.

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"We do a lot of work with the legislatures and lobbying. We helped pass the 2003 farm bill where we will see more land in CPR. I think we should really be called Habitat Forever instead of Pheasants Forever," Hagen said.

Hagen acknowledges that the wildlife population for game birds has declined considerably the last 30 years.

This is because of land development and with the bigger machinery that farmers use they don’t set aside any land for habitat, he said. Many of the people in Pheasants Forever own large plots of land and this group helps landowners set up feed plots for game birds.

"We show them the proper way to have feed plots. Don't set them under a tree where hawks and owls perch and can come down and eat the birds. Placing feed plots under trees is a smorgasbord for predators. Place a feed plot of shelled corn in an open area where the bird can run for cover if it is attacked," Hagen said.

January, February and March are crucial times for setting up feed plots for game birds. These are the months that many die if they do not have access to food.

Human progress is not the only reason that there has been a decline in game bird population. Coyote, fox, skunks, raccoons and deer will eat game bird eggs. This is another reason that more habitats are needed.

"Our banquet is our big fundraiser. Last year we raised $28,000 in one night. Six thousand dollars of that was used to hire a man to solicit buffer strips in Mower County. We got 75 contracts that will set aside these buffer strips for 15 years. We are the No. 1 county in southern Minnesota to have so many sign up to set aside these buffer strips," Hagen said.

Pheasants Forever meets the first Wednesday of each month at the Rudy Rupner Building at the Hormel Nature Center.

To get ready for their banquet, they meet weekly in December and January.

"We have great people involved in our organization. We get wonderful sponsors each year for the banquet. We are sponsoring a youth shoot this summer. Our main work in this organization is to acquire more habitat," Hagen said.

The Habitat chairman for Pheasants Forever is Leif Erichson and Hagen says he really knows his stuff.

The treasurer for the group is Arlen Schamber and Hagen says that they would be lost without him.

"I hunt pheasant, chuckers and quail. I hunt in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska and South Dakota. When I hunt I get an overall view of how the habitats have declined. I do some guiding in Wisconsin. I promote fly-in fishing trips to Ontario each year," Hagen said.

Besides promoting habitat, Pheasants Forever teaches hunters to be courteous to landowners. It has become harder to hunt on private land then in the past. Pheasants Forever are always looking for new members. To get tickets for their banquet or find more about this organization, contact Hagen at 437-6229.