Fields for pheasants

A tallgrass prairie planting on the northeast side of Cambridge offers a 5-acre meadow wonderland for pheasants and other wildlife. A typical Pheasants Forever project works with 5 to 30 acres. This one is filled with yellow and purple cone flowers, Indian grass, switch grass and Canada wild rye.

Annual Pheasants Forever Banquet Aug. 17 supports local habitat projects: The good habitat work the Isanti County Pheasants Forever performs will be supported when the chapter hosts its annual membership banquet Friday, Aug. 17 at the Cambridge American Legion. Social hour starts at 5 p.m., the dinner is at 6 p.m., with raffles and silent auction a big part of the night.

“People don’t realize the amount of money spent locally on projects out of our organization,” said PF member and Isanti Co Soil & Water manager Mark DeMuth. “Mostly of late, we spend our money on native prairie seedings which are great for nesting cover and winter cover. The insects which collect there are also great feed for pheasants and other species.”

Long-time Pheasants Forever member, former banquet chair and present district board member Al Koczur says the hard work pulling off a good banquet is worth it. The chapter also hosts a spring pheasant hunt at Pheasant Ridge Club near Ogilvie which raises money for a special fall youth hunt.

“We’re a little more blue-collar banquet, not really the big- spenders type of event,” he said. “We have 16 to 17 high-quality guns in the raffle. We have a fishing trip to Border  View on Lake of the Woods that a lot of people like to go after in the raffle. We have a silent auction, not a live auction, so the banquet goes by quickly.

“The main thing is the funds we make stays here in Isanti County for the most part. The only funds that go on to nationals are part of the memberships. That allows Pheasant Forever to give the funds to Soil & Water for a 75 percent cost share with landowners for habitat projects. If farmers do the tilling site work, 100 percent of the seed and seeding costs can be covered by Pheasants Forever.”

With all the habitat work and after a couple good winters, pheasants are holding their own in east-central Minnesota. DeMuth and Josh Bork of USDA NRCS both said they’ve spotted good numbers of broods this summer.

A key conservation concern of late is the high corn prices prompting more farmers to till more land.

“We might not be putting a lot of acres into CRP, but the acres we are putting in are the most beneficial. We’re saving soil, particularly in buffer areas, and we’re growing pheasants,” said Bork.

– Story & photo by Greg Hunt