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Thread: A little or a lot, the saga of hard and fast rules!

  1. #1
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    Default A little or a lot, the saga of hard and fast rules!

    I had a conservation with an earnest young habitat officer, who shall remain anonymous here. Regarding the plant species which not in favor. We agreed on brome and fescue, though neither is banned as noxious invader. Where I had a diversion of the party line, is red cedar, multiflora rose, and certain lespedeza plants. My theory is that especially bobwhite quail management, a lot will run over everything, is unacceptable, but managed, like we must for quail, a little bit is valuable. In the sixities, Missouri had harvests of between 2M-4M quail annually! Seems unbelievable now. We had help. Limited fescue, even more limited brome, broken-up ag. fields, (you farmers remember a farm called 4 bottom farm), firewood was harvested, timber was burned annually, (no ticks!), small grain, rotation to avoid fertilizer, accept manure, plowed under cover crops, and bone meal, limited pesticides. In those days we had western red cedar hedgerows, every fence line with native prairie grass, and lespedeza, every field corner had a multiflora or blackberry bramble, usually a few cedars or pin oaks with leaves staying on all winter. Now called a covey headquarters! Quail ate lespedeza seeds and foliage, eat rose hips, as do ALL song birds, Cardinal, Junco's, Mocking birds, roosted safely under the multiflora or huddled in worse weather under a cedar tree or under the pin oak canopy, song birds above. Planting vast acres of prairie grass will not solve all quail issues. If we allow fescue to be legal to plant, why can't I manage multiflora, cedars, and lespedeza? Especially since quail is my crop! My heaven we can't even get any help eradicating thistle from the state, in fact my county has a "garden" of that along the roadway. My point is this. At one point in time butter was bad for you, so we went to margarine, tasted bad and now worse that butter! Sugar, no no, went to sachrinne and aspertame. Now sugar it seems does not create cancer cells. Hard fast rules by break necked and hasty government managers, remind me of the old government joke, "We are the government, and we are here to help!" Meanwhile, I tend my root grafting of multiflora rose, lespedeza, selective cedar trees, and brushy oaks, I found and transplanted locally. I have seen my quail using, feeding, and roosting all week in there vicinity along my drive way. A little to help the cause.

  2. #2
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    Wow, O&N, you got a lot of shot in that ounce and a quarter load!!! A lot depends on your capability, neighbors, native species, and budget of both time and money. A lot of wildlife management deals with structure. Often, a number of plants "can" provide that structure within a habitat. The most beneficial species do that without an aggressive attempt to become the only species on the landscape. Others will try to dominate your acreage and jump fences onto your neighbors at the same time. IF you can use the tamer species to perform the same task that the more aggressive species does, you will be way ahead to do so. In the consideration of multi-flora rose and cedar, they remained in control (or so we thought) for many years because of the management practices of the time and the strength of native habitats in healthy condition. However, as more pressures were applied to those native species and more exotics were competing with them for space AND those management practices became lost on the land; those exotic species due to their aggressive nature, lack of natural controls, and expanding seed source, have taken over.

    From a management standpoint, look at the problems that are moving across our country. 40 years ago, cedars weren't a problem across most of Kansas. Today, on the other hand, we have problems with expanding cedar populations in even the farthest west counties. There are places along I35 near Topeka that used to be tall-grass prairie that are now cedar woodlands that are canopied out. Why does that matter? Well, currently those acres are lost to the production of prairie chicken, quail, and to a large extent, white-tailed deer! From a human perspective, those plants have reduced land values, increased wildfire potential, increased pollen pollution, increased erosion, decreased hydrology, besides what they have done to the indigenous prairie species. Having managed wildlife areas for over 30 years, I can tell you that one of my primary costs is dealing with exotic species that were planted before we knew better that continue to spread across acres of better habitat. If I didn't have to deal with cedar, elm, locust, multiflora rose, sericea lespedeza, johnsongrass, purple loosestrife, rough-leafed dogwood, phragmites, bindweed, and any number of other exotic species, I would have a lot more time and $ to expend toward practices that would increase game species. My challenge to you is to take a road trip. Drive from home either east or west for 200 or more miles and see how succession changes with the rainfall belt. Also look at how the dominance of exotic species increases or decreases as you travel. I guess it boils down to the difference between managing habitat where natural techniques keep species in balance or one where those (inexpensive) techniques are a lot less effective and the habitat trends toward dominance by 1 or few species. If stability is supported by diversity, then invasive exotics lead toward instability. Often, there are other species that can fulfill that role without running amuk outside of the row that they were planted in. Am I hitting the mark here at all?
    Trust the dog!

    Troy Smith

  3. #3
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    Finally some quality posts. How do I know? these are almost like a foreign language to me.

    I am bringing big ag to conservation as I am just coming back from MO after buying and autosteer tractor no till drill. all JD.

    I love cedars and russian olives and all other invasive species because it seems like the pheasants are drawn to them.

    I have learned that one persons invasive is another persons highly desireable.

    Lot of "I" statements there. LOL.

    Precision Conservation is where its at boys. Thought I coined this term but the biologists on Cheasapeke Bay already used it a few years back.

  4. #4
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    Just so I can rush this evolution, lets throw in one of the biggest exotics.......the ring-necked pheasant. As we all know, this import from the orient has flourished here because we created a habitat that hadn't existed pre-man! As such, the supposition that "native" species might, or would fill all of the habitat niches would be a stretch. You have to ask yourself where the variety of crop species/varieties we use also came from. Somewhere, by either chance or luck or whatever, we did good and pheasants have flourished due to agriculture that, in itself, is an exotic here.
    Trust the dog!

    Troy Smith

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prairie Drifter View Post
    Wow, O&N, you got a lot of shot in that ounce and a quarter load!!! A lot depends on your capability, neighbors, native species, and budget of both time and money. A lot of wildlife management deals with structure. Often, a number of plants "can" provide that structure within a habitat. The most beneficial species do that without an aggressive attempt to become the only species on the landscape. Others will try to dominate your acreage and jump fences onto your neighbors at the same time. IF you can use the tamer species to perform the same task that the more aggressive species does, you will be way ahead to do so. In the consideration of multi-flora rose and cedar, they remained in control (or so we thought) for many years because of the management practices of the time and the strength of native habitats in healthy condition. However, as more pressures were applied to those native species and more exotics were competing with them for space AND those management practices became lost on the land; those exotic species due to their aggressive nature, lack of natural controls, and expanding seed source, have taken over.

    From a management standpoint, look at the problems that are moving across our country. 40 years ago, cedars weren't a problem across most of Kansas. Today, on the other hand, we have problems with expanding cedar populations in even the farthest west counties. There are places along I35 near Topeka that used to be tall-grass prairie that are now cedar woodlands that are canopied out. Why does that matter? Well, currently those acres are lost to the production of prairie chicken, quail, and to a large extent, white-tailed deer! From a human perspective, those plants have reduced land values, increased wildfire potential, increased pollen pollution, increased erosion, decreased hydrology, besides what they have done to the indigenous prairie species. Having managed wildlife areas for over 30 years, I can tell you that one of my primary costs is dealing with exotic species that were planted before we knew better that continue to spread across acres of better habitat. If I didn't have to deal with cedar, elm, locust, multiflora rose, sericea lespedeza, johnsongrass, purple loosestrife, rough-leafed dogwood, phragmites, bindweed, and any number of other exotic species, I would have a lot more time and $ to expend toward practices that would increase game species. My challenge to you is to take a road trip. Drive from home either east or west for 200 or more miles and see how succession changes with the rainfall belt. Also look at how the dominance of exotic species increases or decreases as you travel. I guess it boils down to the difference between managing habitat where natural techniques keep species in balance or one where those (inexpensive) techniques are a lot less effective and the habitat trends toward dominance by 1 or few species. If stability is supported by diversity, then invasive exotics lead toward instability. Often, there are other species that can fulfill that role without running amuk outside of the row that they were planted in. Am I hitting the mark here at all?
    Didn't the conservation departments send out plants and encourage planting of multiflora rose? lespedeza? ( I use common pasture lespedeza not sericea), cedars are easy to control....burn them! and they are natural. I have been to every state you describe, and recognize the subtly of the land. For instance I am not going to prescribe multiflora in the sandhills! As we speak I went to the Missouri conservation plant bundles, and yes indeed, I can order and have roughleaved dogwood delivered for my quail habitat! So my question is with all the "current rules" espoused as gospel, why did we prescribe the opposite 10-20 years ago. Did we not know better then?, or maybe now! We had quail then! now not so much. Now we have USFG decrying pheasants as not native, (like us Europeans!) Huns should go too! What about the wonderful canadian rye in my grass seed bundle? Does Kansas exclude that? Not Pheasants Forever! I see the same bone headed, behind the desk decisions repeated. I agree that different parcels and different species require different prescriptions. Local management per parcel should have the latitude to make a determination, at each individual location, Kansas as any other state has variety, not a cookie cutter democratic all for one and one for all. In my circumstance, I live adjacent to the suburbs, habitat is farm fields, and putrid fescue pasture. I am the only habitat. We have a lot of stray dumped cats, and all kinds of predators from multiple hawks, owls, weasels, skunks, coons, possums, foxes and at least one bobcat I ran over in the drive with a chicken in it's jaw. Multiflora is part of the answer, protects the song birds on a perch, escape cover from land based predators, food and cover. Mine are like Normandy tank traps, yes the predators get in them as well, prey can escape and hide quickly. I sure see increased variety of songbirds, quail, and a side benefit of a lot of rabbits, deer and turkey too. I keep blackberries, service berry, buck brush, wild plum dispersed. My challenge is the %&#! black locust. At the end of the day, I would hope flexibility of management, not some granite stone proclamation. Our quail management ideas are from the 1930's for the most part, Aldo Leopold.

  6. #6
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    O&N, you're not in left field at all. Things do change and we're never always right. A lot of my job today in undoing what my predecessors did using the old knowledge yesterday. We used to think quail were monogamous, they're not. My area used to be the State multi-flora rose nursery, now we fight the problem. We used to stock pen-reared quail as my area was also the State quail farm, now we know that's a waste of time and money. We do learn as we go on, and unfortunately, much of our noxious weed policy is based on agricultural interests alone. Being mandated to spend money to control plants that are beneficial to our production seems ludicrous, but sometimes it fits better into the big picture than the pixel that is our ground. If plum will perform the protective function as rose and not run rampant across the landscape, use plum. If Oriental Arborvitae will perform the same function as redcedar and will stay in the planting where you put it, use the arborvitae. The dogwood has it's place, but out of that place it can be too dominant. It's funny that 100 years ago our predecessors planted Siberian Elm and other species because that is all they thought would grow here, but now we have many different species making up our timber and those "hearty" species are now expanding out of control. If I could wave a wand and start over on my area with the current knowledge and eliminate the species that waste my precious time and money, I would. In 50 years, will my successor want to change things, probably. Biology isn't all hard and fast rules. Or maybe better said, we don't always know what the hard and fast rules of biology are, but we're getting there. I worry, the same people that gave us multi-flora rose, crown vetch, Johnson grass, Siberian Elm, Locust, and many of the other problems of today are now giving us GMO corn, roundup ready soybeans, glyphosate, clones, and many other "new discoveries" that may well kill or deform us down the road. The old adage of "keep it simple stupid" rings in my ears from time-to-time. Maybe I need to listen more.
    Trust the dog!

    Troy Smith

  7. #7
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    I think that the simple answer to where we are today and why Missouri is no longer producing 2-4M quail before the gun is that plant succession has slid past the adaptive niche for quail. For the very reasons you originally posted, woody cover, fescue, brome, and modern farming have replaced the native prairie, weedy cover and patchwork farming of the past. We didn't used to have wheat farmers or corn farmers, we had farmers and they all planted any number of crops in fields that they could manage with their smaller equipment. It is now harder to do the burning we did then because we've built buildings out in the flammable habitat, have a smokey bear mentality, and have air quality rules. We'd have more quail if everyone burned wood for heat. Not happening. I do challenge you to get some 10-50 year old aerial photos of your place or places you hunt and compare what was there then to what is there now. It'll be quite educational. (fixed it Tom)
    Last edited by Prairie Drifter; 01-21-2016 at 09:49 PM.
    Trust the dog!

    Troy Smith

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prairie Drifter View Post
    O&N, you're not in left field at all. Things do change and we're never always right. A lot of my job today in undoing what my predecessors did using the old knowledge yesterday. We used to think quail were monogamous, they're not. My area used to be the State multi-flora rose nursery, now we fight the problem. We used to stock pen-reared quail as my area was also the State quail farm, now we know that's a waste of time and money. We do learn as we go on, and unfortunately, much of our noxious weed policy is based on agricultural interests alone. Being mandated to spend money to control plants that are beneficial to our production seems ludicrous, but sometimes it fits better into the big picture than the pixel that is our ground. If plum will perform the protective function as rose and not run rampant across the landscape, use plum. If Oriental Arborvitae will perform the same function as redcedar and will stay in the planting where you put it, use the arborvitae. The dogwood has it's place, but out of that place it can be too dominant. It's funny that 100 years ago our predecessors planted Siberian Elm and other species because that is all they thought would grow here, but now we have many different species making up our timber and those "hearty" species are now expanding out of control. If I could wave a wand and start over on my area with the current knowledge and eliminate the species that waste my precious time and money, I would. In 50 years, will my successor want to change things, probably. Biology isn't all hard and fast rules. Or maybe better said, we don't always know what the hard and fast rules of biology are, but we're getting there. I worry, the same people that gave us multi-flora rose, crown vetch, Johnson grass, Siberian Elm, Locust, and many of the other problems of today are now giving us GMO corn, roundup ready soybeans, glyphosate, clones, and many other "new discoveries" that may well kill or deform us down the road. The old adage of "keep it simple stupid" rings in my ears from time-to-time. Maybe I need to listen more.
    I think honeysuckle fits in that category too. Look at the hills in the winter time driving through Missouri. Its the only thing green and looks like really good cover. Ive seen quail escape to such cover too. But its really invasive. I see it driving through the eastern part of kansas too. But somewhere in the neighborhood of topeka, you stop seeing it. Or seeing so much of it. It almost looks like a break in habitat. Will it not grow in the flinthills?? My dads place in eastern missouri is so overgrown with it that every time im home I go clear a patch out of his woods for him. Cut and spray. And it seems like a lost cause.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prairie Drifter View Post
    I think that the simple answer to where we are today and why Missouri is no longer producing 2-4M quail before the gun is that plant succession has slid past the adaptive niche for quail. For the very reasons you originally posted, woody cover, fescue, brome, and modern farming have replaced the native prairie, weedy cover and patchwork farming of the past. We didn't used to have wheat farmers or corn farmers, we had farmers and they all planted any number of crops in fields that they could manage with their smaller equipment. It is now harder to do the burning we did then because we've built buildings out in the flammable habitat, have a smokey bear mentality, and have air quality rules. We'd have more quail if everyone burned wood for heat. Not happening. I do challenge you to get some 10-50 year old aerial photos of your place or places you hunt and compare what was there then to what is there now. It'll be quite educational. (fixed it Tom)
    The natural environment changes over time. The lake I'm on has gone through dramatic changes in fish habitat over the last 25 years. The forest of the NE US are second growth forest and are poor habitat for grouse and woodcock.

    Here in WI, I scout annually for new Aspen cuts I'll be hunting in another 5-7 years. In the meantime, a couple of my brothers always want to hunt the stands we shot grouse in 20 years ago, that are too mature and no longer hold many birds.

    Pre-European settlement, the natives used fire to control the habitat. They recognized that mature forests shaded out browse species for deer, Oak savannahs and prairies grew over, choked with brushy vegetation and turned into forest. Alongside modern farming techniques, the elimination of the use of fire as a tool has been one of the biggest mistakes of the modern era.
    Born to hunt. Forced to work.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prairie Drifter View Post
    I think that the simple answer to where we are today and why Missouri is no longer producing 2-4M quail before the gun is that plant succession has slid past the adaptive niche for quail. For the very reasons you originally posted, woody cover, fescue, brome, and modern farming have replaced the native prairie, weedy cover and patchwork farming of the past. We didn't used to have wheat farmers or corn farmers, we had farmers and they all planted any number of crops in fields that they could manage with their smaller equipment. It is now harder to do the burning we did then because we've built buildings out in the flammable habitat, have a smokey bear mentality, and have air quality rules. We'd have more quail if everyone burned wood for heat. Not happening. I do challenge you to get some 10-50 year old aerial photos of your place or places you hunt and compare what was there then to what is there now. It'll be quite educational. (fixed it Tom)
    Thanks Troy, just looking out for Smokey!
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