So, the night before opening day it was nonstop hunters and family friends. It use to be that Buchanan county was one of the great places to hunt pheasants. In those days, nonresidents flocked in there by the hundreds, parked and camped along the road, and they killed their limits of pheasant day after day. After opening weekend the number of hunters quickly declined dad and I used to go out patrolling/ hunting, and I don't remember many days we didn't bring home a bird or two.
In the early 1970s, Iowa hunters harvested 1.9 million pheasants and 1.1 million quail, which compares with an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 pheasants this past year and 54,000 quail last year. The decline is due to long-term changes in agricultural practices and most recently the loss of over 280,000 acres from the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
Although both mom and dad have both passed, we're still drawn to the same prairie patches, sloughs and road sides where we've hunted birds in the past.
This years group included my oldest brother Steve, two of my sisters boys, Greg, Scott and my son Beau. We rolled into the house in Independence, knowing that this will be one of the last times that we will be staying there.
We walked the large area spooking a few deer that had bedded down for an early morning rest but, no birds.
On to the sand prairie just down the road. A short grass prairie dominated by little blue stem, side oats grama, prairie bush clover and sage.
Scattered throughout the sand prairie were plywood and corrugated sheet metal which was some conservation study that I'm checking into. My guess is an insect study or pocket gopher study.
The sand prairie is another spot with great cover. On the walk in Beau and I spotted a pair of great horned owls feeding on a rabbit.
In the back corner we kicked up a hen pheasant and later on when we were bush wacking our way out Beau flushed a wood cock which was on it's migration south.
Our long awaited hunt was over all too soon. Steve was off to trout fish Greg and Scott worked their way back to DBQ. And Beau and I would hit one more spot. Just SW of Inpendence is the MHI (Mental Health Institute). Growing up my buddy's family owned the land that surrounded the MHI cemetery. So, for years we would hunt the perimeter and flush out grave yard birds. Beau and I spooked a few more deer but no birds. Sometimes its more important to carry on a tradition than to shoot a bird.