1/22/2020 10:25:00 AM Coyotes in town and pheasant killing blizzards
Ron Kuecker Outdoors Columnist
I remember Bruce Jensen quite well. He farmed a couple miles straight east of Storden, south side of the road, a nice marsh just a short walk away from his farmyard. In fact, one of my first days working in Cottonwood County as an early 20s veterinarian took me to his farm. There, he and his brother, Ivan, farrowed and finished pigs to market. Hog cholera virus was still a serious threat and I went there to vaccinate his pigs for that and a bacterial disease called erysipelas. When we finished, near noon, I got one of those greatest of all invitations. Would you join us for a "bite to eat?" Farmers of that era usually had their main meal at noon. And, it was more than just a bite to eat. It was centered around roast beef or pork, potatoes and homemade gravy, veggies and certainly a delicious dessert. Think beef commercial at your favorite country diner nowadays, only better! That was the beginning to a long and friendly relationship with Bruce and Ivan Jensen. Later, Bruce would become a very good county commissioner and certainly piqued my interest in local government. I would go on to six years school board and 10 years as a county commissioner. Well, that's a long distance from the story I am about to tell. But sometimes the lead ups are as good as the tale later told. Nostalgia is almost always good. One early winter and still farming the "old way," a snow blizzard similar to the one we had here last weekend hit the area. The Jensens knew they had a good population of pheasants that made its way through summer and fall. They were now gathered around the marsh, seeking a winter "safe house." When the storm ended they took a walk to the frozen slough to see if any of the pheasants had survived. What they encountered that morning was birds, not yet dead, partially buried in the snow. With a few feathers sticking out or just a clump in the snow, unable to fly, they began catching them. Their eyes were pasted with snow and frozen shut. Their wings and tails were frozen down, and their nostrils located on the beak were nearly occluded. They easily caught 15 to 20 and made a couple trips to the farmyard and put them in an unused brooder house. They supplied some light heat from some heat lamps usually used for baby chicks or newborn piglets. They thawed them out, fed them some ground grain for a few days, and then released them happily into the wild on a nice day. Just a short reminiscence of what goes on in the outdoors. Surely no one embarks on a rescue mission like Bruce and Ivan did on that day following a killer blizzard. But just as surely, the plight of our favorite upland game bird goes on during winter storms. Our failure to provide as much winter habitat as needed will doom our farmland pheasants. Little by little the ongoing winter takes its toll. A link in the chain of year-a-round pheasant needs aren't met. Only marshes, evergreen plantings, corn food plots and occasional supplemental feeding can save them. Look for the Pheasants Forever wagon and corn purchased by them and the local game and fish league at the DNR building east of town. Do not misuse this attempt to save a few more hens by feeding deer or any domestic animals. People interested in helping pheasants will be watching closely for violations. Coyotes No doubt, coyotes migrated to our area in recent years because of prairie grass plantings on public land and in private conserving acreages. The mice come first, then the predators such as fox, weasels and coyotes. Hawks will more frequently be seen flying low to the ground. I can honestly say there isn't anything more fun to see than the paired paw imprints of a least weasel across a grass planting. But interestingly, they are most common during the early years of a new grass cover. The question of whether we love or dislike coyotes seems almost as diversive as our politics lately. They have almost certainly, along with mange, led to a very low population of red fox. Raccoons, skunks and opossums, no change. A couple weeks ago, my across-the-street neighbor, Galen Duerksen, caught a night time coyote on his backyard camera. Then a few nights later, a block west of my house, a coyote was seen by Nancy Tjentland in her backyard. It had just caught a rabbit and she viewed it out her backyard door around 2 a.m. I'm kinda hoping it'll hunt my backyard full of bunnies that have been chewing off my dogwoods.