Admin. Over the last several months many have inquired about the business strength of MAHA and the impact of the latest downturn in the national economy. The most noticeable effects have been landowners selling land and the local membership suffering layoffs and salary reductions.
The former has made us hustle a bit more during land runs and the latter has caused an overall decrease in total memberships with local members bearing the brunt of that reduction. This in turn has allowed the continued increase in non-resident (meaning non-resident to Iowa, Kansas or Missouri) membership level. While the resident member makes up over 1/2 of the total membership the increasing nonresident hunter has then resulted in a decrease in the total number of days in the field spent hunting MAHA leases as the non-resident has fewer hunting days available in comparison to the local hunter.
Most of the increase in the non-resident hunter falls into the whitetail bow hunter primary interest category with the upland hunter applications a distant second. The continued popularity of Kansas, Iowa and Missouri for trophy whitetail hunting remains strong and the recent positive upland forecasts seemed to have generated some nationwide interest in bird hunting the mid-west. An example is the latest issue of the Iowa Conservationist magazine highlighting Kansas as having one of the nation's most stable quail populations. Waterfowl hunter numbers remain relatively unchanged and turkey hunters reflect to a lesser degree the increased whitetail numbers as the deer and turkey hunter has always gone hand in hand with the other.
The decrease in overall membership levels does not mean an increase in openings. Rather than hire a salesman to solicit membership sales, offer discounts or taking other measures that increase costs we will continue our time tested approach of increasing/decreasing land to meet membership requirements. We are a no risk operation that has operated in up and down cycles since 1965. We even survived the President Carter years of 22% inflation. What we are currently experiencing does not even come close to that stressful period when business loans were non-existent.
The net effect of this year's land changes will be no more noticeable than in past years as our program of dropping the bad and adding the better has always been our approach to the annual map update. Overall, we all would like to be making more money no matter what state the economy maybe in, the Association is not at risk and we certainly plan to be around for the next generation of MAHA staffing once Jon, John, Bruce, Jennifer and Angel start collecting social security.
Land Lease. We'll be on the road daily the next two months evaluating our existing leases and scouting new properties. We apologize if we are not available by phone to personally answer calls, but it's to everyone's best interest to see us on the road scouting land. Jennifer will continue to man the office Monday through Friday, 9 to 530.
Waterfowl. The feedback for duck blind volunteers was fantastic. We're tentatively planning to cover and build blinds almost every weekend from mid-September until we're finished by the end of October. We'll call for volunteers a week or so in advance to coordinate work parties around everyone's schedule. Bruce Johnson is taking a week off in September to work on blinds, so if anyone has a weekday or two available in September please let us know.
The drought has brought the water levels down on many of our marshes but we still look in respectable shape for teal season. The recent localized rainfalls, some that have been significant, have raised the water levels in some localities.
Working on waterfowl blinds is a great way to meet fellow waterfowl members and avoid stumbling in the dark looking for blinds. During peak weekends we need to share prime blinds so it's good for members to meet other members to become familiar with faces and names during the season.
If you are interested in helping with duck blind work and haven't put your name on the list call Jennifer at the office and she will add your name to the list.
Deer and Turkey. The deer and turkey update is simple. The herds and flocks are at a peak high and we have more deer and turkey than we know what to do with. We have had feedback from many of our landowners that the does need to be harvested to prevent crop damage especially in Northwest MO and our Iowa leases. They understand everyone is after a trophy, but would appreciate our cooperation in harvesting an equal number or twice as many doe as buck. This is becoming a critical issue for lease renewal purposes that needs to be addressed.
For those hunting Missouri take note of the recent records of Missouri big deer. In 1999 a new state record archery harvest was set at 191 4/8 inch, 10 pointer, non-typical. In 2001 a new state record firearms harvest record was set at 282 2/8 on a 33 point non-typical rack. And, the largest buck harvested by a MAHA hunter this last season was a 201 non-typical Missouri whitetail.
Once again, fall turkey hunting is drastically underutilized and one of the most productive seasons available to the members. It's a great way to hunt and scout at the same time without the pressure of bringing home the big one.
The upland bird population is in the process of trying to recover from a low cycle and it appears to be making a positive comeback, but it will take a little time. Three years ago we were turning away upland bird applicants because we were full. It appears when the upland bird numbers drop the 21st Century upland bird hunter is the fast to jump ship, sell their dogs and gear and shift to the game of golf where they are always assured of a ball to hit.
For those that have been around since the early 80's do you recall the bitter winter of 1983 when the temperatures were under 0 degrees for 2 1/2 months? The next year Missouri lowered the limit of quail to 6, pheasants to 1 and cut back 15 days of the season. Within 2 years the birds were back and everyone was happy. Upland birds are cyclical and everyone has to be patient.
Last fall was a low season in many areas and average to above average in others. As a result we had a high rate of upland bird members drop their membership and 50 to 60 put their membership on inactive status, which will not be an alternative in the future without proof of medical emergency. This was very costly to the Association's budget and will have to be adjusted this season. As a result, we are going to cut back some of the bulk acreage in Central and Western Kansas that wasn't utilized and move the money to less acreage with greater habitat density. All of the leases in these regions that were productive for deer and turkey will be renewed without hesitation.
Scouting. If you like the picture of this deer see Steve Deer Camera photos for a series of different bucks is interesting to see. And, he is still trying to get a picture of one of the big ones he found while scouting.
Fishing. For many of our non-resident members the allure of Crappie fishing is unknown. For those that enjoy a good meal of pan fish this picture shows one very good Crappie.
Deer Tags. Kansas and Iowa deer hunters a friendly reminder is that all who plan to hunt either state must have a copy of their tag sent into the office before any reservation will be accepted.
Upland Birds & Weather. More on this summer's mid-west weather effects: Kenneth from Arizona and an avid upland hunter of retrievers monitors the weather effects on bird hunting to a greater detail than most and provides this web page showing the drought areas www.drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html His position was there will be plenty of good places for bird hunting.
Another bit of feedback comes from cattle producers that state due to pastures being grazed out last month and the poor hay harvest this year cattle herds will be reduced as the cost to sustain them will be greater than their market value.
In addition to reducing herd size to prevent further loss many ranchers have moved cattle in from burned up pastures and into feedlots. This move is well ahead of time compared to good years. The cause for this is that hay is all that is left to feed their cattle.
Additionally, the drying up of stock ponds requires many to pump and haul water above what is typical and hence further increases the cost of maintaining a herd.
The result of all this will be fewer cattle in the field displacing wildlife. This will continue for a couple of years as ranchers rebuild their stock.
Finally, after reading and having others inquire about bird forecasts they have read in magazines two observations were made. The first was how can a single author of a single magazine article have first hand knowledge of several states? In one article a single author claimed accurate bird forecasts for seven bird species in thirteen states (Pointing Dog Journal, Special Fall Issue 2002). We find these broadband forecasts to be suspect and most likely from second hand sources that cannot be held accountable for their conclusions.
The second observation about these generalized bird forecasts has been their analysis criteria and basis for conclusions typically are absent or of such narrow focus as to be suspect.
The obvious question is what we believe the bird forecast is and we addressed that in last month's update which was that due to very favorable hatch and brood month weather this season we will see an increased fall bird population compared to last year. The bird hunting will not be as good as after two dry springs, but for those that found birds last season there will be more this year.
What the value difference is there between our forecast and those of the magazine article writers is that we live and hunt our own bird dogs where our hunters hunt, we can see first hand the trends through the entire year and we are accountable to our hunters for what we say to be true.
Here is an example: On the farm I own and live on, 160 acres, during the very best years this farm has had up to five mature coveys ranging in size from 5 to 30 birds (middle 90's). This year there were two juvenile coveys as of July. The largest covey had 12 to14 birds, the second 8. Once the mature birds collect into coveys these numbers will increase. These two juvenile coveys is an increase of one over the single covey that survived from last year. A covey per 80 acres is good hunting and well worth the time of a dog owner to hunt. That is, for those that enjoy natural quail hunting rather than cultivated plantation coveys.
Pheasant. The same about fishing could be said about bird hunting. These photos are from a stack a member showed us. Those that really want to hunt will have good and bad days. The hunter of these dogs seems to have a good many good days.
The word about a good bird year seems to be spreading across the states east of the Mississippi as we are having an increase in the number of application with upland as the primary hunting interest. Some of this information seems to have been spread by deer hunters out scouting giving reports of plenty of coveys and pheasants to be seen on the road as well as in the field.
Waterfowl. A waterfowl project MAHA staff has been working the last month. The picture shows part of a mile and one half levee we built to flood a 70 acre corn field. The metal object is a drop log structure to control the depth of the water and drain the field after the season. We slide 2x6's in and out to add or drop water levels. The best part of this is we are able to pump out of an existing irrigation well.
More on duck hunting is this picture showing replacement duck blind frames ready for transport to our wetlands. Soon volunteers on the blind covering work list will be called to assist.
Weather. The spring and to date summer dry weather has caused local farmers to cut cornfields for silage and delay plans for fall wheat and alfalfa planting. The delayed fall planting is due to a lack of sub-surface moisture.
While for most areas the rainfall is just 7 to 8 inches below normal it is predicted it would take every bit of that and possibly more over an extended time to replace the deep soil moisture that has been baked off through the hot summer temperatures and return the deeper soil moisture to a level that will support fall planting. What is feared is a short duration high volume rainfall that rather than soaking in would simply runoff and create soil erosion in the heavily cracked surface soil. What is most likely to occur is that the remainder of the summer and fall will continue to be dry as from July to February the mid-west historically experiences its driest period of the year.
Early season archery hunters will find fewer crops in the field and subsequently more concentrated deer patterns than during the last several seasons.
Late season deer hunters that have existing alfalfa and red clover fields scouted will find these food sources all the more popular as if this dry weather continues there will be limited to non-existent wheat fields for winter grazing. This is more the case in Kansas than Iowa or Missouri.
In all cases of deer hunting the western 1/2 of Kansas existing water sources will be an important point to identify along with bedding and feeding areas. The eastern 1/2 of Kansas, all of Missouri and Iowa have comparatively plenty of water.
Pheasant hunters frequently fear droughts and the incurred the loss of bluestem due to grazing and/or hay harvest during periods of extreme drought. The USDA is allowing up to 50% of the bluestem to be grazed or harvested this summer throughout Kansas. Iowa and Missouri are for most hunting purposes not included as those two states do not have the large CRP acreage that exists in Kansas. The effect of this reduction in bluestem will be the concentration of roosters in the remaining grass and more of a dispersal of roosters into brushy draws and field edges. This will mostly affect those hunters that have always concentrated their dog work in the larger fields, typically the location of the easiest birds to hunt. Those that have always hunted the draws and edges are more likely to find an increase in the number of overall birds. This will also be enhanced due to the favorable bird hatch this past spring.
Quail are not affected by the drought as their primary range within MAHA leased areas did get the most summer rains within the 3 state area and had fair to good spring rain conditions allowing for a higher than average chick survival rate. This combined with the fact these areas already have abundant year round natural water will make for those that have found good quail hunting in the past to likely to find it better this year.
Fall turkey hunters are growing in number and this year will find more birds than last season due to a very successful spring hatch and survival rate. Through this summer finding one or a small group of hens with 6 to 14 yearlings is common.