Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni
When I was a kid in the late 1940s, Ohio’s wild pheasant population was estimated at around 5 million. Hunters killed some 750,000 of these premier game birds each hunting season. Our area provided marginal pheasant hunting unless you happened to own a decent bird dog, then it was good. There was excellent food and cover available just about everywhere that held enough birds to make things interesting, but it also made it difficult to put birds in the air. Pheasants liked to run, and getting a flush was unlikely unless you happened to catch one at the end of a fencerow or had blockers at the end of a field. By the early 1960s, our local pheasant hunting started to dry up. Pesticides took a lot of the blame, and advanced farming practices called for the elimination of habitat. Soon, other parts of the state experienced the same results. Today, there are definitely more deer in Ohio than wild pheasants and more turkey, for that matter. Madison, Fayette, Pickaway, and Ross counties have a moderate pheasant population and a few pheasants can be found in Union and Marion counties as well. Williams County has a decent population of pheasants and Fulton also has a few. In the remaining 80 counties, according to the Division of Wildlife, wild pheasants are rare or nonexistent.
It was inevitable that a Pheasants Forever Chapter would be introduced to Auglaize County. Local sportsmen, many who remembered bagging a pheasant or two, finally realized that the answer to a viable pheasant population was habitat, and the chapter was formed to rejuvenate what had been lost to agriculture and development. Unfortunately, it was soon discovered that finding land to create this habitat would be a major challenge. Living in an agricultural area with land selling at a premium and profits based on efficiency made it nearly impossible to find acreage that wasn’t in production. Urban sprawl also had an effect. The local chapter could have called it quits at that time, but somehow they had the smarts to compensate and focus on other approaches to the problem.
The Auglaize Chapter still creates habitat whenever acreage becomes available. They still promote sport hunting making sure that their goals and mission remain focused. The wisest thing they do is creating and supporting youth programs knowing full well that the younger generation controls the future of hunting, maybe even pheasant hunting down the road. The Auglaize County Pheasants Forever Chapter is recognized for its youth programs on both the state and national levels. They sponsor an annual youth deer hunt which takes place on prime hunting territory. A youth pheasant hunt is held each year at a local hunting preserve which provides the experience of watching good dogs work and pheasants flush. They are also major contributors to the Moulton Gun Club Youth Shooters, which is part of the Scholastic Clay Target Program. They also offer book scholarships each year to area college students. It would definitely be a good move if other chapters evaluated their youth programs as well.
The major funding source for all of the Auglaize Chapter’s activities comes from their annual banquet. This year the banquet will be held in the Junior Fair Building at the Auglaize County Fairgrounds on March 30. The banquet is a quality run event, and I base that on the countless similar events I’ve attended over the years. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. and along with an open bar, hors-d-oeuvres, and quality buffet dinner, there are more than enough activities to keep the evening interesting. Raffles, live and silent auctions, along with door prizes provide the chance to take home some quality items which makes a great night even better. Numerous firearms will be raffled off throughout the evening and all paperwork is done on site.
Cost for an individual is $60 which includes a membership in Pheasants Forever. Cost per couple is $80. Ringnecks pay $20 which includes a youth membership and dinner. Sponsorships are also available for those who want to donate at the next level. The Silver Sponsorship is $250. The Gold Sponsorship is $450 and includes the sponsor gun. There is a Gold Sponsorship for $475 that includes a framed print of the year. A Platinum Sponsorship is $1000 and features a Henry Golden Boy Rifle, 150 raffle tickets and a Pheasants Forever hat. All sponsorships come with a couple ticket for the banquet and an entry in the sponsor raffle. For more information call Mark Langston @ 419-305-8044 or Jim Eisert @ 419-233-7795.