Upland game populations, like other wildlife, runs in a cycle, good for a couple of years and then there’s a population drop, its Mother Nature’s way!
The number one factor when it comes to wildlife populations is habitat, and with farming methods the way they are, habitat can be pretty slim.
The fences and fencerows rows are gone, waterways that used to be good habitat are now bailed, clipped short or grazed by cattle. The corn and bean rows that used to contain some weeds are now clean as a whistle.
As habitat diminishes, upland game are forced to nest in ditches, in narrow grass strips next to small ponds and other small tracts of grass and weeds.
These small tracts give the predators an easy corridor to follow, picking off the nesting birds or eating the eggs, destroying that year’s hatch with very little effort. Predators will travel down these corridors, because they know it’s a place to find an easy meal.
Predators, raccoons, skunks, fox and opossums are the worst, many of which can carry rabies, as they’ve developed a taste for fresh eggs. With their large litters, they’ve become very efficient at finding and destroying nests. These egg-sucking thieves are capable of cleaning out an entire field in short order.
When predator numbers are high, we’ll see more of the critters being forced out of the country, into the farms and into town looking for food. Opossums and raccoons have become common sights around farms, feeding out of the dog or cat food dishes.
Coyotes and fox will come onto farm places, taking pet, chicken or duck as they make easy meals.
When these furbearer’s numbers are high, Mother Nature has a way of taking care of coyotes, with the mange being a terrible way for an animal to die, as they literally scratch themselves to death.
When fur prices were high, which they aren’t now, with a good number of CRP acres and other habitat, pheasant numbers were up.
Since the price of furs has dropped to an all-time low, predator numbers skyrocketed and the birds and their nests became easy targets.
Trappers and hunters used to be able go out after raccoons and coyotes, pay for their gas and maybe make a few bucks., but with fur prices the way they are now, they’re lucky if they can pay for their ammunition.
When they were trapping, hunting and calling, they were removing excess animals and predators that would have destroyed nests and killed nesting birds.
Studies by groups such as Delta Waterfowl, proved that in areas were predator numbers have been controlled, upland game and waterfowl production numbers increased.
While the hunters I spend time in the field with, when we’re out hunting, we do our best to take care of any predators that we come across.
When fur prices were up, a huge number of the predators were taken out of the population, and now that they’ve hit rock bottom, the prices given for furs this season won’t amount to much.
Because of this, hunters this year, have come across more predators than they’ve done in past years.
Hunters dogs have tangled with skunks and big boar raccoon, with the skunk giving the dog ana smelly education and the raccoon got beat up pretty bad.
They came out bruised and smelling pretty bad, but there were less egg thieves after the dog and the hunters finished with them.
We hunters, callers and trappers need to continue and increase taking of predators in order to balance things out.
Fur prices are low on raccoons and other nest raiders, with our eastern coyotes not worth as much as they were a couple of years back and by taking a few predators from the population, we’re helping to control the overpopulation of predators and save a few upland game birds and waterfowl nests.
While doing this, we’ll be able to pay for the few rounds of ammunition needed to dispatch the predators that are eliminating many of our ground nesting birds.
Gary Howey is an award-winning writer, producer, and broadcaster and inducted into the "National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame" in 2017. He developed and was the Producer- Host of the Outdoorsmen Adventures television series for 23 years and is the Host of the award-winning Outdoor Adventures radio program carried on Classic Hits 106.3, ESPN Sports Radio 1570 in Southeastern South Dakota, KWYR Country 93 AM and Magic 93 FM in Central South Dakota, As well as on KCHE 92.1 FM in Northwest Iowa. For more outdoor information, check out garyhoweysoutdoors.com, and outdoorsmenadventures.com, with more information on these pages, Gary Howey's Facebook page, Outdoor Adventure radio and Team Outdoorsmen Productions Facebook page. The Outdoor Adventures television show is available on the MIDCO Sports Network and News Channel Nebraska.