Daily Archives: November 23, 2014

Greater Prairie-chicken season opens Nov. 15

Annual prairie-chicken season opens with changes for 2014

The regular prairie-chicken season opens on the third Saturday in November, which is Nov. 15, 2014. However, this year, hunters will see a significant change in where prairie-chickens may be hunted. Kansas is home to two species of prairie-chickens. The Greater Prairie-chicken is common in the Flint Hills of east-central Kansas and the Smoky Hills of northcentral and northwest Kansas. The southwest region of the state is home to the Lesser Prairie-chicken, which was listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last March. Three years of severe drought resulted in poor habitat and declining numbers of Lesser Prairie-chickens.

As a result of the listing, the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission established two prairie-chicken units. The Southwest Prairie-chicken Unit, where lessers are found, is closed to all prairie-chicken hunting. The Greater Prairie-chicken Unit, which includes northwest, northcentral and eastern portions of Kansas, is open to Greater Prairie-chicken hunting. A map may be seen at www.ksoutdoors.com or in the 2014 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary.

The Greater Prairie-chicken hunting season is open Nov. 15, 2014-Jan. 31, 2015. The daily bag limit is two and the possession limit is four times the daily bag limit. During the regular prairie-chicken season, hunters commonly pass shoot birds early in the morning and late in the afternoon as they fly from grasslands to feed fields. The challenge is finding the right field and getting into a position where birds may fly within shotgun range. Perhaps the biggest challenge is hitting the birds that are always flying “faster than they look.”

Greater Prairie-chicken numbers are highest in the Smoky Hills region of northcentral Kansas, and numbers should be improved compared to last year in the Flint Hills. In addition to a hunting license, prairie-chicken hunters must purchase a prairie-chicken hunting permit, which is available online and wherever licenses are sold for $2.50. The permit allows biologists to survey hunters and gain more accurate harvest information for management purposes.

New Jersey bill could allow a “commercial” deer season

By Daniel Xu

The OutdoorHub

Do you think you have a great recipe for venison jerky? If you live in New Jersey, a bill may soon allow you to sell it as well.

Is allowing commercial deer hunting a good idea? Some lawmakers in New Jersey are trying to overturn the state’s ban on hunters selling deer meat, and they are getting support from some ecologists. According to the Asbury Park Press, a bill was introduced into the General Assembly earlier this year that would do just that, and is currently waiting for a hearing in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

To say that the bill is controversial would be an understatement. Some ecologists believe that allowing individuals to sell harvested venison will get more people into the woods to help control the rising deer population. Others, however, believe that the return of commercial hunting will only recreate the far-ranging consequences caused by overhunting in the early 1900s.

“Anybody who lives in MonmouthCounty and is driving around is able to see a deer population that has exploded,” Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Monmouth), who is sponsoring the bill, told the Asbury Park Press. “I’m concerned about the high number of Lyme cases and I’m also very concerned about the car accidents, half of which occur between October and December.”

The exploding deer population in the East Coast is not only a road and health hazard, ecologists are warning that the deer are degrading forests as well, which could lead to mass starvation for the animals. Supporters of a commercial deer season also point to the fact that almost all of the venison that Americans enjoy in restaurants or local grocery stores come from captive deer farms. In fact, The Wall Street Journal reported last year that about 85 percent of all commercially-sold venison in the United States actually comes from New Zealand. Casagrande and her supporters say that it makes little sense to import deer meat into New Jersey when the state is currently grappling with an overpopulation of whitetail deer.

Not everyone agrees, however, and in a rare occurrence, sportsmen’s groups and animal right organizations have found themselves on the same side of the issue—if for different reasons. Many hunters say that revisiting the same strategies that led to the overhunting of deer in the East Coast is a very bad idea. All 50 states have placed restrictions on the sale of deer meat, with laws stretching back to the early twentieth century. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection explicitly states that it is “illegal to sell deer meat, deer antlers or any part of a deer except deer hides, tails and the lower portion of the legs,” in the state.

To combat the rising deer population, hunters and wildlife biologists instead advocate for increased awareness of the problem, and promoting hunting as a valuable activity in the state. Animal rights activists oppose the bill for much the same reasons, but offer an alternative solution. Instead of hunting the deer either way, they instead call for non-lethal population control methods such as sterilization.

The bill, AB A3039, is still waiting to be heard by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee before it can move forward. If passed, hunters will be able to apply for a commercial hunting license which not only allows the sale of deer meat, but also meat from small game such as beavers, raccoons, and otters.

What do you think? Should you be able to sell meat from the deer your harvest, or could that open the door to a host of problems for hunters and wildlife? Let us know your comments.

Second Cover Crop Survey Confirms Yield Boost

On Tuesday, November 18, USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program released the results of the 2013-2014 Cover Crop Survey, which assesses the benefits, challenges, yield impacts, and scale of adoption of cover crops. The North Central Region of the SARE program worked with the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) to survey more than 1,924 farmers across the country (44 states in all), many of whom have grown cover crops. The results of the survey confirm that farmers are seeing multiple benefits from cover crops, including increased yields of corn and soybeans following the cover crop.

Of the 1,924 farmers who responded to the survey, 630 provided data comparing corn yields from fields that did have cover crops to corn yields from fields that did not have cover crops. Similarly, 583 farmers provided data comparing soybean yields from fields that did and did not have cover crops. When a cover crop was planted before corn, corn yields increased by an average of five bushels per acre, or 3.1 percent. Farmers who planted a cover crop before planting soybeans saw an average soybean yield increase of 4.3 percent.

These yield increases, while significant, are lower than the yield increases found in last year’s Cover Crop Survey (9.6 percent for corn, and 11.6 percent for soy). According to Rob Meyers, Regional Director of Extension Programs for SARE, “much of the difference in yield impact between the two years of surveys may be attributed to the drought in 2012, which highlights the moisture-management benefits of cover crops.”

Key Findings

According to SARE, key findings of the survey include:

♦ Of 1,427 cover crop users who identified the three cover crop benefits they desired most, 74 percent chose increased soil organic matter, 51 percent cited reducing soil erosion and 35 percent said they hoped cover crops would reduce soil compaction. Controlling weeds appealed to 28 percent, while providing a nitrogen source was chosen by 23 percent and nitrogen scavenging by 17 percent. Increases in yield in the following cash crop came in close behind with 16 percent.

♦ The most popular cover crop species were winter cereal grains—including winter wheat, cereal rye and triticale—used by 73 percent of the 1,600 farmers who answered this question. Legumes, which could include clover, winter pea, vetch and others, were used by 55 percent, while an equal percentage planted brassicas such as oilseed radish, mustards, rapeseed, turnips and related plants. Annual grasses (which could include annual ryegrass, sorghum, sudangrass, oats and similar plants) were planted by 53 percent of the respondents, and multi-species mixes were used by 34 percent of the growers.

♦ Nearly half, or 48 percent, of 1,691 farmers reported using a herbicide to terminate their last cover crop. Tillage was the choice for 21 percent of the respondents. Selecting cover crops that winter kill was the top strategy for 20 percent, and mowing was employed by 10 percent. Only one percent reported using a roller-crimper, and 6% replied “Other.”

♦ In the 2013-2014 survey, the mean difference in yield for corn among farmers with 0 to 3 years of experience in cover crops was an increase of 2.04 bushels per acre, while farmers with 4 or more years of experience in cover crops reported a mean increase of 6.76 bushels per acre.  A similar pattern was evident in soybeans. Farmers with 0 to 3 years of cover crop experience reported a mean increase of 1.09 bushels per acre, while growers with 4 or more years of experience in cover crops saw a mean increase of 2.84 bushels.

♦ Median seed costs, with data “tails” removed, were $25 per acre. As with the seeding/establishment costs, regional data breakdowns of seed costs showed a wide range by geography, from a median seed cost of $25 per acre in the Midwest to a median of $40 per acre in the West.

♦ 88 percent of respondents who answered a question about barriers to adoption said that cover crop adoption is always limited or somewhat limited by the cost of cover crops; 81 percent said that cover crop adoption is always limited or somewhat limited by a perception that they are tough to terminate; and 72 percent said that adoption is always limited or somewhat limited by a perception that cover crops reduce yields in the following cash crops. Other barriers include a lack of access to planting equipment and lack of information about the practice.

♦ The top three challenges identified by cover crop users were time and labor required, establishing the crops, and seed cost. Time and labor was also the leading barrier to cover crop adoption among non-users.

♦ Of 419 respondents who answered a question about whether they managed their farm to provide forage for honeybees, 70 percent said they either planted bee-attractive plants to provide forage or managed their cover crops to provide forage for pollinators.

♦ In the three years preceding the survey year of 2013, cover crop acreage had increased by an average of about 30 percent per year among surveyed cover crop users. When farmers were asked to project their 2014 acreage, they forecast adding about 10 percent more acres of cover crops.

The increasing popularity of cover crops points to the great work that SARE has been doing for many years to assess, demonstrate, and publicize the benefits of cover cropping. We look forward to working with USDA and partner organizations to build upon the survey’s findings and promote the widespread adoption of cover crops.