Gallatin Valley Pheasants Forever's members are truly passionate about creating, preserving and restoring habitat that benefits pheasants, quail and other upland wildlife. This unique model empowers local chapters with the responsibility to determine how 100 percent of their locally-raised conservation funds will be spent.
Whether it's through improving habitat, informing the public about land management or educating future generations of hunting enthusiasts, conservation is the underlying principle in all we do at the grassroots level.
Teton River Property
The Teton River property is located west of I-15, 40 miles north of Great Falls, Montana along the Teton River watershed on the north side of the river, approximately 1.5 miles downstream of the confluence with Muddy Creek. About 279 acres of mixed riparian/wetland, grass prairie and dryland crops support a diversity of wildlife, including grasslands songbirds, upland game birds, migratory waterfowl, predatory raptors, deer and moose. The property was acquired in February of 2018 by a combination of local Montana chapters and partner funding. The property was previously private and is now open to the general public for recreational access, including hunting and fishing. We plan to continue to improve habitat and land management for the benefit of upland birds and other wildlife. Future acquisitions look to connect contagious piece of key habitat along the river corridor & increase the size of the complex.
The Gallatin Chapter co-purchased 935 acres on the Masters Tract of the Beaver Creek Waterfowl Production Area south of Malta with a $20,000 cash contribution. To date, $16,000 has been invested in shrubs and watering equipment and $30,000 invested in a Gator Pump for use in flooding wetland habitat for winter cover on the property and at the adjacent Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge.
The Copple Tract was a co-purchase of an adjacent 600 acres through a $30,000 cash contribution made possible by a Gibson Guitar donation from Ren Ferguson of the Gallatin Valley Pheasants Forever Chapter. This project is a part of a $250,000 upland and wetland habitat improvement project, including $52,000 from the Gallatin Valley Chapter.
Habitat improvement projects on public lands in southwestern Montana have included shelter belt and food plot development that enhance pheasant habitat available for public hunting opportunities. Most of these projects have involved Federal and State wildlife agencies and several habitat organizations as funding partners.
The Coffee Creek property is located six miles north of Denton, Montana and is enrolled in the Block Management Program, and like all PF properties is open to public hunting and recreation. Miles of shrub row, nesting, and brooding rearing plantings, and intensive habitat management provides excellent conditions for upland birds, deer, and non-game species of wildlife. This property has been featured in an October 2007 National Geographic Magazine article on the role that hunters play in creating and protecting wildlife habitat and restoring wildlife populations. Our Gallatin Valley Chapter contributed $60,000 cash towards the purchase of this 1,200 acre property that also consists of adjacent state lease land.
The Coffee Creek property was featured in a National Geographic article a few years back. You can read the entire article here.
The purchase of the Moylan/Wolf Creek Property was finalized in May of 2008 by a consortium of Montana Chapters and several other habitat organizations. The Gallatin Chapter contributed $75,000 toward the down payment. The property is located about ten miles east of Denton and is enrolled in the Block Management Program. It contains about 1,000 deeded acres and 640 acres of state lease. Some four miles of Wolf Creek flow the property. This key property is contiguous to another 1,600 acres of DNRC state land and the Beckman Wildlife Management Area owned by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks creating a package of over 10,000 acres of land open to hunting and outdoor recreation.
On Saturday, May 3rd, several GVPF members met up with the Headwaters (Helena) Chapter for a work day at the Canyon Ferry Wildlife Management Area (WMA) north of Townsend. We met Adam Grove, the new WMA Wildlife Biologist and Fred Jakubowski, Fish and Wildlife Tech to weed shelterbelts planted a couple years ago. We worked on the Meyer Lease plantings where we heard roosters crowing and saw a number of pheasants as we removed weeds and grasses adjacent to the shrubs. Survival varied quite a bit between species and even within the rows, probably due to changes in the soil and available moisture. Damage from rodents and deer was minimal. All in all, these multiple row shrub plantings should begin to offer good winter cover (western juniper, lilac, and caragana) and food (silver buffaloberry, wild rose, golden currant, cotoneaster, and chokecherry) in the next few years. Dense nesting cover planted nearby will also provide good brood rearing habitat (lots of bugs for chicks) as some areas consist of broad stands of kochia which serves both purposes well.
Fred also showed us habitat work planned for this area. FWP is near to having all the authorizations needed to allow contracting for the earthwork. Two fills will be constructed that will create shallow water wetlands in the historic (but dry) creek channel as well as several shallow, flat gradient ditches that will allow frequent diversion of water. The moist soil and lush veg helps to keep the production of soft body bugs high which gives hens a nearby productive brood rearing strip to graze their young. Insects comprise nearly 100% of the diet of chicks for the first 5 weeks of life so having insect rich strips near good nesting cover results in much higher nesting and chick rearing success. Ducks Unlimited provided the design and is funding the work in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (the WMAs landowner), FWP, and PF. We have committed $5 K to this project.
We hope to make this an annual event as there is always more work to be done than are hands available. It’s a great way to learn more about the WMA, meet like-minded folks and do good work. Please consider joining us next year.
Gallatin Valley Chapter Projects & Accomplishments
Our chapter is once again trying to develop food plot projects on private lands adjacent to the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge and Waterfowl Production Areas in Phillips County, MT. These projects consist of direct payments to the landowners to offset the cost of leaving standing food crops in their fields, adjacent to areas open to public hunting. We implemented one successful project last year adjacent to Bowdoin and are looking to implement a similar project this year. Our motivation is based on our belief that this effort results in more birds on the adjacent publically accessible lands.
Our chapter is continuing to work with MT Fish, Wildlife, and Parks at the Canyon Ferry Wildlife Management Area (WMA) near Townsend. We have retained our allocated funds to assist with development of new water and wetland habitat development on the Meyer Lease located in the southeast portion of the WMA. Development of these wet areas is expected to occur later this year.
We will continue to support the Central Montana Chapter (Lewistown) with habitat development, maintenance and property taxes on the Wolf Creek and Coffee Creek properties near Denton, Montana.
Our chapter will continue to support the DNRC’s Tongue River Ranch property south of Miles City with a multi-year commitment to restrict grazing in the riparian corridor and hay unit along the river.
The Chapter has been coordinating with several state land lessees and Montana DNRC in the Geraldine area to improve Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) enrolled lands and adjacent cover to benefit sharptail and pheasant populations in the area. These lands are accessible to the public and offer a means to improve habitat and expand quality hunting areas open to the public. The Chapter is working to develop the management plans and contribute funds to assist with the habitat improvements.
For more information regarding our habitat projects, please contact our Chapter President Jim Hoschouer.
Our fundraising efforts have gone towards the purchase and habitat enhancements of lands open to public hunting that include:
In addition to the projects listed above, we have allocated funds towards several emergency feeding programs in various areas of the state over the past few winters.
Tongue River Ranch
The purchase of the Tongue River Ranch by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation was made possible by the donation of $200,000 by Pheasants Forever. This property includes 18,544 +/- deeded acres, 1100 +/- acres BLM lease, and 640 +/- acres state lease. This ranch contains an incredible diversity of wildlife and about five miles of the Tongue River. Whitetail, mule deer, antelope, Canadian geese, turkey, ducks, and upland birds; including sharp tails, Hungarian partridges, and pheasants frequent the area. The Montana PF chapters, will be working with the state and other non-profit organizations to maintain and enhance the wildlife habitat of this unique property.
Habitat for Precision Conservation
Here are my notes from the 2020 Precision Ag Workshop sponsored by PF and held in Minneapolis as part of Pheasant Fest. For me, the greatest value was in getting to meet face-to-face with PF’s precision Ag Specialists from other states, including ND, SD, IA, MN, GA. Some states having even more than one. I was able to have a one-on-one session with the MN specialist who had been already helping me with the John Deere software. He used to work for Deere and is a great resource. His advice was to recognize that I had sufficient skills in using the JD Operations Center and to just move forward in creating more yield maps. I have suggested to some that we organize a Precision Conservation Field Tour across MT to raise PF’s awareness of what our attempts at developing prototypes. BTW, I heard the term “Precision Conservation” more and more and like that. I don’t think that we in MT invented it, but we were very early adopters. Thanks to the Gallatin Valley Chapter for reimbursing my hotel costs and to PF’s precision ag program for covering my workshop fee. –Rick Sojda
Vision: To demonstrate through the use of technology and collaboration, farmers will increase their profitability while also providing benefits for soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat.
Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever Precision Ag Vision: Chip Flory, Host of AgriTalk
Supporting Precision Ag at the John Deere Dealership Level: Ryan Heiniger, Director of Agriculture
Integrated Solution Specialist Panel – Moderated by Chip Flory; Joel Kaczynski from RDO; Rudy Raatz from SEMA; Dusty Engle from Lasseter. These are JD Dealership representatives.
Farmer Panel with Audience Q&A Moderated by Chip Flory; North Dakota: Christof Just; Minnesota: Kari Olson & Nicole Strafelda; Kansas: Andy Hineman; Georgia: Trey Davis
Keynote – The Vision of John Deere Precision Ag: Matt Olson, Tactical Marketing Manager, Precision Ag, John Deere
Combine Conversations for Common Ground, Moderated by Commissioner Thom Petersen, MN Department of Agriculture; Bill Gordon: Worthington MN Farmer; Daniel Jambor: Ramsey County MN PF President
2020 PF/QF Precision Farmer of the Year Presentation
JD Operations Center - 101
Sarah McCulloh, John Deere Solution Specialist
Craig Mosher, Precision Ag Tactical Marketing, John Deere
Farming for the Future, Leveraging Software and Science to Help Farmers Best Steward Their Land: Ben Gordon, Product Manager
USDA Farm Bill Programs
Troy Daniell: MN NRCS State Conservationist
Tanner Bruse: MN Ag & Conservation Manager
JD Operations Center - 201 Advanced
Doug Dickman: Precision Ag Tactical Marketing, CCA Matt Olson: Precision Ag Marketing Manager
Digital Ag Climate Corporation Field View
Katie Brenny: Climate Business Manager
PF Soil Health and Habitat Program
Rachel Bush: ND PF State Coordinator
Diane Herndon: Sr. Manager, Sustainability Nestle Purina
PF Precision Success Stories from the Farm
Melissa Shockman: PF Precision Ag & Conservation Specialist (ND)
Josh Divan: PF Precision Ag & Conservation Specialist (IA)
NOTES FROM THE ABOVE SESSIONS
The first PF Precision Ag Workshop was in 2015.
Generally, lots of farmers are collecting data, but few are using it to any great extent. It will almost require a culture sift for that to change.
Integrated Solutions (IS) Specialists Panel:
The prediction is for Precision Agr to be focused on smaller and faster equipment about five years into the future. Soil compaction continues to be an issue that is limiting equipment from getting larger. Artificial intelligence, especially the branch of AI called “machine learning” will be key in allowing for finer scale management. Robotics will also allow for even more refined field management.
Q: What made you get involved in Precision Ag?
-- looking for more forage for cattle from areas that are less productive in grain production
-- needing to look at the most profitable areas because input costs are not decreasing
-- looking at areas where input costs are too high is a good way to begin the conversation about helping farmers use their data.
Keynote Speaker, Matt Olson
The future of Precision Ag is in sensors, data usage, AI, and robotics
The Past at John Deere focused on bigger, faster, and larger equipment. The Future for Deere is focused on making equipment automated, easy to use, and more precise.
Deere and AI specifics:
-- Combine Advisor: adjusts combine settings on-the-fly based on the data sensors are collecting as the combine goes across the field, essentially eliminating any waste grain. Sojda side-note: It seem obvious that this will have negative consequences for wildlife using waste grain.
-- Expert Alerts: AI (machine learning algorithms) create predictive maintenance notifications prior to them becoming problems. -- See & Spray: computer vision is able to distinguish between weeds and crop, and spray only the weeds, again on-the-fly.
John Deere Operations Center 201, Doug Dickman and Matt Olson
Following “Release Notes” under “Help” is a good way to stay current with changes in Ops Center software. I did learn that different summary and other statistics tools are available in Field Analyzer vs Field Analyzer Beta, e.g., custom long-tern average yields are available in the non-beta version. In Beta, you are limited to the stock averages, which often tend to be less than useful. Still, Beta has better visualization tools, which I already knew, non unlike like much of the other information presented in this session.
Granular, Emma Fuller and Ben Gordon
This is software that meshes seamlessly with JD’s Operation Center. It is designed to do many things to assist the farmer optimize their operation. There are at least four modules, with only “Insights” currently being free. Their overall approach is to make the user want more detailed assistance, and be willing to purchase the other modules.
The Granular modules are:
Acre Value – provides information on real estate and land data
Granular Business – helps deal with farm management complexity, including labour
Granular Agronomy – helps manage crop inputs to maximize profitability
Granular Insights – allows the visualization of the economic impact of your agronomic decisions on every acre
Granular Insights is where profit mapping can be done. Currently this is only available for corn and soybean ground, but small grain profitability mapping is to be made available by this harvest season. It is accessible directly from within John Deere’s Operations Center. Profitability is currently based primarily on seed costs. I spoke with Emma afterward and offered to be a guinea pig as they develop this module, assuming that some MT producers with John Deere might want to be early adopters.
Success Stories from the Farm:
NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) maps which are based on free satellite imagery are useful, but not near as good as yield maps as a first cut for thinking about profitability on a fine scale within fields.