Greenhead is shining a spotlight on three hunter/conservationists working hard to improve habitat for the ducks.
Ouachita River Bottoms
Biggest Influence/Mentor: Both my grandfathers followed closely by my father, Cal Partee Jr., and my godfather, Chris Weiser. They taught me from a young age how to duck hunt in the Red River Bottoms, but most importantly they taught me patience and ethics. Without their mentorship, I don’t think my passion for conservation would have been ignited.
Beyond the scope of my family, noted conservationist Aldo Leopold’s book, “A Sand County Almanac,” had a big impact. In the book, Leopold’s language seemed to be pervaded by a sense of interconnectedness in nature. He saw the land, plants, animals and climate interacting in a delicate ecological balance. His ecological awareness and keen observation of changes in the landscape are what I try to practice as a wildlife biologist and land/timber manager.
Best Practices: The two keys to holding waterfowl at my farm are habitat and hunting pressure management.
Creating and managing habitat for wintering waterfowl means providing food and cover. Managed moist soil and planted food plots are what provide migrating wintering waterfowl the food sources they need. Cover means late-successional woodsy wetlands that contain buckbrush, willows, cypress, etc. where birds can roost and rest. This habitat type protects waterfowl from the elements and provides thermal cover.
With these two habitat elements, we can hold birds all winter. On our farm, we try to create and manage these two major wetland habitat types within a few miles or less.
Creating and managing habitat is the first step in attracting waterfowl to a property, but the final and possibly most important step is leaving the birds with adequate, attractive areas to rest. If we hunt the property too often and disturb the quality habitat areas frequently, the birds will find another piece of habitat where they can conserve energy.
My second hunting management key would be quality over quantity. I would rather have two solid hunts than six mediocre hunts. By minimizing pressure, not only are we creating quality hunts when we do hunt, but we are also ensuring higher survival rates among adult birds that will make their way back to the prairie.
In dry years like we had on the prairie last season, I think it is extremely important that hunters remember their harvest matters most when nesting habitat is limited. Ensuring carryover of breeding adult birds to the following nesting season is key to duck production.