In this fifth episode of the Modern Carnivore Podcast I sit down with Howard Vincent who is the President and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. The hunting conservation organization he leads is a pioneer in conserving and restoring habitat that benefits upland game. Their work not only supports a healthy environment for pheasants and quail, but many other wild critters, and clean water. Howard grew up in Duluth, MN which is one of my favorite places. He shares what it was like growing up in the north woods with parents who let him roam free, and how he got his kids started off hunting (and doing other things in the woods) at a young age. Listen in on this engaging conversation with a true conservation leader.Howard Vincent, CEO of @pheasants4ever is on the Modern Carnivore Podcast Click To Tweet
Reference Links from Today’s Podcast
Watch Awaken The Hunter Within here – This seven-part film is a documentary on Becca, Pierce and Alex who all decide to learn how to hunt. Follow them on their journey into the world of hunting.
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Here’s a transcript of today’s Episode – Howard Vincent – CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever
Intro: 00:00:09 Welcome to the Modern Carnivore Podcast. A guide for those interested in hearing more about hunting, fishing, and other paths to eating more responsibly. Now, here’s your host, Mark Norquist. Hello and welcome to this episode number five of the Modern Carnivore Podcast.
Mark: 00:00:27 Today I’m joined by Howard Vincent. He is the president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. And if you’re not familiar with them, they are a conservation organization that in my mind represents a really classic example of the good that the hunting community does to promote a healthy ecosystem. Their tagline is “The Habitat Organization” and that is where they put all of their energy is in improving and protecting and conserving the habitat that these birds, pheasants and quail, but also a whole host of other types of wildlife thrive in. They’ve got 150 wildlife biologists that work with them across the country and they’ve got nearly 150,000 members that are in, I think over 700 chapters across the country. So if you’re curious about them, you can probably find a chapter somewhere near you. And if you look at the results of what they’ve done, they’ve had impact on more than I believe, 16 million acres across the country.
Mark: 00:01:37 Uh, and those are, those are lands that have benefited from the work that they have done to really promote healthy habitat for, for wild animals and, and clean water. The thing that I’m really passionate about with them though is getting more people out into wild places to hunt and into other outdoor activities. And I’m really excited because we’re going to be partnering together on some Special Projects here in 2019 and we’ll talk more about that later. But, um, I’m just really impressed. Every time I talk with Howard, uh, I find out something new about this organization and I think you’re gonna. Enjoy the conversation today. Just last reminder that today’s episode is being brought to you by our film, awakened the hunter within. If you have not seen it yet on our website, please do check it out. And we will put links to the film in the show notes page. Make sure you check it out. And you can follow Becca Pierce and Alex on their journey into the world of hunting. These are three people, three adults who had never done any hunting before, and we jus chronicle their journey into the world of hunting and everything that goes along with it. And I think you’ll find it’s a. it’s a really interesting story. So we’ll provide a link to that. Just make sure you go to the show notes page and that is at [inaudible] dot com. Forward Slash podcast five. It’s podcast in the number five.
Mark: 00:03:08 Okay. Today we are joined by Howard Vincent, who is the president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever.
Howard: 00:03:17 Good afternoon, Mark. How are you? Doing?
Mark: 00:03:19 Very well. Glad to be here with you.
Howard: 00:03:21 Thanks for having me.
Mark: 00:03:22 You Bet. So we’re obviously gonna talk a little bit about the organization you run, why it’s important, but I’d like to just start with a little bit of background first of all, on on you as a person. Where did you grow up? What’s your, what’s your background?
Howard: 00:03:37 Originally I grew up in the duluth, Minnesota. Okay, great town. One of my favorite tools is it is a born and raised there, went to college there. I’m kind of introduced to hunting there with my family and you know, I come from a big family. I’m the last of 11 kids and um, you know, hunting was, yeah, I wouldn’t say a big part of our family culture, but it was, you know, was there. We did trapping and snaring rabbits and a lot of grouse hunting. Uh, and their, uh, in Duluth if you’re from that area, you don’t grow sun departure John, right. That seems to be seized, but for whatever reason it was partridge and was upland. Was Partridge chanting the main thing? If you did hunter, did you hunt waterfowl? Did you hunt deer? Um, mostly, uh, mostly grouse. And so, you know, we’d occasionally, you know, try to jump some ducks, but, you know, duluth isn’t in that great flyway, but you know, you’re an opportunity on herself. There was no flights coming through. You try to get out on the St Louis River or some of the lakes north of Duluth there. Um, uh, you know, I had friends that uh, that was a kind of a weekend culture in the fall that, you know, three, four of us would always try to get out for, you know, a Saturday and a Sunday out there during high school.
Howard: 00:04:59 And uh, it was, uh, it was a great time. It was, uh, you know, we had the north of Duluth, you have the, you know, all the way to the boundary waters, you know, to hunt and it was open access to, to everywhere, you know, you would know at no time would you have to knock on someone’s door, you have the superior national forest, you know, at your feet. So that was spectacular. And you know, growing up, my parents, uh, one of the great weeks, you know, my life, uh, every year, you know, starting when I got my hunter safety programming, you know, when I was 11 or 12 would be the, we’d spend a week out in the woods and we were a poor family. So we didn’t own a tent. We didn’t even own a car. But the older brothers would drop, you know, my father and my mother and myself, just the three of us out in the woods and we would camp out there and we did a, we had a lean to, I mean a piece of tarpaulin and you know, a fry Pan, a pot, you know, food for the week and brothers would drop us off on a Saturday morning and come back, you know, seven, eight days later, the following Sunday and pick us up and you know, for a 12 year old to have, you know, the freedom to go hunt and I get to hunt by myself.
Howard: 00:06:15 My Dad would go one way maybe with my mom and I get to go on another and you know, maybe maybe you come back for lunch and maybe you know for sure you’re back for dinner, but you know, to sit out there and plank and have a chance to shoot some rabbits and squirrels and grouse if you are lucky enough and recognize, you know, we never had a hunting dog. Yeah. So, you know, it’s terrible to say, you know, especially in my current position, but we shot grouse there in what was called preflight position yet. So if you saw grouse, you took the grill as well and there are areas up there that the woods are so thick. If you don’t, if you don’t take it at that time, there’s no chance. Exactly. Exactly. What’s your. Do you go up there much anymore? I still do.
Howard Vincent Pheasants Forever
Howard: 00:07:05 We have a tradition where we still like to go up. My two sons who are now 31 and 29. We tried to get out and it may be over the Thanksgiving weekend. We’ll try to get out for a couple of days, uh, or you know, we actually typically will carve out a week somewhere in the hunting season where just the three of us will get out. Uh, and that, that could be on pheasants or quail or somewhere else in the, in the country here. But just the three of us. And, you know, for me, you know, probably one of the greatest myths is that I, I get to hunt a lot because of my position and that’s, you know, and that’s a, if I get all three, four times in a year, that’s a lot. Um, but I, when I get to go, it’s obviously usually really spectacular opportunities and we’re with um, usually we call it being on [inaudible] will bring state dnr directors, people out of Washington D.C. Uh, we’l l hunt together, talk about our issues and how we can be better partners, um, that we can deliver more conservation.
Howard: 00:08:10 Um, so when it is just my boys and myself, that’s magic for me. That’s, you know, we go places where no one knows who I am or what I do. And that’s magic.
Mark: 00:08:21 That’s great. One of my hardest, one of my most difficult grouse ever was up in Finland and…
Howard: 00:08:28 I have been there and done that.
Mark: 00:08:32 We hiked miles and miles and miles through some deep swamps, some perfect country that looked like it should hold. It should hold birds. And I think we got two birds over three days. It was tough, it was a real tough one.
Howard: 00:08:49 Probably my best grouse season ever growing up, you know, if I shot 10 grouse that year, that was a great year, right. I mean if you’ve got one or two a day that was spectacular. And uh, you know, now you know, if you know, you know, have friends and acquaintances who have really good hunting dogs and know those magic spots, the difference between a, you know, a, a swamp and a humpback that you’d want to stay out of, you know, and then you hunt the uh, you know, uh, some of the young forest that’s been refurbished and put a good dog on the ground and they’ll shoot their limit every single day.
Howard: 00:09:33 That’s, that’s grouse hunting right now.
Mark: 00:09:35 So you mentioned the St Louis River, which, uh, I just went out on, on that body of water last year for the first time and got to learn about all the conservation work being done. They’re just an amazing success story.
Howard Vincent Pheasants Forever
Howard: 00:09:49 It really is. It really is. Yeah. So growing up in Duluth, recognizing, you know, the paper mill in cloquet was dumping in and this we, boy, we got to go back to like 19, late sixties and seventies, and then somebody made a really good decision which was put in the Western Lake Superior Sanitary district, which took all of that runoff and all of those, uh, uh, pollutants cleaned them up in the system and the, I know originally they thought that the river would take 20 years, 30 years to kind of regenerate. And in reality it took like five years. It just turned over that fast. It became an incredible fish fishery. Um, and is really a great story to tell.
Mark: 00:10:34 Yeah, it really is. So do you fish?
Howard: 00:10:37 A little bit, but I like it. I’m not very good at it.
Mark: 00:10:40 I know what you mean. I know what you mean on that front. Um, well good. So the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever organization. Um, the vision statement is a to ensure current and future generations of hunters and conservationists are able to enjoy abundant populations of wild pheasant, quail and other wildlife, which is a very all- encompassing statement. You’re oftentimes called the habitat organization. So I guess I wanted to ask, how do you define habitat and, uh, what is the magic formula to ensure there’s a future of a healthy habitat for, for not only these, these wild animals, but all of us?
Howard: 00:11:29 Yeah, so the, you know, the term for us, you know, as we think about habitat, you know, is really simply, you know, maybe that perfect acre of land that has a nesting cover, a brood rearing cover. It would have, you know, cool or warm season grasses and forbes, right? Wild flowers, uh, that could sustain, you know, a nesting pheasants and quail because he realized that when, uh, those pheasants, a baby chicks are hatched and they come off, they’re only eating protein for the first 20 days roughly in the same thing with quail. You know, they’re not picking seeds. So they need that abundant wild flowers to produce bugs. And so that’s that perfect acre, right? And so we measure our success by acres, so this past year we delivered one point 7 million acres of that habitat and then, you know, if you look at that mission statement, and it does say pheasants, quail and end other wildlife. So we absolutely recognize that the work we do in that acre or those hundred acres or there’s one point 7 million acres of the benefits to other wildlife and in, and not only wildlife, but to, you know, how we protect our soils, how we protect our water, uh, in that it’s not just pheasants and quail, but it’s deer, Turkey and its pollinators and it’s monarchs and you know, at Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever.
Howard: 00:13:04 We have some other large initiatives, the, ah sage grouse initiative out 11 state region out west. Uh, we’ve got a lesser prairie chicken initiative, which is a five state region in the southwest. And so again, if the, you know, we raised dollars locally through the chapters, we try to match those with our federal state partners and we can create these habitat, a hikers, uh, regardless of where they are in the United States and with quail forever brand, obviously, you know, from the southeast Florida, Georgia, all the way out to California and Washington and you’re looking at valley quail and California quail and the desert quail species, as long as those dollars go on the ground to improve that wildlife habitat there, that’s the magic of it. You know, we don’t release any birds of any type, you know, the dollars go in the ground.
Mark: 00:14:01 And, I’ve heard you say that before the “dollars go in the ground”, I love that phrase. It’s so true. Just in terms of, of where all the effort is going. I’m in and I think a lot of times people don’t realize the benefits to the whole ecosystem to all of the other species. Like you said, even though you’ve got, um, these two particular species in your name that the work you do is so beneficial far beyond that to all these, to all these other living, living creatures in the environment, so to speak.
Howard: 00:14:37 Yeah, absolutely. And I think that, you know, the magic of the organization and the energy that has come here relates a lot to our volunteers and our membership base and you know, make no mistake, you know, are 140,000 members, avid hunters and they identify with being a pheasant hunter or being a quail hunter. But they also absolutely recognize that, you know, if they’re going to have land to hunt, if they’re going to have access to that land and if they’re going to have a successful hunt, that they have to put something back in the ground themselves, that it doesn’t happen magically.
Howard: 00:15:16 It does take hard work and you know, that’s the, I think the really the magic of the organization and our short 35 years, uh, I think we’ve delivered over $70, million acres of habitat on the ground. Um, you know, and then, you know, what else do we do, what else should we be doing and you know, that enters into this next generation of hunters that we want to come and be the next conservationist on that landscape. So let’s, let’s talk about that next generation of hunters. Um, how important are mentors to new hunters and what is pheasants forever and quail forever? Um, do around in that space. Yeah, that’s critically important. If you think about, uh, the, the, you know, myself, uh, you know, I could, you know, sure, call my father, my mentor. Um, so it comes in different forms. It could be your father, your grandfather, family, friends, but you absolutely need that social network, you know, to be introduced to hunting, to find your way and are not just learning, but again, to have access to, you know, have those, all those components have a knowledge on how to hunt and whether that’s pheasants or deer hunting or waterfowl hunting, there’s a, there’s an art to it, there’s challenges, there’s safety concerns of all this and that all comes with a mentor and they can come in different shapes.
Howard: 00:16:50 It could be your, uh, that, that first child’s a hunter safety director, program director, and again, it could be family or it could be someone who does want to pass on their knowledge and passion for the outdoors to others. Uh, and we’re in this moment right now where we are not only concerned about getting, you know, young children outside, uh, to learn about hunting and shooting the outdoor sports, uh, but we’ve got to actually even bring the old dogs back, uh, people who have of maybe left the field for whatever reason, we need to engage them and bring them back into the hunting community. We’re, you know, over the last five years, we’ve dropped a 2 million hunters according to the US fish and wildlife service. So we’re adult just over 11 million participants right now. Um, and if we only focused those 12 year olds there a cost to wildlife and conservation, uh, would be dramatic.
Howard: 00:17:57 And we could lose this sport. We could lose this North American model of hunting. Uh, and so, um, there was a council form the council to advance hunting and shooting sports, a pheasants forever and quail for our, our, uh, one of those members along with ducks unlimited and the national wild Turkey Federation, Archery Trade Association, National Shooting Sports, and there’s a State Department, natural resources were members of this and we’ve developed what’s called r three, which is recruitment, retention and reactivation. So we have to bring individuals of all ages into this sport and back to the sport, uh, and including, uh, you know, the 60, 70 year old guys who have maybe put their guns away, we want them to come back out and be those mentors and introduce others to the outdoors. And, you know, we do see, uh, you know, we really believe we can turn this around. Uh, we believe we can build this a hunting community.
Howard: 00:18:56 Again, I’m, you know, in Minnesota at this moment, the shooting sports are just exploding in the high schools and scholastic plays. I mean there’s, I think they had 12,000 kids participate in the shooting sports and it’s the number one lettered high school sport in Minnesota, bigger than football and hockey.
Mark: 00:19:15 I know bigger than hockey in the state of hockey, which to me, when I heard that stat recently, I was amazed
Howard: 00:19:21 And it’s, and it’s growing. It’s a, and this has just happened probably. I’m really honestly the last five to eight years. It’s gone to that and we see that happening in other states and we do want our chapter supporting those initiatives, putting dollars toward those and you know, from an organizational standpoint, our mission isn’t for kids to shoot trap and skeet it, but we absolutely believe that that path, if we can give them outdoor pulling the trigger that there’ll be a natural extension and a path forward for them to maybe be interested in hunting and then continuing that path to be a conservationist, to be a, a leader in hopefully our organizations and you know, they’re, the next group was going to deliver those acres.
Mark: 00:20:10 You know, one of the things I talk about a lot of times with getting new people into hunting is if you’re outdoors already, um, you’re paddling, you’re camping, you’re hiking, you’re Berdine, etc. Um, you’re, you’re observing wildlife. When yoU start to hunt, you become a participant in that, in that ecosystem. And it’s, and it’s hard to describe that, I think to somebody who hasn’t done it, but I love hearing the stories and watching the reactions that people, once they get it and they become part of it, and they realize the richness of that experience. And I think the, the aspect, like you said with these, these trap leagues, these highschool trap leagues, you’ve got this skill now where you’re shooting at the clays, take it now to that richer experience of going out and being in these beautiful places and being part of that ecosystem and a participant in it. And, uh, you get a great meal out of it to.
Howard: 00:21:11 Absolutely. Absolutely. And then it’s a, it’s, um, it’s, it’s almost a leopold quote. And I’m not going to try to even say that, but you know, the, the, you know, the, the intent of, you know, in order to love something, right, you have to essentially immerse yourself in a, do I have to smell it and touch it and feel it in order to appreciate it. And you know, if you think about that landscape that’s out there, um, it’s not just to look at it is to experience. No, we can stay in the library if we wanna look at pictures of the rocky mountains or look at that stream or look at that beautiful pictures of the lake. If you want to have an experience, you’ve got to get on that water. You’ve got to get the line wet. You have to, you know, recognize the tug on that line, right? That little bit of adrenaline that hits you. That’s magic. Yeah. And the same thing with a flushing, a upland bird, whether it’s a gross or a pheasant or a quail, a, it’s magic. And you can be an off of, you knoW, this bird that you just harvested and, and recognize the beauty of it. And then appreciate, um, you know, this, this meal that you’re having and recognize that you, a part of that cycle and that it is sustainable and that it is such a natural part and you’ll want to go back.
Mark: 00:22:41 I think there’s an argument, a credible argument, whether it’s right or wrong, I don’t know, but that the future of conservation and protecting wild places is, is dependent upon and robust hunting community. I think it, it, it just the appreciation you get for the outdoors and the desire to protect these places that where the animals live and grow and thrive is, is so core to the hunting community. Um, that’s, that’s one of the things I’m passionate about because I feel like there’s so many things in society these days that are insulating us from that connection. And that is dangerous I think. Because then the, the valuation of those places I think diminishes the more insulated and, and, and distant we get from it. And when you go out and you hunt, you are part of it. And you understand the importance of all those aspects of the water, of the brooding areas of, of all of these different things.
Howard: 00:23:49 Absolutely. And so, you know, you’re back to Leopold saying, you know, if, if you think groceries come from the store and if you think water comes out of your tap, and if you think heat comes out of your furnace and don’t recognize where those things really came from, then you cannot have an appreciation for that. so you do need to immerse yourself. You do need to be in that, that space where those things are created and uh, and, and utilized. It’s, uh, you know, uh, the, and then, you know, to the heart of the north american model of hunting the hunting community and the shooting community fund, 80 percent of conservation United States through self-imposed license fees, through the excise taxes that they pay on only a gun’s bullets, shells, arrows, and bows. Um, those Are the only things that generate this, these millions of dollars of excise tax that goes back to the states to deliver conservation at the department of natural resources level.
Howard: 00:24:51 Um, and then with, uh, you know, hopefully those ngos out there that are helping match those dollars. So that’s where those, that’s the money for conservation comes and if that stops, um, we are going to be a loss for a hunting heritage that we would never get back. Yeah. So why do you think hunters are such staunch conservation is going back to you just referencing the excise tax, pittman robertson in the thirties, dingle johnson with fishing community in the fifties. Um, you know, all, all of these things that were sometimes proactively done I guess excise tax to, to address these issues, but it was because of the problems that had resulted from market hunting and things like that. Yes. But what, why do you think it is? It is so, so core to the, to the dna, excuse me, to the dna of, of a hunter more so than, than maybe some other groups.
Howard: 00:25:49 So I think, I think it is your, your back, if you’re in that environment, if you’re in the woods, if you’re on that lake, if you’re on that stream, you’re a part of the cycle. You recognize there is a cycle of birth and death and you’re a part of that and that it can go away without your help. I mean, we have, you know, for all intensive purposes, kind of screwed up the planet pretty well and now we’re into management. Uh, we can’t just leave it alone and walk away and assume everything’s gonna be fine. Uh, there needs to be management. Uh, can we, I think the hunters recognize their role in that cycle as well as salmon, recognize their cycle in order to get upstream and spawn and, and then die and they’d be a part of that, a biosystem, you know, as they break down and become food for other, you know, other fish and other resources.
Howard: 00:26:46 So it’s, it’s natural. I think you live it, you breathe it and you understand that and it, it may not be really obvious a conscious part of you, but I, but I think it exists and I think it’s a real. Yeah, I, I agree. So you, you, you talk about where we’re at in the. If we look at the long range of, of us as a species, we’re at this point of where we’ve populated this planet so much, we got to manage it. It’s not separate anymore. Um, and, and I think we’ve done a lot of good things within the us. You talk about the north amerIcan model of conservation. We talk about the self imposed taxes, the, the, the, the bills like the farm belt which comes up, which, which pheasants forever and quail forever is, is an integral part of making sure that includes conservation in it.
Mark: 00:27:41 Um, what are, what are the challenges we have today in this current environment with making sure we are managing it well and we are focused on the right thing so that we don’t, as you said, screwed up some more.
Howard: 00:27:54 So I think, you know, where the greatest challenges, especially for the specifically for the hunting community, is that the work that conservation is do need to be recognized as relevant to the broader population. So if you think about that though, the work that, you know, pheasants forever and quail forever would do or, or, or ducks unlimited or turkeys or any of the other wildlife organizations, uh, for example, if we’re putting habitat on the ground and we’re keeping soil where it should be, we’re actually building healthier soils and we’re keeping, you know, that moisture on that field or our preventing a chemicals from running off into streams.
Howard: 00:28:38 And so at the end of the day, we’re protecting water, right? If those buffer systems are in place, natural buffer systems, we’re protecting that runoff. That means as much to someone in downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul or St. Louis or Chicago as it does to the people in those outlying communities of rural America. I’m protecting water is relevant in this conservation community. Does that every single day. Uh, those 1.7 million acres that we put in are protecting modern. They are keeping our soils and they are allowing places for pollinators to exist. And you know, something as simple as a monarch butterfly. And I think, you know, every third grader has gone through that classroom where we opened up a, you know, a, a pod and took out that little larva and you know, watch that metamorphosis into a butterfly and then recognize of what’s, you know, what does that butterfly need and it is relevant and the fact that you live in downtown minneapolis, you should care that there’s enough milkweed out there because that’s the only place that a monarch butterflies a feed and where they nest and where they lay their eggs.
Howard: 00:30:02 And if that goes away, you will not have butterflies and that’s relevant and you don’t have to hunt to appreciate that. But you should recognize that the people that are putting their resources and time and energy and dollars into the ground to do recognize that. And you should appreciate that.
Mark: 00:30:23 Do enough people, our elected officials in Washington…I’m sure you’re out there quite often, um, have a real appreciation for what the hunting community does relative to conservation? Because that’s one of the things I get concerned about is there just isn’t enough connection to, to understanding what that whole hunting conservation ethic is all about.
Howard: 00:30:47 Um…Not enough, not enough. And so, you know, as, as America has transitioned from a rural agricultural country, you know, in the late 18 hundreds and early 19 hundreds into an urban culture right now. Uh, so if you just look at how your house of representatives are assigned, right? It’s based on population basis and the tighter population and more concentrated, you know, in a, in an urban center of Minneapolis or St Paul. Again, Chicago have typically, and I’m making a huge generalization, I’m making a generalization, not a huge generalization. Um, you know, they have a constituency that they represent that does not include or typically concern wildlife conservation. Um, and, and I’ll say water and soil and, and inner necessarily where their food comes from and what it takes to grow that food, those farmers out on that landscape who are protecting our lands, who are feeding a nation, who are clothing, a nation, fueling a nation in some levels. Um, you know, what’s, what’s critically important there. And that’s not their issue. And if you look at the farm bill itself, you know, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a huge concentration of all of the issues, including downtown, uh, uh, urban cities, which is welfare food for school lunches, and that’s by far the largest part of that bill.
Howard: 00:32:26 The conservation title is a very small amount of dollars relative to the entire farm bill. So you need those votes. And so it’s a little bit magic because you want those votes of those bourbon representatives to carry those conservation title for rural America as well. Now, I would argue that there’s some incredibly smart and passionate people in Washington dc who recognize absolutely what this takes to feed a country, what, uh, what it means to have a, uh, an economic viable agricultural community, which is critically important and then as well as. But we need to be smart about what we grow and how we grow it. Um, so, and they exist and we’ve been successful over the last three decades that we’ve had a farm bill. But it’s a battle. It’s a battle every single day. There’s not enough money to do all the things that all the representatives in congress and the senate wants to do a on this landscape.
Howard: 00:33:31 So we’re out there fighting every single day, uh, to, to, for, for our battle and what we believe in. So we know relative to the farm bill as you described and we were talking about earlier, it’s such a broad. It everybody thinks, oh, it’s just About farmers. no, no, no. It’s a very broad bIll. Um, and so maybe you could talk a little bit about crp and just explain for the listeners who may or may not know what that component of farm bill is in, why it’s important. Sure. So there’s a, the farm bill is a title to have that bill, uh, is the conservation title and a con, the biggest piece of that conservation title, or at least meaningful to us as the conservation reserve program. And that program’s designed to, uh, pay farmers a rental rate for ground that is probably never should’ve been farmed to begin with.
Howard: 00:34:32 Um, because it’s maybe highly erodible, it’s poor soil types and you know, the benefit that the american people would receive for that farmer taking it, let’s say, out of corn production and putting a grass cover on there with forbes, uh, that would again, prevent soil from washing away, uh, keep chemicals from Washington to water. Um, give us, while I’ve benefits of a forage for honey bees and monarchs and pheasants, quail, dear. Uh, and there’s a cap they put on that every farm bill and the farm bill happens essentially every five years. And so this past farm bill, the 2014 farm bill, uh, put in play a 24 million acre cap on acres that were eligible to go into the program and the program is fairly, uh, there’s, you know, like 50 different practices that you could qualify for a, but you have to bit it the farmer, the farmer has to fit into it. Yes. And then the department of agriculture and it’s a divisions which is farm service agency and natural resource conservation service to the most part a look at those programs and either accept or reject those bids. Uh, and then they’re typically either, you know, 10, 15 or 30 year contracts and so there’s a huge benefit to the public and again, I don’t think the broad public recognizes the benefits and really the pricelessness of, uh, what they’re receiving for those dollars.
Mark: 00:36:13 So in the 2014 farm bill is capped at 24 million acres. Um, what was the cap 10, 15 years ago?
Howard: 00:36:21 Yeah, I think our high was 39.6 million. So, you know, we’re in this budget war every single and then the iteration after the 39 million was 36 million, you know 32 and then down to 24. And the 24 cap happened, all the stars I would save kind of lined up against, uh, the conservation title in that corn, you know, in that window of time when from a, maybe a historical $2 a bushel ran up to eight dollars and there was no motivation for a land owner who’s trying to feed their family and send their kids to college to, you know, leave it in the conservation reserve program that would maybe be paying them. Let’s say $150 an acre when they could get an $8 a bushel, they were making, you know, $300 an acre, but we also sent the signal that said plow everything, everything.
Mark: 00:37:19 And so that everybody, you know, can sort of get a visual of what this is. That would be a farmer than having these either fringe areas along fence lines, ditches…um marginal lands that have, like you said, they’ve got a grade, it’s going to erode and slash or it’s just not ideal farming. They would just let that go to grass and natural and sometimes planted a planting the those beneficial grasses, getting the forbes in, et cetera. And so when prices go up, there’s a cap, (a) farmer can’t get access to the program. They put in a bid, they don’t win it because for any number of different reasons, they’re going to plow that under and they’re going to have corn or soybean generally speaking from fence line to fence line and out in the ditches and everywhere they can. Right? Because, like you said, they’re trying to, trying to, you know, send the kid to college.
Howard: 00:38:11 Yes, absolutely. So, you know, so our challenge at pheasants forever and quail forever as to kind of find that balance, you know, our goal would be a or a belief, strong belief would be that there’s room for conservation on every farm and at the end of the day, you know, farm the best, you know, and then let’s buffer the rest. Let’s, uh, let’s make use of the best use of our lands are black soils, uh, and then the stuff that isn’t as a viable, you know, let’s protect that and let’s build soils there. And, and, and, you know, these decisions aren’t forever. These are voluntary programs. And uh, you know, we believe farmers can find that space in those spots for wildlife, uh, for pollinators, for monarchs, a protect water, you know, and that’s obviously an issue to you. We shouldn’t be farming right up to the edge of that crick no more than you should be farming up to that white line in the middle of the road. Um, there’s, you know, good farmland. And, and then we just need to give those land owners have the right tools to do that in the economic viability to do that.
Howard: 00:39:18 They shouldn’t do it at their own cost or their own loss. Um, and they, uh, all of us should recognize the benefits, uh, when they put crp and yes, they’re compensated, but they’re compensated, you know, at least theoretically at a local rental rate that’s fair and equitable for both the public and the landowner themselves. Was your organization supportive of the Minnesota governor, a buffer law that is put in place and, and, and, um, savvy the highly charged in some respects the implementation of it and there’ve been challenges around it. But is that something your organization supports? Yeah, we believe the concept of buffers on waterways. Um, you know, the governor’s, uh, you know, it was a far reaching bill. Uh, there wasn’t, uh, we had little or no input into that, how it was implemented and put in play. But again, if you look at the goal of our organization would be to work with those land owners, find, uh, economic, uh, resources for them, uh, to make habit.
Howard: 00:40:25 Makes sense for them, but we do, we do believe that there should be buffers on every waterway to protect that. And, and sometimes it’s not even as simple as, you know, this cookie cutter approach of, uh, you know, the buffer is the answer to every single one of those edges. I mean, you can create berms, you can create other mechanisms, uh, to have the same feature a or the same impact. Um, so, uh, I would probably have a, a, maybe a less of a cookie cutter approach that everything looks the same a and evaluate each, you know, what you’re trying to protect and what you’re trying to create a to be a, you know, a little bit more a thought. Thoughtful on how we do that. And again, um, you know, finding economic resources, uh, that crp program, uh, that the, that has a buffer mechanism in it.
Howard: 00:41:20 And we, uh, we were able to kind of work with the natural resource conservation service farm service agency to encourage them because originally as soon as they made that law in Minnesota, it technically didn’t under the department of agriculture program anymore because it’s so, it wasn’t voluntary anymore. We were able to work with them and encourage them and through their attorneys they were able to draft wording that said no farmers can qualify for buffers and get paid through these federal programs, which was, I think, fair and equitable. Absolutely. Absolutely. So, um, how does, how does a person get into pheasant hunting or quail hunting and, um, and uh, did they, do they have to have a dog? Ideally.
Speaker 3: 00:42:19 So, yeah, I mean, there are some, some basic tools and you know, I think that the, you know, that first best tool is a mentor. You don’t want how, uh, you know, the, uh, how you would go about hunting, you know, you need to be, you know, understand, uh, the safety of shooting shotguns and you need to be, um, you know, you shouldn’t be shooting some clays and getting comfortable with, with that device and, uh, and then just the, you know, the logic of how we’re going to actually go into the field and hunt and, uh, hopefully, you know, number one, flush a pheasant who, whose nature is not to fly, which means you need to typically put a dog on the ground a move that bird. And then, you know, the obviously the different breeds, you know, do you want to, are you more comfortable hunting with a flusher, which, you know, the, and then and slash, or a pointer and uh, then, uh, be ready.
Howard: 00:43:14 And then, you know, one of the more difficult things is once, you know, if you’re lucky enough to shoot that bird, you know, and it drops in those grassy fields to refine that bird and retrieve it. And that dog, you know, is a magic again. And, and honestly, uh, you know, the, if you think about the classic pheasant hunter, it is all about the dog. Yeah. The hunt is, is, is magic. But most of the individuals that I know would not hunt in any way if it wasn’t for their dog. Yeah. I mean, that’s such a natural companion. They’re bred to do this. They, the joy that they, they, uh, show, uh, when they’re in the field, you know, is contagious. There is, it is so fun to watch a good dog work and so frustrating. Right?
Howard: 00:44:10 So it is, it’s amazing. Yeah. So that’s one of the more common questions I get is, you know, what’s your favorite dog? Someone else’s. Exactly. I don’t have a dog right now. So it’s exactly, it’s, it’s nice to go out with somebody who’s got a good. That’s right. And it’s, it’s time and energy and you know, and again, the best dogs are also the best family docs and you know, the dog’s a field maybe three, four months at best in the year and the rest of the time it’s a, it’s one of the members of your family. And the joy that you know, dogs can bring to, to everyone, whether you’re, you’re a hunter or not is, is magic. So what’s your, uh, what’s your favorite? A gun for upland hunting. So I’ve, I’ve learned here I’m getting, getting smarter. Um, I would say originally I was, I wanted that 12 gauge and I wanted every single pellet and every single ounce of powder in it had to do with my mentality of not a very good shot.
Howard: 00:45:10 So I need all the help I can get out there is he can end of late. Um, I’ve had people knowledgeable people. Let’s be clear, move me toward a smaller gauges. And to my surprise, I am a more effective with a 20 gauge a than a 12. So I, I, uh, on upland birds. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. two years ago I sold my 12 gauge that I had just for hunting upland and they, and they sold it to buy a 20 and I’d never had a 20. I’ve always said twelves. And I love this gun. I, I haven’t figured it out yet, I haven’t figured it out. So I’m not my, I’ve got to work on, on my accuracy, but I haven’t quite got there, but I love how it carries love, how it feels and it doesn’t kick me like a meal like that last 12 gauge did and it’s um, it’s, you know, for myself and I, and again, people who are knowledgeable, I’m much more knowledgeable than I am about the ballistics, uh, would even argue that and I’ve shot at least quail a with a 28 gauge and had more success with the 28 than I did with the 12 as well.
Howard: 00:46:29 It’s swings better. It’s much quicker. Um, the ballistics, uh, my understanding on the 28 rm are almost a perfect. Is that really that perfect gauge now? And I have shot pheasants with the 28 with a pointer. Okay. Birds are a little bit closer, right? You’re not going to take those 50 yard shots, you know, that you can sometimes get away with a, with a lucky shot on a 12 gauge or something like that with a, you know, a, a good load. But um the 28 is kind of a magic gun. And so I haven’t gone from the 20 to 28 absolutely yet. But yeah, you know, in my perfect world I would, I would love to stay there.
Mark: 00:47:10 My very first gun, my very first shotgun was a single shot. Steven’s 28 gauge with a hammer, no safety or anything…just this old gun. I still have it. And uh, and uh, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve often thought the same thing. I’d like to someday again go back to 20, it would be, would be fun. And I’ve heard they’re heard, like you said, I don’t know ballistics at all. I’m not knowledgeable in that space, but I’ve heard it’s that it is a, a much more perfect stage for whatever reason. The same thing, the people that have shared that with me, you know, know that world, you know, live in that space. Uh, and even, you know, and I’ve seen this, um, even on the trap and skeet range, uh, these individuals can grind up with a 28, what I’m, you know, can’t do 60 percent of the time with a 12. Yeah. Yeah. Um, so there’s, you know, there’s, there’s proof statements there and then there’s the simple eye hand coordination that, you know, I don’t necessarily have with the rest of the world.
Mark: 00:48:13 I, I won’t even say what I shot a few weeks ago and I went out to arrange with a couple of friends. It was so embarrassing with that gun.
Howard: 00:48:19 And then the reality of that is, you know, that’s like a playing golf. I mean, you go out there and you start, you have to think, now you have to think about where your, what your leader, what to your lead is. Um, how Am I going to, am I swinging, am I keeping it mounted? And when you’re hunting wild birds, it’s more instinctual that comes up naturally. You’re not thinking. And that’s why you’re more effective with flushing birds than you would ever be, I think on a trapper, a skeet range. yeah. Yeah. So do you, uh, if somebody asks you, do you have a, a hunting story that’s a favorite of yours? You know, when you were a kid, maybe when your, your, your boys were younger or something.
Mark: 00:49:01 It could be funny, could be a…
Howard: 00:49:03 So my actually my single favorite hunting story, um, would, would the first time I ever took my two boys hunting and so we are back home in duluth, Minnesota, fourth thanksgiving and the boys are six and four and we just had a beautiful snow and I’m going to take them hunting for the first time and recognize hunting means they, no one gets to carry a single shot for 10 empty. One gets to cArry a pellet gun empty and I’m just following along and we’re going grouse hunting in my old haunts. but we had a beautiful foot of fresh snow. It’s gorgeous. And taking a six and a four year old out into the woods is like bringing a brass band. I mean wildlife is leaving for miles and miles ahead of us, but we, you know, it’s this experience and we’re, you know, we see rabbit tracks and deer tracks and, and the boys get to, you know, shoot the 14 and blow up cat tails, which are, it’s really spectacular, right?
Howard: 00:50:14 They just explode. And then you’ve just got gotta be smart enough to be upwind downwind of those. But uh, anyway, we’re having a wonderful day and we’re walking on pass. I’m trying to take it easy on these little legs and they’re, you know, they’re in there, they’re best snow gear so it’s, you know, think it’s still the classic if they fall over, you know, they got to be helped up and, but they stop at some point in this, you know, when are we going to start hunting? And I said, well, I kind of are. And they said, no, we got to go in the woods. And it’s like okay. So I figured out in my mind this path that kind of forked and like we could cut across this edge of woods not too far and cause I’m, I’m actually breaking trail for them. Make it a little bit easy for them to go in.
Howard: 00:50:59 And now we get into kind of the middle of this clearing. And they noticed there’s this deer stand and it’s got a little bunch of little pines created, rounded for camouflage. And of course little boys and heights. So right away both boys said, you know, can we go up in the deer stand assurion sake both climb up there. This is, this is my best hunting story. Realize. So the six year old says, I have to go the bathroom, I need to go pee. And I said, well why don’t you come down? He goes, no, I want to go from up here. So it’s okay. Right? I mean literally you got the four year old he needs to go now to right. Oh, so this is happening and I’m telling you, it looks like the chicago fire, the back pressure on a four year old and a six year old is spectacular.
Howard: 00:51:54 And anyway, so we finished the day, we stop and we have lunch somewhere and a burger and fries that it, it old haunt again. I don’t buy him a beer, but you know, I could have a and we just had this wonderful day and we’d get back home. And so they had linked with a 22. They had linked with 4:10, the pellet gun and they saw all kinds of tracks that deer tracks rabbit tracks and we get home to grandma and grandpa’s house where we’re staying and mom’s there. And so tell me about the hunt. You know, boys, what would you see? We paid off the top of a deer stand and really, you know, know, tell me about your hunting. Yeah, there’s this deer and that’s all they could. They, they know. I said guys, tell them about, you know, we linked with uh, you know, the 4:10 and you blew up cat tails, mom, this deer stand was way off the ground and we.
Howard: 00:52:52 So the kind of, the moral of the story was they had the best time and they wanted to go back. And for me that was my single greatest achievement for them is, was to plant this seed of being in the outdoors and having a wonderful time and they wanted to go back and everything is taken it’s own course from them. They’ve never paid off the top of any other deer stands that I’m aware of. And they’ve continued to hunting. Yes.
Mark: 00:53:22 I was just out with my son this last weekend. We were fishing and uh, we were walleye fishing up north and uh, you know, at one point my son just wanted to drive the boat and similarly, like you said, and I’ve learned that over time, you know, okay, if I want them to like fishing, I better let them just drive the boat now. And he had a great time and he, he said the other day, dad, we got to get back out fishing soon, you know, to him fishing was, you know, we, we did fish a fair amount too, but the driving the boat was a fun aspect of it and you need to just take those opportunities and let them have fun. We all find our joy in different elements of the outdoors that was as good as any. Right, right. So what excites you most about the future of hunting? Uh, and, and, and what’s going on today’s. Because there, there are a lot of challenges in conservation. There’s challenges with recruitment like you talked about. Um, but what are the bright spots that give you hope for, for the future of hunting?
Howard: 00:54:16 So, you know, I’ll look within the organization that, you know, it gives me so much joy. So we’ve grown, uh, from, you know, for the first 25 years of the organization, we were about 50, 60 individuals employed here, did great things, chapters delivered 100 percent of the acres in the organization, you know, because of our model chapters raise money locally. They keep money locally. They delivered the mission for the first 25 years and they, they were delivering about two to 300,000 acres annually spectacular. And then, you know, the strategic questions that are presented us was, is that who we’re going to be, we became fairly static with our chapter growth and what chapters could generate, what they could put it in the ground. And we, um, one of the concepts that came up was thIs farm bill biologist concept where we would hire a, an individual they would with partners that’s critical here. Recognize that we can’t do this ourselves, that it takes a lots of partners to do great things and we can help partners deliver their mission while delivering ours. Um, so working with natural resource conservation service, farm service agency, department of natural resources, we could hire a position, farmville biologist that would sit down at the kitchen table with farmers and ranchers and help them build a conservation plan wherever they could on their farm. Right? And these are working lands, these are working farms are growing corn and soybeans, but they could find places to do conservation.
Howard: 00:55:56 That was about 12 years ago. We have 380 people in our organization right now. 70 percent of them are millennials and they’re, there are farmville biologists. So these are young, a talented people. And I don’t care what you think about millennials, but my take is there’s whole for the planet. These are just incredibly passionate young individuals who, you know, at least came to this organization and, and work in this community and have a passion for what they’re doing and the outdoors and conservation. And, um, you know, they’re not here for a big, you know, if you’re working in the nonprofit, you’re not here for the check, but they bring so much energy that is, um, that gets me excited. I’ve, you know, I’ve just working on my 30th year here with this organization and I’m as excited now as I’ve ever been. Um, the number of partners that we’re working with every single day is incredible.
Howard: 00:56:59 Um, we’re working better every single day with our other partners are ducks and turkeys and elk through the american wildlife conservation partners. We work very closely in Washington dc on legislative matters. We’re partnering and we’re matching our dollars together, working on programs, whether it’s in the prairie pothole region with the north american conservation act. Um, there’s just so many ways that we’re working together. The r three initiative, we’re all in, along with all those other organizations, all 50 department of natural resources at the state level are in. We’ve got the department of interior and the department of agriculture recognizing the importance of our three as well. So this is, this is coming together. We’re getting smarter. That, uh, again, we can’t work by ourselves, we have to work together if we’re going to really make change and it’s really happening on the landscape right now.
Mark: 00:57:53 I, I agree. I think it is an exciting time and in part due to the challenges, but a lot of good things happening. I couldn’t agree more that the partnerships and everybody working together in the same direction is, is critical. So to that end, if somebody is interested in Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, they’re, they’re, they’re, they’re not a member today, but they want to learn more, I guess, where is the organization today? Where would somebody be able to find a local chapter?
Howard: 00:58:20 So the best thing to do is to actually go to our website. So pheasantsforever.org or ww, pheasantsforever.org or quail, forever.org. And you can go out there and you can, there’s a map will pop up of the United States and you can drill down into the state and the counties. Uh, so our pheasants forever chapters are county based. Um, and then for those that aren’t, you know, uh, you can go to a local chapter banquet if you’d like, and there’s 750 of those around the countries, both on the pheasant quail side.
Howard: 00:58:51 Uh, but you can also, you know, banquets aren’t your thing. You can sure go online and join a and then, you know, participate, uh, you know, go out to our social media sites, uh, you know, share, if you want to learn how to hunt, if you want to find a mentor, if you want to talk about your dogs or what dogs are out there, if you want to get into this, what are the guns, what type of shotguns are your preferences? You know, there’s an incredible amount of experience out there. Uh, what loads to shoot. I mean there’s some endless. What are the best recipes for your wild game out there? There’s a, just an incredible amount of resources out there for you and you could sure joIn online as well.
Howard Vincent Pheasants Forever
Mark: 00:59:31 Well, you and your organization do a lot of phenomenal work and I want to thank you for that, for conservation. And, uh, and I want to thank you for taking time today to sit down and, and, and shared a lot of those stories with me. So…
Howard: 00:59:46 Thank you Mark for thinking about us, and allowing us to come out here and talk a little bit. It’s been fun.
Mark: 00:59:50 Absolutely.
Mark: 00:59:52 Okay, everyone, I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation with Howard Vincent, the President and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. Don’t forget to check out the show notes page where you can get more information on this episode as well as a link to our film Awaken The Hunter Within where you can follow Becca, Pierce and Alex on their journey into the world of hunting where they had no background in this world and we follow their entire journey from asking questions to go into a gun range and learning how to shoot to getting out and doing small game. Finally, a white tailed deer hunt and then sharing in the feast after. And so, uh, go to the show notes page at www.modcarn.com/podcast5. That’s podcast and the number five.
Outro: 01:00:50 Thanks for listening to the Modern Carnivore Podcast. You can continue the journey by going to modern.com.