Good News for Hunters*

          Hunters? How would you like to see game here in the Red River valley just as prolific as it once was back in the 'good old days'? I know: you’re thinking it's impossible considering the way they farm these days in the valley: no soil bank, no shelter belts, and hardly a stick left standing after fall plowing. Why even the trees of the old deserted farmsteads are being bulldozed and burned to squeeze that extra few sheckels worth of profit out of the gumbo.

When they get done in the fall there’s hardly cover enough to shelter a snow bird, much less a pheasant.

      Well, that's pretty much true, but I’m not talking about pheasants, partridges, or sharp tails; I’m talking about the exotic new species that are evolving right now and adapting themselves to conditions here in the valley brought about by modern corporate farming and sprawling urbanization.

        Why, these new species might very well revolutionize all hunting in the valley as we know it, and bring back the hunting tourist industry even better than it once was back in the 50's. Why not examine the possibilities of a few of these new species to better understand what I'm talking about.

   First, it is reported that new York, the city that gave us the stool pigeon and the gutter snipe has recently evolved a new breed called the pavement pecker. Pavement peckers hate vegetation of any kind and thrive on either blacktop or concrete. This makes them easily adaptable to the modern style of hunting. That's right; no walking necessary.

             Simply mount a couple of 12 gauge automatics on the front fenders of your SUV; When the pecker raises his impertinent head, remove it with a broad side. Yes, the pavement pecker should completely revolutionize road hunting, which is the method of choice among many of today's tough young outdoors men.

     While the flavor of the pavement pecker isn’t exactly gourmet, consider what an iron chef can do with a carp. He’ll find a way to get that asphalt taste to seem delicious.

      Another promising new breed is the Kansas spraddle-footed clod clutcher. This mutant weighs about five pounds and can live solely on dirt. It has been steadily replacing quail in Kansas, and last year became their number one game bird.

     The clod clutcher should be ideally suited for survival here in the valley, where a naturalist can often gaze out across the fields for ten miles and never see anything but clods from October through April. Just dirt. Not a tree nor a bush in sight.*

   So far there hasn’t been much demand for clutchers as table fare, but Ewell Gibbons informs us that like the fence post and the lightening rod, 'some parts are edible.'

Iowa reports another promising new breed which might well be of interest to hunters nation-wide-- the iron-billed litter snapper. Litter snappers need only road ditch refuse to survive. They thrive on anything from broken glass to beer cans. They do present a major challenge to hunters though, because they have iron feathers and it takes a head shot to bring one down unless your armed with a ten gauge with 00 buck.

   They are also said to have the unfortunate habit of praying on hunting dogs, and have even been known to attack motor cycles and snow mobiles. This is not out of hunger or anger, but rather out of love. You see, the wail of such contraptions much resembles the mating call of these creatures, and they are very much into 'tough love.'

   By the way, if you should be so lucky as to bag one of these snappers, don't try to pick it. These have to be cracked, much like a crab leg or a bad joke. The flavor is quite distinctive--sort of a combination of banana peel, stale beer, aluminum foil and McDonald's wrappers. But, with the price of steak these days, who can be choosy?

        Finally, from right here in the valley comes a report of a new bird, the scoop snouted snirt skimmer. They were first seen during the dust bowl, but lately they have been finding habitat much to their liking right here in North Dakota.

      Skimmers, as their name implies, live on the eroded soil in ditches along side fields lacking the proper ground cover suitable for erosion control. Of course when proper conservation techniques are employed--such as shelter belts and cover crops–the pheasants and the partridges come back. And these are mortal enemies of the muddy-tasting snirt birds. They usually kill them off in a season or two.

   These are but a few of the amazing new mutant adaptations being improvised by ingenious old Ma Nature--new exotics which should keep road hunters shooting and Ewell Gibbons eating for years to come.

*Back in the 70's when this column first appeared, there was very little minimum till ground cover left after harvest, just deep plowing and in the spring the road ditches were often loaded with silt that had blown off the fields during the winter. Now spring presents us with an even more ominous problem--ditches full of fast-moving water the product of tiling, ditching and the removal of all of nature's natural flooding dampers. Pot holes are drained or filled and low spots in fields filled. Everybody down stream gets treated to the consequences. i.e. floods. But that's progress; we dare not stand in its way.