A lifetime of voting for the places bird dogs love to roam
By Jared Wiklund
My oldest bird rousing partner, Jaxon the English Pointer, turned 10 at the end of March. When multiplied by a factor of human years, he’s somewhere between 66 and 70 years of age – not a spring chicken by any stretch of the imagination.
Much like our own societal traits caused by aging, his physical limitations have become more pronounced through the years, as well as his selection of personal cohorts. I’m a straight shooter, so here’s a special confession: I’ve fallen out of BFF (Best Friends Forever) status thanks to a pair of five- and seven-year-old daughters.
But it’s all good, because the sight of the ol’ stacked barrel paired with a Bird N’ Lite vest still gets the English gent pawing/howling at the door for a run on our grassy “back forty,” or an extended trip to bird camp in multiple states each year.
In a month which has quite literally “gone to the dogs” here at Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, I came to the realization just the other day that Jaxon fell into my lap by happenstance when the Bird Dogs for Habitat (BD4H) campaign first started more than a decade ago. This breed contest provided one of his first dog training accessories and a promise for more habitat conservation. I was sold. I’ve contributed to the cause ever since and have the relics to prove it – chewed up bird dog bumpers, a mangled puppy training kit, an ORVIS collar from last year, PF & QF dog leads. The list goes on and on if I were to dig deep into the dog training box.
This lightbulb moment quickly had me musing about all the wonderful places and species I’ve pursued with Jaxon in 11 different states, including ring-necked pheasants, bobwhites, scaled quail, ruffed grouse, spruce grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, timberdoodles, Hungarian partridge, prairie chickens, and even the occasional jump shooting opportunity for waterfowl. The common thread? Many of these memories were produced on properties that were either purchased, improved, or enrolled for access via Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever programs supported by volunteers, staff, and yes, donations.
On the side of ringnecks and quail, the Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition properties in South Dakota and Open Fields and Waters Program enrollments in Nebraska are my top picks – both wonderful initiatives administered by Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. Programs like these demonstrate the power of partnerships and the support of upland hunters for quality habitat and access; breed popularity contests included.
The funds raised through BD4H truly do support the organization’s upland wildlife habitat mission. And as we say this time of year, “Good bird habitat is good bird dog habitat!” I can back that statement up with personal anecdotes from the landscapes I’ve followed Jaxon through over the years – many of which are influenced by the work of The Habitat Organization.
Only the man upstairs knows how many years we have left with our cherished bird dogs, especially the ones who ought to be eligible for senior discounts, like Jaxy boy. That’s why I decided to up the ante this year for BD4H 2022 and purchase Jaxon a Dog Life Membership during this fourth and final week. Donating in the name of a canine that has given so much of his loving self to my family and upland hobbies felt like the right thing to do. I’m dang proud to report that English pointers jumped into 8th place on this last day of the contest!
What’s more? Knowing the donation will create new landscapes for an elder bird dog and his owner – no spring chicken either – to cherish and enjoy in the dwindling years they have left together.
Thanks to all our supporters, donors, and sponsors for another extremely successful campaign in 2022! If you feel compelled to vote in the name of your own bird dog or breed, please do so with the few hours that remain in the campaign by visiting birddogsforhabitat.org.
Jared Wiklund is Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Public Relations Manager and the proud owner of a senior English pointer (Jaxon), and a relentless, bird-finding three-year-old Labrador retriever (Luna) who also holds the title of Dog Life Member.