Benefits of the farm bill

Often about 5:30 in the afternoon (on the days I write this column), I sit at my desk and try to remember where the day went, and what I’m going to write about this week. For the better part of several hours, I’ll sit at my keyboard, writing. I type quickly, but hardly ever get it right the first time and usually have to do it over, so it’s a slow process. And I use a lot of correction fluid – lots of it.

I start to write a lot of things that don’t work out, too, so I’m at it at least two and sometimes three hours. People always ask me how long it takes me to write a newspaper column. I always tell them if it’s any good, it doesn’t take long, but if it isn’t good, it takes all day. I waste a little time, too. Sometimes I’ll get about 20 phone calls a day. Friends drop by and we talk. I wait in line at the store. A lot of my old Marine sniper buddies call. Most of them, like me, are retired. Some of them, like me, still spend time as a civilian instructor at the Marine Sniper School, Quantico, Va.

Eventually, I get down to the business of doing this column. First on the agenda is the Farm Bill. Finally Congress passed and President Obama signed the 2014 Farm Bill, the first such legislation since 2008. Sporting and conservation groups applauded these provisions: Linkage of crop insurance with conservation compliance, which should deter the draining of wetlands. Reauthorization of the Conservation Reserve Program with a change that for the first time allows the enrollment of grassland with no cropping history, up to two million acres. Sod saver provisions to maintain the native prairie in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska. Forty million dollars for landowners who allow hunter or angler access.

“This farm bill truly is a bipartisan solution,” a release quoted Dale Hall, Ducks Unlimited CEO. “It includes common sense conservation programs that will help deter wetland and other habitat loss and keep working farmers and ranchers on their land.”

Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever vice president for governmental affairs, also praised the farm bill as the “single biggest opportunity for wildlife habitat conservation.” But then he added, “Unfortunately, in the time it took to pass this legislation we lost millions of acres of habitat nationwide. Now the challenge becomes taking all the conservation tools provided by the bill and implementing them across the country.”

Giant bears of Pennsylvania

Most of the outdoor news this week centers around the giant bears being taken in Pennsylvania. Hunters have been shooting one record-breaker after another. Where, when and how and why are questions he Pennsylvania Game Commission is trying to figure out. The number of heavyweights taken during the 2013 hunting season put it in a class of its own. Pennsylvania hunters bagged 3,510 bears during the recent hunting season, the fifth highest tally ever, and the largest bears ever taken has everybody scratching for answers.

Hunters registered 58 bears that weighed 500 pounds or more and nine that topped 600 pounds. The heaviest, taken in Lackawanna County, weighed an estimated 772 pounds. While more bears were taken the year before, only 45 topped 500 pounds with just five weighing 600 pounds or more. Three of the five harvests ever recorded occurred in the past three years and bears were taken in 53 of the state’s 67 counties, reflecting the thriving population expanding into areas once considered the fringe of bear range.

Nest box cleaning time

It’s that time of year. Right now. If you’ve got bluebird houses, robin nesting shelves or wren houses on your property, now is the time to clean them out and get them ready for occupancy. The bluebirds are back. Almost every corner of Hamilton County has reported bluebird sightings. The house wrens will be here in a week or so. A few have been observed in southern Iowa. And the robins are already starting to build nests – a sure sign of spring.

Wait – there’s more. We saw our first woodchuck (ground hog) of the season the other afternoon. They’re out of hibernation already. I’m guessing my next phone call will be from someone who has seen a ruby-throated hummingbird already. They’ll be arriving here most any day now.

Notice to shooters

The Boone Valley Chapter, Izaak Walton League will be hosting a hunter safety course this weekend, April 26 and 27. The north range will be closed until 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. On Sunday, all ranges will be closed until 4:30 p.m.

Anyone under the age of 14 is not allowed at anytime to shoot or handle a handgun at the Izaak Walton Range. That is a state law. No one is allowed to carry a loaded firearm into or onto the Ike’s property. The exception to this rule is law enforcement members.

Even if you have a concealed weapon permit you cannot carry a loaded firearm in or around the property. Firearms should not be loaded until you are in the firing line and ready to shoot.

And now have a good weekend.