We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.



Southwest Minnesota Pheasants Forever group earns national Chapter of the Year for the third time

Nobles County puts fundraising efforts into land acquisitions.

042322 NO DG NOBLESCOPF S1.jpg
Nobles County Pheasants Forever members Bryon Foote (from left), PF Farm Bill Biologist Will Gallman, Kevin Boots, Marlyn Boots, Jesse Walker, Scott Rall, Cliff Ross, Scott Hain, Nathan Holt, Jeff Meinders, Chad Nixon and Clarence Mess stand at the edge of the Sweetie Marie Rall Memorial Tract of the Lambert Prairie.
Tim Middagh / The Globe
We are part of The Trust Project.

WORTHINGTON — The Nobles County chapter of Pheasants Forever has once again been named the No. 1 chapter in the U.S. for turning private lands into pheasant habitat ground open for the public’s enjoyment of hunting, birding and wildlife watching.

The Conservation Excellence Award, announced during Pheasant Fest earlier this year, is in recognition of the chapter’s total dollars invested in habitat — $14 million — within the county. Nobles County Pheasants Forever President Scott Rall received the plaque naming Nobles County the Outstanding Chapter for 2021, which will be displayed alongside plaques the chapter received in 2010 and 2014, also for habitat investment.

Rall said the chapter’s partnerships with Worthington Public Utilities, the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District, Minnesota Build a Wildlife Area, and the Board of Water and Soil Resources and their combined investments, propelled the chapter to its distinction.

Scott Rall with Pheasants Forever Inc. Conservation Excellence Award.
Scott Rall, president of Nobles County Pheasants Forever, holds the Conservation Excellence Award the chapter received in February.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

Many of those partnerships have been focused on taking marginal land out of production within the city of Worthington’s wellhead protection area south of the city. It has resulted in a multi-parcel complex, the largest of which is the Worthington Wells Wildlife Management Area.

The project has been a win-win for everyone involved, as the restored lands seeded to grasses and forbs help buffer the stream that flows from Lake Ocheda to the city’s wellfield near Lake Bella. In fact, the city’s public utilities manager attributes the habitat project as the reason the city doesn’t have measurable nitrates in water coming from the wellfield.


“Without those partnerships, Nobles County could not and would not have achieved the successes that we have today,” Rall said. “To win the National Chapter of the Year once is a great honor. To have won it three times is unparalleled. I don’t know of another chapter that has been the National Chapter of the Year three times.”

Building habitat

Since its inception 39 years ago, Nobles County Pheasants Forever has focused on public lands acquisition. As they acquired marginal lands within the county and converted them to grasslands for pheasant habitat — and the enjoyment of hunters and non-hunters alike — they gained more sponsorships, more donations and more momentum to continue their quest.

“When you contribute, and a year or two later you see the results of that, that’s very motivating,” Rall said, noting the chapter had a record number of individual and corporate sponsors during its fundraising banquet in mid-March.

“There are chapters that give lots of money to the Legislative Action Fund and other (Pheasants Forever) programs,” he said. “In our county, they can go out and stand on (their investment), see and smell what their contributions have resulted in. That’s the single largest … supporting factor for our success.”

 Sweetie Marie Rall Memorial Tract of the Lambert Prairie along the north side of 270th st. just west of McCall Ave.
The Sweetie Marie Rall Memorial Tract, named after Scott's wife who died of cancer, is part of the Lambert Prairie in Nobles County's Dewald Township.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

With an eye to the chapter's 40th anniversary next year, Rall said plans are to host a land dedication on Pheasant Run 40 — the chapter’s 40th land acquisition, which happens to be a parcel that adds to the complex of its very first acquisition — in mid-June 2023.

Two more parcels have been acquired since the chapter’s 40th piece of property, with Pheasant Run 41 and Pheasant Run 42 being additions to the Lambert Prairie Wildlife Management Area in Dewald Township, near Rushmore. Those acquisitions comprise a 75-acre parcel and a 59-acre parcel, and are part of the now 294-acre complex. The Lambert Prairie WMA began with an 80-acre acquisition by Pheasants Forever in 1997.

“Herlein-Boote (Slough) drainage runs through there,” Rall said of the complex. “Those parcels have some pretty rare wetland and meadow-type properties on them.”

The two newly added parcels will eventually be home to some restored wetlands, and be seeded into three distinctly different seed mixes based on soil type, Rall noted.


The Waterfowl Hunting Modernization Project would implement a seven-day “foreign resident” waterfowl license, available either through a lottery or through a licensed Manitoba waterfowl outfitter.
The angler is one of two men busted at the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament on Sept. 30. They would have walked away champions, if the event organizer, Jason Fischer, hadn’t decided to take a closer look at their catch.
The timing of the ban is especially unfortunate because waterfowl seasons in some Canadian provinces opened Sept. 1, and many American hunters had scheduled trips to Canada to hunt ducks, geese and sandhill cranes – migratory birds with no regard for borders.
Previous policy limited only birds from avian influenza hotspots.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last North American duck breeding population survey report was released in 2019.
Black bears live in the forests throughout the Itasca State Park area and normally avoid people. But when humans leave out food sources with enticing odors, such as bird feeders, unsecured garbage cans or remnants of campfire cooking and picnics, bears will come.
In this episode of the Northland Outdoors Podcast, Ryan Saulsbury, a science instructor and outdoorsman, joins host Chad Koel to talk about ticks.
Since the bounty program kicked off in 2019 as part of Gov. Kristi Noem’s Second Century Initiative, 136,683 nest predators have been removed, excluding the first month of this season.
If not for the efforts of The Nature Conservancy and the Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society, there might not be prairie chickens left in the state. Their numbers dwindled to a concerning level by the mid-1980s, their habitat ruined by the plow. They are now confined to remnant and restored grasslands in a few counties. One of those is Clay County, close enough to Fargo-Moorhead that before the sun rises over the prairie the lights of the metro glow brightly in the west.
As soon as the snow melts, blacklegged ticks and others carrying serious diseases are out looking for your blood. Don't give it to them.

While the chapter has had numerous successes in land acquisition, an increase in land values in southwest Minnesota has hindered the number of acres Pheasants Forever is able to purchase.

“Flood plains, restorable wetlands and properties that are highly erodible or prone to other environmental concerns are the lands we will continue to focus on,” Rall said.

To date, Nobles County Pheasants Forever has acquired 3,204 acres of land, which was ultimately transferred to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for designation as public lands.

“Nobles County Pheasants Forever is one of the most prolific land acquisition chapters in the U.S.,” Rall said. “Even with our success, we have impacted less than 0.7% of the land mass in Nobles County since 1984."

Becoming a destination

Rall believes that with the success of land acquisitions and the development of habitat, Nobles County is becoming a destination for pheasant hunters. He knows of at least 100 people who hunted roosters from outside the county — even out of state — within the last two years, including a couple from upstate New York.

While neighboring South Dakota has long touted itself as a pheasant hunting destination, the state is home to a lot of game farms where people pay to hunt pheasants. In southwest Minnesota, the pheasant hunting may be more challenging — and a good hunting dog may be needed to fill a limit — but that’s what makes a hunt fun.

Adding to the challenge, particularly in recent years, is the sheer number of birds available.

041021 N DG Ring necked Pheasant S1
A ring-necked pheasant takes flight on a damp afternoon on Thursday, April 8, 2021, south of Reading on McCall Avenue.
Tim Middagh/The Globe

While many people think the severity of a Minnesota winter has the largest impact on pheasant numbers, Rall said the largest detriment for the birds is heavy spring rains.


“Currently, pheasant numbers in Minnesota are down substantially from their 10-year and long-term average,” Rall said. “Even with great quality habitat, Mother Nature needs to participate.”

Last June was the first in more than five years that Nobles County didn’t receive more than 10 inches of rain in the two weeks before — and the two weeks following — the peak of the pheasant hatch, said Rall. That’s helped pheasant numbers rebound, but it will take more than one good year for numbers to return to where they were.

“It takes two to four years to rebound from a nesting failure,” Rall said. “Even though pheasant populations are below the 10-year average, there are still satisfactory populations of pheasants in Nobles County.”

Adopt a WMA

Last year, Nobles County Pheasants Forever became one of four Minnesota chapters to sign a no-fee contract with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources through its Adopt a Wildlife Management Area program. The contract allows local Pheasants Forever members to do certain maintenance projects on WMAs, such as mowing, spraying, invasive tree removal, signage and trash pickup, along with a variety of other tasks.

“Those maintenance efforts cost the DNR nothing,” Rall said. “We can do anything and everything except prescribed fire.

“Our motivation behind this is to reduce the Area WMA Manager’s workload to the most important aspects of land management,” he added. “We allow volunteers to do routine maintenance, which we believe frees them up to focus on bigger fish.”

Since the contract was finalized, Rall said Nobles County Pheasants Forever volunteers have logged more than 1,500 hours of maintenance work on WMAs within the county. Another 100 hours of volunteer work are planned this month in recognition of Earth Day, he added.

“Many of our supporters don’t hunt, but they appreciate wildlife, quality wildlife habitat, pollinators, clean water and exposing our youth to the outdoors,” Rall said

Anyone with questions about Pheasants Forever or public lands initiatives is welcome to contact Rall at scottarall@gmail.com or (507) 360-6027.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
What to read next
Don't let weather be the primary decision-maker on whether or not you get in the woods this fall. A look at what science says about this and some examples of "bad-weather" bucks.
The cold airmass of high pressure will slowly drift to the south leaving most of the region dry with moderating temperatures for Saturday and Sunday.
Richard “Skittles” Larson reached the buoy monument at Young’s Bay on Minnesota’s Northwest Angle about 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, ending a hiking trip that began in the wee hours of Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021.
Getting vaccinated was never an issue in my world, but many people – some friends included – didn’t share that view. The topic became the elephant in the room on more than one occasion.