Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam
Where the deer in the antelope play
Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day
Home, home on the range…
A few months ago, I was out in the Big Horn Mountains fishing with some buddies. I marveled, as we traversed through and around the low-lying ranches of the country, about how much wildlife is fed high quality, irrigated alfalfa and hay grasses grown by the ranchers. Of course, those crops in the form of hay are intended to go to the gullets of cows and sheep during the cold winter months. The lush valleys of hay crops, nestled between mountains, attract hundreds of deer and antelope, especially in the evening hours, to gorge on the finest product the rancher has to offer. I often wonder if the ranchers get upset with these natural grass thieves.
I snapped these photos of deer and antelope “playing” in the hay fields in August as we drove through one of these valleys.
The classic tune popped into my head…Home, home on the range…
The National Bison Association recently announced a goal to more than double the number of buffalo in North America to one million by 2027. (There were fewer than 700 of the wooly beasts back in 1880) I wonder how much of the rancher’s hay crop a buffalo herd can eat. It is clear the group will need to partner with farmers and ranchers to be successful.
Farmers (and ranchers) don’t get a lot of credit for maintaining wildlife on their property. However, in Illinois, there are 30.7 million acres classified as agricultural land. That is roughly 75% of all the land of the state. This provides great habitat for all sorts of wildlife in the State.
In addition, Illinois has 4.4 million acres of forested land with 97% of forests classified as hardwoods and 3% classified as conifers. Many of these forests can be found on property owned by farmers. This, in itself, is enough to cause agriculture to be the number one habitat provider for wildlife in the state (and this is pretty typical in every state).
The farmers that I know love having wildlife on their property (although they express “less” love when that same wildlife wants to eat all of the farm crops!). I know farmers that choose to leave a few rows of field corn or other crops unharvested for the wildlife to feed on in the winter.
The song “Home on the Range” reminded me of John Denver singing the song in a TV special with the Muppets back in the ‘70’s. Television channels and show options were limited in rural Illinois. Usually, we could receive three television stations signals (sometimes four depending on cloud cover, storms, wind and which kid was holding the antenna). Very popular on that old black-and-white TV were the classics, including Gunsmoke, Little House on the Prairie, Happy Days, Leave it to Beaver, Andy Griffith, Gilligan’s Island and the Muppets.
I am not (too) ashamed to admit that I loved the Muppets. Am I a Muppet kind of man or a manly Muppet? John Denver…What an incredible voice…what an incredible talent. Lousy at building planes.
Most people know I do not have a John Denver voice. Actually, I have a singing voice more ideally designed for a Muppet…it could clear those hay fields of those thieving deer and antelope (and buffalo)! Farmers and Ranchers everywhere: You’re welcome!
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