Jay and Samantha Prier of Mondamin, Iowa, were the winners of the inaugural Bobcat Create & Conserve contest in 2013. Their home is an hour’s drive from Jay’s engineering job in Omaha, but he doesn’t mind the commute to be able to have a place, as he proclaims, “in the middle of nowhere.” That “nowhere” is on the edge of the Loess Hills State Forest, situated between Council Bluffs and Sioux City.
Bobcat: Your Create & Conserve Project was completed in the summer of 2013. Are you seeing more wildlife today?
Jay: Small game and upland birds have come back to the area in greater numbers. I spotted a covey of quail, which I’ve not seen on the property in five years. With more cover from airborne predators, the rabbits have been able to propagate. Turkey numbers are strong and we see them roosting near the house. And the game cameras are getting more deer.
Bobcat: Tell us about the new pond project there wasn’t time to do in 2013.
Jay: We just completed our erosion control structure, moving 50,000 cubic yards of dirt. It was installed across a ditch, which had widened to 230 feet. Aerial photos from the 1950s showed the ditch was then 30 feet wide. Once the pond – which we plan to use for swimming and fishing – fills up in 3-5 years, it will have about ten acres of water impounded, with several artificial fish structures for habitat. We are putting an additional three acres of tillable land into native grasses. This winter will find us building many wood duck boxes and some goose nesting structures.
Bobcat: Do you have future conservation plans?
Jay: We are always looking to improve our land for wildlife. Next spring we’re installing 1200 feet of living snow fence to provide more habitat and food sources for songbirds and other wildlife, including upland game birds.
Bobcat: Describe the Create & Conserve experience.
Jay: The team was very enjoyable, always happy to lend a hand doing anything and everything. We had a long list of projects and we got a lot of them done. We made a big impact in bringing back the native prairie. We used the Bobcat Forestry Cutter to take out woody growth that had come up in the prairie areas. Now that the trees have been removed, we’ll go back in every couple of years and burn out those that come back, so the native grasses can continue to grow.
We still feel a responsibility to the crew from Bobcat, as well as to Rick and Julie Kreuter (of Beyond the Hunt TV). With all the effort put into the property, we do not want it to go to waste. We are always monitoring the progress and maintaining the conservation practices we installed. That includes keeping food plots in good shape with revitalized seedbeds, and maintaining the poaching screen to keep it healthy.
Bobcat: Any final thoughts on Create & Conserve?
Jay: Bobcat has an interest in maintaining the great heritage this country was founded on, and we feel very privileged to be a part of their story. We work hard to care for our land, and we enjoy the many things it provides for us — food, recreation, and time with our children. Create & Conserve is a great program and we try to promote it as much as we can.