ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
While it may seem hot enough in Kansas sometimes to feel like a desert, you’re not likely to see an oasis anywhere in the state.
At least not until Marlin and Debbie Buchholz purchased 160 acres of land in eastern Marion County and transformed it into an oasis-for wildlife.
“My primary objective for this ground was for the wildlife,” Marlin Buchholz said. “I was born and raised in South Dakota, so I’d really love to be able to get the pheasant numbers back up in this area.”
For his efforts in the area of wildlife-habitat improvements, Buchholz has been named the winner of the 2003 Wildlife Award in Marion County sponsored by the Kansas Wildlife & Parks and the Kansas Bankers Association.
Buchholz said he bought the ground in 2001 and since that time has called upon friends, the Marion County Conservation District-and just about anyone else who’ll talk to him-about ways to improve the wildlife habitat.
Working as a pharmacist allows Buchholz to talk to a variety of patrons, many who have passed along ideas he’s been able to incorporate on his land.
“I’m a member of Quails Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever,” he said. “I also hunt with some of the guys at the conservation office and they’re the ones who told me about some of the programs available.”
Since its inception, Buchholz’s program has included installing 20.6 acres of native grass buffer strips, building two ponds, establishing several food plots and putting up numerous wildlife feeders.
“The first thing I did was to build the ponds,” he said. “This ground is located along the Marion-Chase county line and it’s close to acres and acres of grass, but there’s not much water around.
“I built the ponds primarily for bass and geese,” he said. “When the ponds were built, I left two big islands in the middle for the geese to nest on.”
Buchholz has already seen results of his experiment.
“Last year we had our first pair of Canadian geese nest here,” he said. “I’ve been in contact with Marvin Peterson (conservation officer for Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks) about getting some nests for the geese.
“I had so much fun sneaking up on the geese and just watching them,” he added. “Hopefully, I can get in there before the ice melts and get some pipe pounded into the ground for nests that set off the ground-elevated goose nests, if you will.”
Buchholz then went to work to provide a good habitat for the game birds that frequent the land. Included was the planting of the grass buffer strips.
“The conservation district drew up the plans where the strips are about 30 feet wide and run right down through the middle of the property,” he said. “The quarter only has about 90 acres of cultivated land on it and the rest is nothing but waste, which is really perfect for me.”
Next on the drawing board was the implementation of food plots to supply the birds with necessary food through the cold winter months.
“Both Quails Unlimited and Pheasants Forever provided me with the seed for my food plots,” Buchholz said.
But he said the success his project has enjoyed wouldn’t be anywhere close to what its been without the hard work and cooperation of his tenant Brad Matz.
“Sometimes when a guy like me buys ground and doesn’t have any equipment to farm with, the farmer kind of gets stuck doing extra things,” he said. “But Brad has just been great. He’s planted all my food plots and we really have a good working relationship together.”
Also supplying food are feeders that Buchholz has hung in trees scattered throughout the property.
“They’ll hold about 300 pounds of grain,” he said describing the feeders. “I use corn in them and they’re mainly for the pheasants, quail and deer.”
Proof of the success of the projects Buchholz has implemented on his property comes in the form of photographs of nature’s visitors via motion-sensitive cameras to capture the wildlife in action.
“It’s fun to see what sort of game will come on the property, both day and night,” he said. “I’ve gotten pictures of deer, skunks, raccoons and lots of birds.”
In addition, Buchholz has planted numerous trees on the property to offer not only sanctuary from the cold winter winds, but to provide much-needed food to supplement the already available food sources.
“I’ve planted a lot of American Plumb trees on the property,” he said. “They’re supposed to provide the most cover for the quail and deer.”
Plans call for another round of American Plumb plantings later this year.
Also included on the 160 acres, is a plot of about 30 acres that is absolutely overrun with cedar trees.
“It hasn’t been burned or cut down, so it’s totally overgrown- it’s useless as a pasture.”
But once again, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.
“It’s neat to go in there,” he said with excitement. “I’ve planted several fields of white clover, and hopefully it’ll take off for the deer.”
Another area of the farm most would view as waste because of dense brush, trees, and vegetation, Buchholz sees as a haven for all sorts of wildlife.
“I’ve rented a bush cutter from the hardware store and I go in and make little “highways” for the animals,” he said. “You just wouldn’t believe how quickly they go in there and find them.”
While Buchholz admits to being an avid hunter, his recent success in establishing the wildlife oasis has softened his view somewhat.
“I just like to go out and walk around and try to think of new things I can do now,” he said. “My personal reward for doing all this work is to be able to go out there and see all the wildlife.”
Buchholz credits the Marion County Conservation District for their vision and help in his project.
“I think there are more programs for wildlife than there are for anything else,” he said.
Plans call for Buchholz to erect a 4-foot-by-8-foot “skybox” on the property made of plexiglass on a 30-foot tall, 10-inch I-beam.
“It’s mainly for viewing the birds and animals, kind of like an observation deck.”
Buchholz said he hopes more people get involved with projects such as his and offered suggestions on how to proceed.
“Join the various organizations because their manuals have all sorts of information and ideas,” he said. “And work with the local conservation office.”
As for Buchholz, he has no doubt of the effectiveness of his work for the wildlife.
“I can absolutely see what a difference the improvements had on that farm,” he said. “I’m proud I bought this land and didn’t let it go to waste.
“I’m putting something back into it. Hopefully, my grand children will have a place to watch wildlife in the future.”