GRINNELL — “They gotta have cover, yes they do, yes they do. They gotta have cover, you know it’s true.”
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources hopes the newly-released music video it produced, “They Gotta Have Cover,” will grab peoples’ attention and stay in their heads, with those opening lyrics. It may never make it to MTV, but the DNR hopes the video will inspire more Iowans to let grass and flowers grow.
“Gotta have grass for the pheasants to nest, 10 to 12 inches is what the hens like best,” the lyrics continue, backed by instrumentals from Eastern Iowa band Dogs on Skis.
Tom Fuller, north region director of Pheasants Forever, exemplifies that with his own front lawn. In the short-term, he says harsh winters and wet springs negatively impact pheasant numbers.
“But the long-term population trends are really dependent on the amount of habitat,” Fuller explained.
He said the USDA’s conservation reserve program (CRP), which pays land owners to convert lawns and fields into prairie, is one way of creating more of that habitat. Recently, though, he’s noticed people pulling land out of the CRP in favor of cash crops.
“As commodity prices jumped here in the last decade, a lot of land owners took land out of the CRP and went to a commodity crop,” Fuller told us.
Larry Van Ersvelde, one of the video’s stars, keeps 160 acres of property near Grinnell, most of it covered in waist-deep grass. He still hadn’t seen the final cut when we spoke with him on Wednesday.
“I had no idea what I was getting into,” Van Ervelde said of the video, smiling. He’s hopeful that with the youthful presence of his grandson Adam, it will catch the attention of future land stewards. “It just tells the story; that’s what they need is habitat.”
Van Ersvelde admits, it’s got a tongue-in-cheek tone, but it works.
“Crazy,” he said of the idea, when he first heard about it. “Crazy, but it’s to the point, and it’s good.”
But when asked if he had any future as a rap artist, Van Ersvelde gave a truly non-rap artist reply: “No, I do not. No way.”
You can watch the full version of “They Gotta Have Cover” at http://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/PheasantSmallGame.