River Currents

by Free Speech on October 9, 2009

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

Lodi, WI
10/9/09
by Gary Engberg
©2009 Gary Engberg Outdoors

This Fall’s Pheasant Prospects in Wisconsin

Pheasants, like this beauty, may be harder for hunters to find this fall with the expiration of CRP acres.

Pheasants, like this beauty, may be harder for hunters to find this fall with the expiration of CRP acres.

The key to pheasant numbers in any state and particularly Wisconsin and the Midwest is habitat. Wild pheasant numbers are driven by habitat and the loss of over a million habitat acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands in the main core of Midwest states will have hunters finding fewer pheasants than they have the last few years. Another 3.8 million acres of CRP will expire this fall, 4.4 million acres next fall, and 21 million acres will be gone from the program by the end of 2012 and without a new CRP general sign-up- of which none are scheduled by the Department of Agriculture hunters worried.

The CRP Program has been one of the most successful programs that the Government has ever implemented with benefits of improved soil quality, cleaner water, less soil erosion, and increased habitat for game animals, game birds, and even song birds. The continued loss of CRP acres in key states will be a disaster for the conservationists. If you are a pheasant hunter (over 60,000 pheasant hunters in Wisconsin and 2 million nationally) and conservationists it is important that you contact your elected officials and “lobby” them for a continuation of the CRP program with a new general sign-up, expansion of the wildlife friendly CRP practice known as State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE or CP 38), and the expansion of the Upland Bird Habitat Buffers practice (CP 33) also within CRP.  I strongly suggest that pheasant hunters join Pheasants Forever which is a quality conservation-minded organization that does wonders for all wildlife nationally and within Wisconsin and most others states in their numerous local chapters projects.

Wisconsin has seen its Conservation Reserve Program acres dwindle from a high of 700,000 acres in the mid 1990’s to the present level of less than 500,000 acres. Add this loss of habitat to the long, snowy, and cold winters of 2007-2008 and 2008-2009, along with the wet and cool spring of 2008, have helped diminish the states pheasant numbers. The spring crowing counts showed a 36 % decrease in pheasant numbers and the rural mail carrier survey showed a 35 % decrease, so hunters can expect the statewide harvest to drop below the 323,000 wild pheasants that were harvested last year. Surveys have shown that the best counties for pheasant hunting include; Dodge, Fond du Lac, and Kenosha counties which had the highest harvest numbers last season. This year, Lafayette, Washington, St. Croix, and Polk counties reported the strongest numbers from the rural mail carrier survey. Another benefit for Wisconsin bird hunters would be the state’s prairie and grassland CRP SAFE projects if it could get fully enrolled and add another 10,000 acres of improved habitat.

The Wisconsin pheasant season opens on October 17 and runs through December 31. On opening weekend, a hunter may only shoot 1 rooster or cock pheasant and after that the daily bag limit is 2 roosters and the possession limit is twice the daily bag limit. Pheasant hunters should have been scouting and talking to private landowners if they intend to hunt private land. There are wild or native pheasants in scattered pockets in the southern half of the state. But, a hunter must drive the counties many back roads looking for farms that may still be in the CRP program or have good habitat that will “hold” pheasants. Be sure to ask permission from farmers and landowners to hunt on private land. The state no longer publishes a separate booklet on pheasant hunting, so hunters must have a Small Game Hunting Regulation book to check on rules and regulations. Hunters must have a small game license and a pheasant stamp to legally hunt pheasants in Wisconsin.

Wally Banfi, Dave Kneiper, and Everett Thompson with Bo and Gem and pheasants.

Wally Banfi, Dave Kneiper, and Everett Thompson with Bo and Gem and pheasants.

Most of Wisconsin hunters are going to be hunting on state public hunting grounds for their pheasants. The state plans on stocking about 45,000 pheasants on 71 public hunting grounds this fall. Maps for these public hunting grounds can be found at http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/hunt/pheasant/map.htm . Before hunting on public lands to sure to check for special requirements that apply including 2 pm closing and hen-rooster hunting. There also are additional pheasant hunting opportunities provided by conservation clubs that are enrolled in the Day-old Chick program. These clubs raise and release pheasants on private lands open to public hunting or on approved state-owned lands. To find out more about this state Chick program go to the DNR website for more information or call (608)-635-8120. You may also find on the same website the number of pheasants that were stocked on the various public hunting grounds around the state the last two seasons, the number of acres for public hunting, and any special regulations like the early closing and if it is legal to shoot hens. Tags are available free for hunters and the pick-up locations are also on the state website.

Here are some popular public hunting grounds in the southern part of the state and the number of acres for hunting and the number of stocked pheasants that were released last season.

  • · Columbia County; French Creek, 1600 acres with 520 pheasants released last season. Mud Lake, 1300 acres with a 2 pm closing, and 520 pheasants released in 2008. Pine Island, 2400 acres with a 2 pm closing, and 900 pheasants released in 2008.
  • · Dane County; Badfish Creek, 1980 acres with 180 released pheasants in 2008. Lodi Marsh, 1140 acres and 280 pheasants released in 2008. Mazomanie, 3600 acres, a 2 pm closing, and 500 stocked in 2008. Deansville, 1668 acres, and 780 stocked in 2008.
  • · Green County; Brooklyn, 4000 acres, a 2 pm closing, and 1540 stocked pheasants released in 2008. Albany, 1040 acres and 460 pheasants released.
  • · Iowa County; Avoca, 2000 acres, hen-rooster, and 1020 released pheasants. Blackhawk Lake, 1450 acres, and 420 stocked pheasants in 2008.
  • · Jefferson County; Jefferson Marsh, 3700 acres and 1140 pheasants released in 2008. Waterloo, 6760 acres and 1780 pheasants stocked in 2008. Lake Mills, 2950 acres and 1180 pheasants released in 2008.
  • · Rock County; Evansville, 4762 acres and 1160 released pheasants in 2008. Footville, 5222 acres and 1300 released pheasants in 2008.

I’ve tried to give the some of the counties in southern Wisconsin where there are large areas of public land that are regularly stocked during the pheasant season with pheasants raised at the State Game Farm in Poynette. If you go to the DNR website you can find the other counties that stock pheasants, the lands stocked, and the number of pheasants released the last two years. Remember that besides your small game license, you must have a pheasant stamp for all pheasant hunting.

There are wild or native pheasants in scattered areas of the state as I mentioned earlier, but most of us are limited to hunting state land which in many cases can provide good pheasant hunting if you hunt the thick cover, stay away from other hunters where possible, and do some scouting and research. The state must now be stocking pheasants because I saw two roosters off the side of the road near the Mazomanie Public Hunting Grounds yesterday and the chances of these being native pheasants are slim.

For those of you that travel out of state to hunt pheasants you will find that numbers are down all across the pheasant belt. Iowa had the lowest pheasant harvest on record last year, Minnesota which had been seeing a growing population is down considerably, and the king of all pheasant states, South Dakota, has both good and bad news. Their pheasant’s numbers are down 26 % which follows the 24 % decline in CRP land. But, South Dakota still had 1.9 million pheasants harvested in 2008 and they had the 4th highest spring count ever recorded. You can do well in South Dakota on public lands, but much of the private land is now leased by outfitters.

Though the numbers are down in Wisconsin, the smart hunter who puts in their time, does some research, and has a good dog can still bring some tasty roosters to the oven!

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