By Tom Carpenter
WEATHER AND CONDITIONS
“Most of the state was covered in snow for some of the nesting season,” reports Jaqi Christopher, Wildlife Biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “This could have had an impact on the pheasant hatch, but the summer weather was decent throughout the brood-rearing season. I am hopeful for a good pheasant season this year.”
HATCH AND BROODS
“Wisconsin’s brood survey results have just come in,” says Christopher. “The data are still preliminary and may change, but as of now the number of broods and size of broods are just slightly down from last year.”
“There is one note, though: This year also saw a record low for the number of observers participating in the survey,” Christopher says, “so that could make the data less accurate than previous years. And we still found birds.” Bottom line, get out and do some of your own early-morning scouting to locate birds.
HABITAT AND PROGRAMS
“Pheasant numbers have been declining for several years since the peaks for the 1990’s and that is likely due to the loss of grassland acreage through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP),” says Christopher. “The DNR helps fund pheasant habitat in the core range through hunter’s pheasant stamp purchases, but we can only affect a portion of land in Wisconsin.” That’s where Pheasants Forever comes in as a key player for Wisconsin’s pheasants.
“CRP has a huge impact on the amount of grassland on private land,” says Christopher. “The Wisconsin DNR is partnering with Pheasants Forever and USDA – NRCS to fund farm bill biologists throughout the state. These biologists help private land owners enroll their property in conservation programs that benefit wildlife, including pheasants.”
“Overall, even with the decrease in brood counts as noted, I think it will be a great season,” says Christopher. Anecdotal reports from this writer’s Wisconsin contacts indicate good brood production where habitat is good in the west-central, southwestern and east-central regions.
“The strongest wild pheasant population in the state in in the west central area, including St Croix, Pierce and Polk Counites,” says Christopher.
Look for the mosaic of upland habitat and you will find some roosters. “That means areas where there is both grassland and wetland with ag land nearby,” says Christopher.
As a put-and-take option, Wisconsin DNR stocks 90 public properties with 75,000 pheasants to supplement wild bird hunting opportunities. A list of stocked properties can be found on the DNR pheasant webpage at dnr.wi.gov and search “pheasant.”