The sound of a rooster pheasant crowing is a lot less common in Michigan than it was in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, when the opening day of the hunting season was front-page news in the Times Herald.
But you still can hear pheasants, especially in agricultural parts of the Thumb.
“The Thumb is probably your best bet for hunting in Michigan,” said Holly Vaughn, a wildlife technician at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “The Verona State Game Area (in Huron County) is a good place.”
Pheasant hunting season in the Lower Peninsula starts Tuesday and continues through Nov. 14. Zone 3, which includes the Thumb and St. Clair County, also is open from Dec. 1 to Jan. 1.
James Bearss, of Ruby, plans to be out with a shotgun and his Brittany spaniel hunting pheasants. He’s treasurer of the St. Clair chapter of Pheasants Forever.
“I think a lot of it, for a lot of people my age, it’s the tradition of it,” he said. “It’s an exciting hunt if you’re on to some birds.
“It’s a nice time of the year to be outdoors.”
Bearss and Vaughn both said pheasant numbers have decreased because of habitat loss.
“The big change is in habitat and farming practices,” Bearss said. “There’s not so many small self reliant farms where they have pasture and some crops.”
He said urban sprawl fragmented habitat into 5- and 10-acre lots.
“It’s largely habitat,” Bearss said. “It’s largely the land use practices, farming and residential, that have changed since the 1950s and 1960s.”
“Farmers are pretty much interested in getting the maximum amount from their farmlands,” Vaughn said. “The habitat is changing. It’s getting more fragmented. There are not the good places to nest that there have been in the past.”
According to a news release from the DNR, the agency and partners such as Pheasants Forever are bringing back pheasant populations through the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative.
The state is seeking landowner involvement to create and improve pheasant habitat.
Vaughn said the state has done extensive grasslands management for pheasants and other small game at the Verona State Game Area and also is working with landowners to create large contiguous areas of pheasant habitat.
The DNR also is trying to create hunting opportunities on private property.
“We have the hunting access program where we do have farmers who lease their farms to the state for hunters to hunt,” Vaugn said. A list of hunting areas is available at www.michigan.gov/hap.
“And of course, you certainly can go knock on a farmer’s door and ask,” she said.
Contact Bob Gross at (810) 989-6263 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RobertGross477.
The daily bag limit for pheasants is two male birds with four in possession.
Hunting pheasants requires a base license, which is $11 for residents, $5 for seniors and $6 for juniors.
More information about pheasants in Michigan is available at http://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/mi_pheasant_status_2015_500876_7.pdf.
Ring-necked pheasants evolved in Asia and were naturalized in Great Britain in the 10th century. They were introduced into North America in 1881.