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Gary Engberg Outdoors


February 7, 2019

Extend Your Pheasant Hunting

Unfortunately, for those of us who love upland game bird hunting, there are some major problems these days. The problems are; 1) Finding land to hunt on and hoping that the land that you’re hunting has some wild pheasants. 2) In much of Wisconsin and the Midwest, the wild pheasant populations are going down with the development of land and the elimination of wetlands which pheasants need for roosting and winter cover. 3) There is now a lack of proper habitat. Wild pheasants need hay fields for nesting (an early alfalfa cutting can kill nesting hens and chicks.) I’ve seen this I’ve also seen the same thing happen in Iowa which always has had a very good wild pheasant population, second only to South Dakota. Many farmers are not in good financial shape and don’t leave fencerows anymore and leave set aside land like they always did for decades because they now have to plant every acre they own to make a living. 4) Poor fur prices have stopped many trappers from trapping predators like raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes that hurt mature and nesting pheasants. There are other factors involved that effect wild pheasant populations, but lack of habitat rural development, and the loss of wetlands are the main culprits.

Has always had a fair to good population of native pheasants in the southern half of the state in scattered patches, but many hunters in the Badger state have depended on the D.N.R. stocking program. This past hunting season the Wisconsin D.N.R. stocked over 75,000 pheasants on many of Wisconsin public hunting grounds throughout the state. There even has been talk of eliminating the state pheasant farm at the Mackenzie Wildlife Center in Poynette, Wisconsin. This farm was built in 1939 and is getting some new buildings and facilities, if it is to remain in the pheasant raising business. The state also has a program where they give day-old chicks to sportsman clubs and groups statewide in Wisconsin, who raises the chicks for release on public and private lands.

The conservation group, Pheasants Forever has done great work in adding habitat on private land and educating the public on the needs of all, not just pheasants. The problem with this is that it is getting harder and harder to gain access to private lands.

The Conservation Reserve Plan (CRP) of the federal government has done wonders in the past improving water quality, protecting the soil from erosion, and helping all wildlife, not just pheasants by providing valuable habitat. The CRP Program started in 1985 and has been an important part of the Farm Bills since the beginning. Currently, there are over 30 million acres enrolled.

Despite all this work, the pheasant faces a dim future in most of the Midwest with the exception of South Dakota and North Dakota. The future for pheasant hunting looks bleak for anyone, but the large land-owner or farmer. The average guy who wants to go hunting for a few hours has nowhere to go. Too many upland bird hunters, shooting a wild cacking rooster is a thing of the past and many will never experience this thrill.

But, there are land-owners who see the need for having a place where a hunter can go and have some action. Private hunting preserves and clubs are filling the niche that the pheasant hunter has lost. More and more private clubs are opening and catering to the pheasant hunter who’s looking for a place where he and his dog can hunt. I’ve been to numerous preserves and clubs in Wisconsin and some of them are worth checking out and hunting or even joining if they require memberships. In Wisconsin, there are preserves and clubs who will sell yearly memberships and there are others that allow pay as you go hunting where you pay by the bird. Locally, I’ve seen preserves that charge $15.00 to $20.00 per bird with a minimum of 15 to 20 birds. The least expensive preserve I’ve seen had pheasants at $12.00 to $15.00 per bird. You buy the birds and they will be released on the preserve for you to hunt.

The best thing about hunting preserves is that the season is open through March while the wild bird season closed on January 6th. Hunting preserves also open in September, so you can have 3 or 4 months more of hunting time on these lands. The birds raised on these hunting clubs are wild flying birds that you dog doesn’t know were pen-raised. There’s a big difference in these clubs, so I’d check them out before going hunting. The quality of the hunting land, its size, and the bird quality make some clubs much better than others. Do some research and go out and look at the cover and land. The future for the wild pheasant doesn’t look good, so if you want to hunt more, have a longer season, and see more birds then the hunting preserve is for you.

Contacts; Milford Hills Hunt Club, Johnson Creek, Wi. (920-699-2249, R and G Pheasant Fanatics, Brooklyn, Wi. (608)-575-5819, Wipp’s Pheasant Farm, Sauk City, Wi. (608)-588-7055. Info; Gary Engberg (608)-795-4208.


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