Wisconsin pheasant hunters, for the most part, are finding out just what two to three tough winters can do to wild pheasant populations. While carryover of state-released birds, or birds raised by landowners, have made a difference in some years, much of that carryover was wiped out by deep snow, icy crusts and sub-zero temperatures.
Of course pheasant populations, as that wild breeding stock is replaced, could add to the wild pheasant numbers in the future if the birds find good habitat. This year hunters are likely to be relying on stocked birds, either placed there by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources or by clubs that raised day-old-chicks and then released mature birds.
It is interesting to hear some diehard public lands hunters suggest that there have been fewer pheasant hunters pressuring birds the last several years, even on public lands. That seemed to happen since the economy took a bite out of gas money and pocket coins, they say.
For those hunters, and dogs, who love the cackle of a flushing rooster, there are some locations that still provide those opportunities. Most, however, will be on public lands chasing stocked birds.
The price of corn has hit pheasants in several ways. It costs more to raise pheasants when grain prices are high. And farmers continue to look for extra acres to plant, sometimes taking CRP land and plowing up long-time pheasant habitat.
Conditions were good this past summer to raise pheasants at Poynette, so the birds hunters flush will be colorful, sport long tail feathers and either flushing or running to escape hunters and dogs.
This may be one of those years when pheasant hunters experience what ruffed grouse hunters experience about every 8-10 years.