Pheasant season is alive and well
My German shorthair Brady locked solidly into a point early Tuesday morning, opening day of Michigan’s 2015 pheasant season. As I cautiously moved in the rooster flushed and took off in a low flight that would’ve had me shooting directly over Brady’s head. I held up, but my friend Al Stewart, Michigan DNR’s upland game bird specialist, had a clear quartering view and promptly dumped the ringneck with a clean shot.
A great start to opening day of pheasant season in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
Pheasant hunting in Michigan was a highly-anticipated tradition for decades. In prime times Michigan pheasant hunters shot in the neighborhood of 1 million birds each year. Up until about the mid-1960s – while family farms trumped enormous commercial agricultural fields on the landscape across central and lower southern Michigan – fencerows, uncropped grasslands and brushy fields were abundant and teeming with ringnecks.
Around the late 1960s, commercial farming really started to grow. Those fencerows and grasslands began to disappear in favor of huge agriculture fields. With the habitat decimated, what was once a time-honored annual tradition dwindled to barely a cackle when talk turned to fall hunting seasons.
Tom Lounsbury owns a family farm in Tuscola County and has been planting his property in pheasant habitat for years. He mixes his plantings with switch grass, cone grass and a Pheasants Forever mixture that includes big and little blue stem, rye, indian grass and more. He also has an important water source on his property in the form of a farm pond and an agriculture creek.
Tom’s invited me to join his hunting party for the opening day festivities for the past several years and each Oct. 20 the hunting has been fantastic. Last year, we put up more then 20 wild Michigan pheasants on opening day. This year was no less exciting as we flushed 13 roosters and 11 hens in about 5 hours of hunting.
Tom’s not alone in his quest to bring back viable populations of ring-necked pheasants.
Individual land owners, state and federal agencies and a slew of state and federal conservation groups have joined forces in an effort to revive pheasant hunting in Michigan.
The Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative is a multifaceted cooperative program that seeks to restore and enhance pheasant habitat on private and public lands. That, in turn, should produce more pheasants and more pheasant hunting opportunities.
The MPRI is accomplished through public-private cooperatives of 10,000 acres or more. It assists landowners in using state and federal financing to improve wildlife habitat on their property.
With efforts from landowners like Lounsbury along with the members of the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative there’s a glow of light for the future of pheasant hunting in Michigan… and it’s glowing brighter every day.