Holiday surprise: Pheasants ‘secretly’ released for annual hunt
TOWN OF AVON, Wis. — Hunters were waiting as Kyle Andreska prepared to release dozens of ring-necked pheasants in Avon Bottoms.
Andreska is a wildlife technician with the state DNR tasked with releasing birds in the 3,400-acre public wildlife area west of Beloit and southeast of Brodhead.
“We don’t publicize the date of the release. We keep it pretty close to the vest,” Andreska said. “They (the public) have no idea where the releases will occur.”
Despite the secrecy, hunters in pickup trucks arrived as Andreska released birds at several locations in the wildlife area.
The pheasants raised at the State Game Farm in Poynette were released for a holiday hunt. The DNR released about 2,260 birds on six properties near large population centers statewide.
The hope is hunters get out with their families and friends during their time off, said Ethan Graves, DNR wildlife technician and voluntary public access liaison.
The holiday bird stocking started in 2017. It proved to be popular with hunters, so the DNR increased the number of birds in 2018 and again this year, Graves said.
Ring-necked pheasants were first introduced to the area in the late 1800s. Since the 1940s, habitat for pheasants has dwindled because of farming practices and a shifting agricultural climate, Graves said. Wisconsin doesn’t have a sustainable pheasant population, so the DNR stocks 75,000 birds on about 90 properties statewide.
Hunters who purchase a small game hunting license can also purchase a $10 pheasant stamp, which allows a bag limit of two pheasants a day. Hunters can use the DNR’s Fields & Forest Lands Interactive Gamebird Hunting Tool to find the properties that are stocked.
Pheasant hunting season runs through Jan. 5.