Michigan Pheasant Hunting Initiative aims to get new hunters wingshooting

Pheasant hunters soon may be finding and harvesting more pheasants afield thanks to the Michigan Pheasant Hunting Initiative, through which select state game areas in the southern Lower Peninsula will receive released rooster pheasants over the next two seasons.

The Michigan Legislature passed Public Act 618 of 2018, which appropriated $260,000 from the general fund to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for a pheasant release program during fall 2019 and 2020.

“This legislation was made possible through the partnership of the Michigan Pheasant Hunters Initiative and Michigan United Conservation Clubs,” said Amy Trotter, executive director of MUCC. “Releasing pheasants on state game areas was widely supported among our membership through our grassroots resolution process and was one of the recommendations made by the blue-ribbon advisory group charged with the responsibility to examine the uses of southern Michigan state game areas. The group recommended elevating small game hunting as a management output for state game areas.”

Pheasant releases will be divided into two periods: the October-November hunting period and the December period.

“A limited number of roosters will be released at each site throughout the pheasant hunting season in an effort to reinvigorate pheasant hunting in Michigan,” said Al Stewart, DNR upland game bird specialist. “In addition to increased hunting opportunities, folks will have the chance to put a delicious meal on their table.”

Pheasant releases this year will take place on 11 different state game areas:

Bay County: Pinconning SGA.
Cass County: Crane Pond SGA.
Clinton County: Rose Lake SGA.
Lapeer County: Lapeer SGA.
Monroe County: Erie and Pointe Mouillee SGAs.
Saginaw County: Crow Island SGA.
Sanilac County: Minden City SGA.
St. Clair County: St. Johns Marsh SGA.
St. Joseph County: Leidy Lake SGA.
Van Buren County: Cornish SGA.

Stewart said that the initiative partners hope hunters take advantage of these additional pheasant hunting opportunities in the southeastern and southwestern regions of the state, and that includes exposing a new generation of hunters to the thrill of Michigan pheasant hunting.

In addition to the state game areas listed above, Allegan State Game Area (Allegan County) and Shiawassee State Game Area (Saginaw County) will host one-time special events geared toward hunter recruitment and retention. The Allegan SGA event is Nov. 2, followed by the Shiawassee SGA event Dec. 14.

“The pheasant releases at Shiawassee and Allegan state game areas will offer opportunities to introduce new hunters to the sport,” said Dennis Fox, DNR recruitment and retention manager. “We want to keep Michigan’s great tradition of pheasant hunting alive for current and future generations.”

Additional event details for these one-time hunting opportunities will be announced as hunting season draws closer.

The pheasant releases are happening in partnership with the Michigan Association of Game Breeders and Hunting Preserves. Association members will release birds on a weekly basis at designated game areas.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to partner with the Michigan DNR on this project,” said Lyle Jaworski, president of the Michigan Association of Gamebird Breeders and Hunting Preserves. “One of the goals of the hunting preserves and gamebird breeders is to help maintain and expand pheasant hunting in Michigan.”

Pheasant hunting in Michigan is for male pheasants only with a two-bird daily bag limit. Zone 2 and 3 (Lower Peninsula) pheasant hunting is open Oct. 20 through Nov. 14 and in select portions of Zone 3 from Dec. 1 through Jan. 1. In select areas of Zone 1 (Upper Peninsula) pheasant hunting is open Oct. 10-31.

Pheasant hunters will need a free pheasant/sharp-tailed grouse endorsement on their hunting license. Anyone hunting pheasants will need this endorsement except those hunting pheasant only on hunting preserves. This free endorsement will help to identify the number of pheasant and sharp-tailed grouse hunters in Michigan. It also will allow the DNR to survey a sample of these hunters to get their input about the management of this important bird species, as well as on possible changes for the 2020 release strategy.