We’ve talked about waterfowl openers, bow hunting, and firearm deer hunting forecasts already, but did you know that there was yet another opening day last week? Pheasant season just began in the Lower Peninsula last Monday and will continue through November 14. And with all the talk of the hunting license restructuring, one benefit of it is that you will always have that base license in your back pocket, so why not use it?
Pheasant numbers in Michigan are way down from the historic peak in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but they are still widely distributed through southern Lower Michigan and in some areas of the Upper Peninsula. According to the DNR’s 2014 pheasant status report, “Factors such as changes in agricultural practices, land use and the regional climate may have contributed to the pheasant decline.”
So what are we doing to help? Lots actually.
The Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative will help restore Michigan’s pheasant habitat and help increase pheasant numbers in our state. The Department of Natural Resources is partnering with conservation groups, other agencies, and interested landowners on this initiative to increase pheasant habitat. Activities will be focused to the best projects on a larger scale in the following three priority areas:
- Huron, Sanilac, and Tuscola counties;
- Hillsdale, Lenawee, and Monroe counties; and
- Gratiot, Saginaw, and Clinton counties.
There have been projects in these priority areas to restore and improve 55,000 acres of grasslands and 20,000 acres of wetlands through this initiative to date.
The key to the private land component of this habitat initiative is to develop and maintain landowner cooperatives working at a larger scale. To this end, MUCC is currently in process of hiring a new person, a Wildlife Cooperative Coordinator, to do just that—work with existing cooperatives and facilitating the formation of new ones so that these teams of landowners can work together to achieve their wildlife and habitat goals.
Finally, MUCC’s On The Ground has had several projects on public lands devoted to providing quality cover for small game.
Back in 2011, there were more than 23,000 hunters that harvested more than 22,000 pheasants. It will be interesting to see what this renewed commitment to grassland habitat, landowner cooperation, and new funding sources can do for the pheasants in Michigan. We think it will only go up from here.