Pheasant hunters getting ready for upcoming season

BIG RAPIDS — Mark Sochocki, of Evart, was on his way to North Dakota on Thursday with one thing in mind: Pheasant hunting.

“It’s opening weekend Saturday in North Dakota,” said Sochocki, a member of the Big Rapids Housing Commission, adding that he also hunts locally. “I do a lot of bird hunting, a little bit of Mecosta County and I travel over to the Thumb quite a bit.”

The season in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is Oct. 20 - Nov. 14 and Dec. 1 - Jan. 1 in selected areas of Zone 3, which includes a line south of M-20.

The Department of Natural Resources reminds hunters that the bag limit is two male pheasants daily, with four in possession and a small game license is required to hunt pheasants.

“A few years ago Outdoor Life magazine rated Michigan’s Thumb in the top 10 places in the country to go pheasant hunting, which points to the fact that pheasant hunting is still alive and well in our state,” said Al Stewart, DNR upland game bird specialist, in a department press release. “The DNR and our partners are making progress toward creating more quality pheasant hunting opportunities with the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative, a collaborative effort to revitalize Michigan

pheasants.”

In the DNR’s press release, Stewart said that while pheasant populations have been in decline for a number of years, the best local counties for pheasant hunting are in south-central to mid-Michigan and into the Thumb. He added that here are some localized concentrations of birds in other areas based on habitat availability. He also advised hunters to look for warm-season grasses, especially idle farm fields.

The DNR also requests hunters to help monitor pheasants and quail in Michigan by becoming a “hunter cooperator.” This role, the DNR, said, requires filling out a survey form, which provides important information about the status of these game birds.

Sochocki admitted that locally “there will be very few birds. We’ve had several bad recruitment years, wet springs, bad nesting seasons. A few years ago we had a tough winter. Even where there are a fair amount of birds, the last couple of years over in the Thumb, it’s been really tough to find

roosters.”

Locally, “there are pockets of birds here and there,” Sochocki said, “if you happen to know somebody that has the right habitat … I shoot a few birds every year around the Barryton area and some good areas where there’s good bird habitat and some grassland.”