For many Wisconsinites, it’s finally ‘that time of the year’ again, as several fall hunting seasons kicked off during the month of September.

Pheasant hunting, a local favorite, is set to open Oct. 17. Pheasant hunting is popular in southern Wisconsin, with ring-necked pheasants better suited for life in the agricultural and grassland habitats of southern and western Wisconsin than in other areas of the state.

“Pheasant hunting offers a fantastic means to work your hunting dog while also experiencing the unique grassland habitats spread across the southern part of the state,” DNR Assistant Upland Wildlife Ecologist Alaina Gerrits said.

The state’s wild pheasant population has seen a decrease caused by a long-term decline in stable grassland cover across the state, but fall pheasant totals are helped along by the annual stocking of birds raised at the State Game Farm in Poynette.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is planning to stock about 50,000 birds in 2020. That total is down from about 75,000 in past years due to reduced staffing and social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the DNR will still be stocking over 70 public properties in 2020, including seven in Dane County.

For McFarland, Monona and Cottage Grove hunters, the closest stocked properties are Goose Lake Wildlife Area, along I-94 east of Cottage Grove, Deansville Wildlife Area, near Marshall, and Hook Lake Wildlife Area, near Oregon.

Brooklyn, Mazomanie, Lodi Marsh and Badfish Creek state wildlife areas are the other Dane County properties that will be stocked this fall. For a full list of stocked properties, visit https://dnr.wi.gov/pheasantstocking/.

During the 2019 season, an estimated 40,831 hunters across the state headed into the field to pursue pheasants, harvesting about 291,400 birds, according to the DNR.

Hunters should be aware of several new regulations for 2020, including that some properties will now close at 12 p.m. on weekdays between Oct. 19 and Nov. 3, including Goose Lake Wildlife Area in Dane County. A full list of regulations can be found in the hunting regulations at https://dnr.wi.gov/files/PDF/pubs/wm/WM0685.pdf.

Other notes from the DNR:

  • A 2020 pheasant stamp and valid small game license are required to hunt pheasants statewide. Please note that the free leg tags previously required on hen/rooster areas are no longer required. The daily bag limit is one pheasant daily for the first two days of the season and two pheasants daily for the remainder of the season, with a possession limit of three times the daily bag limit.
  • The DNR’s free Hunt Wild Wisconsin mobile app includes a map layer showing where pheasants are stocked on public lands. This is a new feature in 2020. In addition to using it to locate pheasant hunting opportunities, you can also view the regulations and buy your licenses. Hunters can also use FFLIGHT, the DNR’s gamebird mapping web application, to locate and explore properties stocked with pheasants, as well as ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat and managed dove fields. FFLIGHT allows hunters to use aerial maps, topography and measuring tools to easily navigate and identify areas of interest and make their trips more productive and enjoyable. Land enrolled in the Voluntary Public Access Program (VPA) is open to public hunting this pheasant season. The VPA Program has more than 30,000 acres of private land open to public hunting, fishing and bird watching year-round. Many properties are located within a short driving distance of urban areas and are popular pheasant hunting spots.
  • The Mentored Hunting Program allows any hunter born on or after Jan. 1, 1973, to obtain a hunting license and hunt without first completing Hunter Education, provided they hunt with a mentor and comply with all the requirements under the program. At this time, it is recommended that the mentor be of the same household.
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