MADISON - The longtime and popular tradition of pheasant hunting in Wisconsin will again take center stage when the fall 2018 pheasant hunting season opens statewide at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20. The season will run through Jan. 6, 2019.
Several other seasons also open that day including bobwhite quail, Hungarian partridge and ruffed grouse in Zone B. Like pheasant, the bobwhite quail and Hungarian partridge seasons open at 9 a.m. The ruffed grouse season opens with the start of legal shooting hours.
Hunters should check the Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations [PDF] for rules and season structures for the game species they will pursue.
"Pheasant hunting offers a fantastic means to experience the outdoors, and it complements the other upland bird hunting opportunities in Wisconsin very well," says Mark Witecha, Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist. "Pheasant hunting offers the chance to explore landscapes and habitat types you might not otherwise see," added Witecha.
Pheasants are one of the most sought-after gamebirds in North America, and populations do best in the agricultural landscape of southern and western Wisconsin provided there is habitat present in sufficient quantities to meet their food and cover needs throughout the year, according to Witecha.
The 2018 spring pheasant surveys in Wisconsin show that pheasant abundance is above the 5-year average with the highest pheasant detection rate in the west-central part of the state.
To pursue wild pheasants, hunters should look for areas that contain adequate winter cover, such as cattail marshes and dense brush, intermixed with cropland, hay and idle grasslands which provide food and nesting cover. It will be important for hunters to identify areas with high-quality habitat, concentrating their hunting efforts in those areas, according to Witecha.
During the 2017 pheasant hunting season, an estimated 42,450 hunters went out in search of pheasants and reported harvesting 301,490 birds. The top counties for harvest included Fond du Lac, Kenosha and Jefferson.
A 2018 Pheasant Stamp and a valid small game license are required to hunt pheasants statewide. Please note that the free leg tags previously required on the 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. More information is available in the Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations, available online at dnr.wi.gov, keyword "regulations."
A new hunting app also allows hunters to brush up on regulations as well as explore public lands on an interactive map, see up to the minute shooting hours, or even listen to podcasts. For more information and how to download the app, visit dnr.wi.gov, search keywords "hunt app."
Pheasant Stocking Program
In addition to wild pheasant hunting opportunities, the DNR wildlife management staff plan to release approximately 75,000 pheasants from the state game farm on 90 public hunting grounds. These numbers are similar to the 2017 stocking efforts. Pheasants raised by conservation clubs as part of the Day-old Chick Program will also be released this fall. The Day-old Chick Program involves conservation clubs that typically receive about 35,000 rooster chicks annually. These clubs release pheasants on public hunting land and private land open to public pheasant hunting. Hunters are reminded to be polite and notify the landowner before hunting on private property open to public hunting as part of this program.
Where to Hunt
Hunters can use FFLIGHT, the DNR's gamebird mapping 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. To learn more about FFLIGHT, visit dnr.wi.gov, keyword "FFLIGHT."
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. To find properties enrolled in the VPA program, visit dnr.wi.gov, keyword "VPA."
Mentored Hunting Program
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. For additional information and the requirements of the program, visit dnr.wi.gov, keyword "mentored hunting."
"Pheasants are a popular gamebird, and they offer a great hunting experience to both novices and experienced hunters," said Witecha. "I wish hunters safe and successful trips this fall."