December offers so many great hunting opportunities


December is one of my favorite months, when I really have to pick a hunting opportunity on a given day.

When it comes to deer, the late archery season runs from December 1 to January 1, the muzzleloader season runs from December 3 to 12 (however, any firearm legal for deer hunting can be used in zone 3) and the late antlerless deer season extends into December. January 13-1st (on private land only).

For small game, the ruffed grouse season is from December 1 to January 1 (statewide), as is the pheasant season in part of Zone 3. The rabbit seasons and squirrels are also in full swing statewide, until March 31.

Personally, I enjoy doing everything, whenever possible, and I really enjoy being a Michigan resident! However, I have to admit that because I run my farm primarily for wild pheasants and live right in the middle of it, I often prioritize this hobby, and there are numbers of birds. decent savages this year. Yes, folks, whatever I decide, I like everything.

I easily remember when the first pheasant hunt in December was authorized in the Thumb in 2005, and I was an avid participant. The point is, December quickly became my favorite pheasant hunting season – not because it’s easier, since the reverse is true, but because I learned a lot more about the ringneck’s wild behavior when birds are chased by hunters and dogs, which I never fully understood before.

This is because I have often been able to study pheasant tracks in the snow on a daily basis, an environmental factor that is generally absent during the earlier pheasant season, which begins on October 20. Tracks in the December snow let me know how some truly elusive wild collared pheasants can find themselves in the very familiar blanket they’ve been raised in since an egg hatched.

The only help that seeing cool pheasant tracks in the snow has given me is that their presence means wild ringnecks are nearby. Michigan’s wild roosters today are a very unique and elusive kind of bird, and my ‘wild roosters’ dogs and I can easily attest after many seasons in December that we have yet to meet a rooster that could be considered easy to catch.

Every bird harvested is won, often the hard way, and I firmly believe the hunt has genetically modified wild Michigan pheasants. Roosters that rinsed easily under pressure from hunters went into game bags, and those that cackled when rinsed (which ensured they were in fact roosters) went into game bags as well. The end result is that the roosters that ran instead of blushing under the pressure and refused to cackle were there to pass on their genes.

Michigan’s wild roosters today prefer to run rather than fly when pressed by hunters, and they possess the speed and agility of a road runner. They also rarely, if ever, giggle when you have the chance to flush them out within shotgun range.

I have often heard some people say that the December season will wipe out the number of wild pheasants, but my opinion, based on the last 16 seasons of field experience, says otherwise. Only surplus male birds are harvested, with shooting of wild chickens not only illegal, but also a very traditional taboo.

The key to a higher number of pheasants in any given year is related to suitable habitat and the hens’ success in hatching and raising their broods (weather being an extremely important factor), and 80 to 90 % of roosters that are harvested in the fall were hatched the previous summer.

The theory of “banking” old roosters has never been a realistic part of this equation, with the average lifespan of wild pheasants rarely exceeding a year. Despite the seasons of December 16 on the property (with suitable grassland habitat) that I hunt for pheasant, bird numbers are on the rise this year due to last year’s milder winter combined with ideal weather for the nesting and rearing that wild hens experienced in late spring and early summer.

A definite advantage of the December season is that any second and third hatching roosters that lacked enough color for a proper identity in the previous season will generally be fully colored by now. However, expect the wildly variable winter weather conditions that are characteristic of Michigan throughout December.

One day you may encounter rain and sleet, and the next day you may wallow in the snow up to your knees. I’ve found that in knee-deep snow, wild ringnecks literally circle you and dogs (telltale trails say it all), and birds don’t sink into white down like you and your dog hunt. partners do. And when pressed enough by dogs and hunters, the elusive birds simply fly to other parts of their range, and they seem to quickly grab where the pressure-free areas are.

What combination of shotgun throttle and bird shooting to use for December pheasant hunting can often be a moot point among avid bird hunters. Roosters fully lit by the pheasant season in early fall may tend to hunt at farther distances at times, but I try to counter this by rotating one or two hunters in the group to act as a nearby blocker. known escape routes from fast flying roosters attempting to change postal codes.

The best combination I have found for the start or end of the pheasant season is copper plated # 5 lead shot (high brass) and an upgraded cylinder or modified choke. Today’s shotgun ammunition using firing cups maintains denser patterns and therefore more range efficiency than ever before, and the more open chokes are much more forgiving for wing firing for the sturdy roosters and fast flying. Basically I use the same combination for pheasants whether it’s early or late in the season, and it works for me.

I have long considered that trying to hunt wild Michigan pheasants without a dog was similar to trying to climb a ladder without rungs. A good hunting dog is essential and part of this difficult atmosphere, not only for locating elusive birds, but also for retrieving them after shooting. When dealing with wild roosters, I have found that it takes a few seasons for a young dog to transform into a premium wild pheasant, and having older dogs that act as guardians is always a big deal. asset.

I also learned to use a combination of hunting dogs and pointers working together, as today’s wild Michigan pheasant does not hold a locked point for long, if at all. The dog to watch often is not the one on the point, but the dog who is flushing on the side.

Finding out how to successfully hunt December pheasants is a bit like a game of chess. It was near Christmas a few years ago when I split the hunters and dogs in my party into two teams, each team starting from opposite sides of a large field of prairie grass (CRP) to create a pincer action which launched a curve in the cock. evasive racing tactics.

We joined a drainage ditch and turned and extended in unison to a side road that provided a distinct break in coverage with a few hunters acting as blockers. The end result was that several roosters and hens suddenly scurried off when the fleeing birds ran out of cover in the grass. It was an exciting sight to see.

Yes folks, pheasant hunting in Michigan doesn’t get any better than that, and the December pheasant season is definitely working for me. I’m really glad he’s finally here!

Email Tom Lounsbury at [email protected]


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