Pheasant hunting a tradition for family, friends in the Buckeye State

Pheasant In Hay Stubble Matt Vincent

Pheasant hunting a tradition for family, friends in the Buckeye State

CLEVELAND, Ohio — To a young sportsman just learning the ropes of upland game hunting a half-century ago, colorful, cackling ring-necked pheasants were the biggest thrill during the fall seasons.

Times have certainly changed around the Buckeye State. With the pheasant season ready to begin Nov. 3, about the only opportunity most hunters will have to bag a pheasant will be one of the 14,430 farm-raised roosters, or male pheasants, released at 25 public wildlife areas.

Check the social media sites devoted to hunting. There will be lots of attention focused on hunting for white-tailed deer, ducks and geese and little devoted to game birds, such as pheasant, bobwhite quail or ruffed grouse.

Though it was extremely rare to see a white-tailed deer in northern Ohio when I began hunting in the late 1960s, they have flourished in every corner of Ohio in recent decades. Canada geese were once hard to find, as well, and now there are more than a million of the giant Canada geese living in Ohio, the scourge of parks and golf courses and a bonus bird for waterfowlers.

Upland game is scarce due to changes in farming practices that eliminated the small family farms and their wooded fence rows and brush-rows, which were excellent places for pheasant and quail to feed, hide and nest. Once plowed under, the coveys of quail and the flocks of pheasants disappeared

Following World War II, Ohio’s pheasant population was estimated at 5 million. Hunters killed about 750,000 of the big, sleeks birds each hunting season, game birds that tasted much better than chicken. Hollywood had plenty of hunters back then, and stars like Clark Gable could be found in Wood County in Northwest Ohio in the fall where pheasants were plentiful in the rural farm fields.

A best friend in the pheasant business in my early days was Leonard Porter of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the area manager at the Spencer Wildlife Area in western Medina County. When I stopped at the area headquarters, Porter would take time to tell a raw, rank rookie where he’d have the best chance of seeing a bird. Pheasants are not speedballs in the sky, like blue-winged teal, and they don’t dart dodge shot like mourning doves.

But, I found out quickly while hunting with the opening day crowd at Spencer, if you hadn’t brushed up on your wing shooting with some clay target practice, putting a pheasant on the dinner table could be tricky.

Spencer will again be stocked with pheasants this year, as will the Berlin, Grand River, Highlandtown, West Branch, Zepernick, Charlemont and Camp Belden public areas in Northeast Ohio. This part of the state gets the most birds, with releases scheduled for this weekend’s youth hunts, opening day, Nov. 10 and a traditional Thanksgiving hunt on Nov. 23.

Originally Posted by D’ARCY EGAN on October 27, 2017 at Cleveland.com Outdoors
Photo courtesy of Matt Vincent.

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