Ohio Public Land Pheasant Hunting
Ohio is a well known whitetail destination. However, most people don’t realize the Buckeye State is one of the best states east of the Mississippi to hunt pheasants. Ohio has a great deal of public land and much of it’s private agricultural land is planted in pheasant friendly crops. CRP is also popular in Ohio but like many other states, funding is limited. Sound management is paying off. About 150,000 wild pheasants are harvested every year in Ohio.
The Ohio DNR also plants farm raised pheasants to supplement the population. Around 15,000 birds are released each year on about 30 different properties. Birds are typically released for October youth hunts, opening day, two weeks after opening day, and on Thanksgiving. The hunting can be very good. But keep in mind that crowding is common place on many public hunting areas.
There are a few ways to have a more fulfilling public hunting experience. Most hunters go out in the morning and call it a day by lunch time. Afternoon hunters tend to have a more relaxing hunt. Weekdays are also good. Hunt out of the way cover that most hunters won’t go in. Generally, the areas that release the most planted birds get the heaviest pressure. Some of the smaller areas may not get as many pheasants, but hunter pressure is also much lighter.
Here are a few of Ohio’s best bets for public land ringnecks.
Delaware Wildlife Area
No wildlife area gets more released pheasants than Delaware Wildlife Area. The state released 1,600 birds here in 2011. Delaware Wildlife is managed for upland game with about half of it’s 4,776 acres consisting of mixed grasses, briars, shrubs, and prairie. There is also 350 acres of food plots present. It’s just 30 miles from Columbus so pressure can get intense during weekend hunts.
Deer Creek Wildlife Area
This 4,200 acre property is in central Ohio and is often passed up by pheasant hunters because it doesn’t appear on the state’s pheasant release chart. Deer Creek Wildlife Area is home to one of the best populations of wild birds on state property. Most of the land is flat to slightly rolling with meadows, prairie grasses, and 1,000 acres of row crops planted for wildlife. If you’re looking for a mixed bag hunt, Deer Creek has excellent dove & rabbit hunting as well.
Rush Run Wildlife Area
At under 1,200 acres, Rush Run isn’t a huge property but it can provide an exciting hunt. About half of the Southwest Ohio property is wooded but the other half provides perfect pheasant cover. The gently rolling terrain consists of croplands and permanent meadows. The Ohio DNR supplements wild pheasants with around 500 pen released birds. In addition to ringnecks, hunters can fill their game vests with bobwhite quail and cottontails.
Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area
This Northwest Ohio property is expansive at over 9,000 acres. Two thirds of Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area is covered with crops and grassland cover. The DNR released over 1,000 birds here in 2011 and pressure can be heavy early in the season. However, cover is thick and hunters with skilled dogs can really clean up after casual hunters have called it a season. Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area is intensively managed for waterfowl. A large section of the property is a wildlife refuge so check a map before going afield.
Other favorite public land pheasant hunting properties include Grand River Wildlife Area, Berlin Lake Wildlife Area, and Caesar Creek Wildlife Area. See the Ohio DNR website for release information.