Public Land Pheasant Hunting In Wisconsin
Wisconsin is world renowned as a whitetail destination. However, the Badger State offers a pretty solid pheasant hunt to public land ringneck hunters. Wisconsin has a reproducing wild bird population where habitat is good. But many of the birds harvested every year are part of the 50,000+ birds the DNR and other groups release on public lands. One of the great things about Wisconsin’s release program is they spread the birds out. Birds are released prior to the season, then twice a week for the first two to three weeks. From there, they are released once a week until the end of the season. This is general operating procedure most seasons with some exceptions. Late season pheasant hunters can really clean up when everyone else is focused on whitetails.
Lafayette County’s Yellowstone Wildlife Area is one of my favorite places to hunt pheasants. The views are stunning and the little restaurant on Yellowstone Lake is a great spot to stop for ice cream. The state plants around 1,000 birds per year on the 4,000 acre property. At one point in 2011, a DNR newsletter reported a heavy concentration of birds because no one was hunting them. Keep in mind Yellowstone Wildlife Area is less than an hour and a half from Madison.
One of the crown jewels of the Wisconsin public land system is the Mazomanie Wildlife Area in Dane County. Situated along the Wisconsin River in the western portion of the county, this property is a hunter’s paradise for deer and pheasant hunters. The DNR plants around 1,200 birds a year on this 3,600 acre property. It’s close proximity to Madison creates some crowding. But weekday and late season hunts can be spectacular. Pheasant hunting closes at 2 PM every day in this unit.
Named after America’s greatest flying ace, Richard Bong State Recreation has more pheasants planted there than any other public property in the state. Native to Northern Wisconsin, Bong shot down over 40 Japanese planes during World War II. Hunters have an opportunity to shoot down the seven to eight thousand pheasants planted on 3,600 acres every year. That is about two birds per acre. Keep in mind, Bong State Recreation Area is in Kenosha County, halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee. Pressure can be intense.
A favorite Southeast Wisconsin public pheasant hunting destination is the White River Marsh in Green Lake County. It is accessible to Milwaukee, Madison, and Fox Valley hunters but not so close that it gets inundated with hunters. About 900 birds are released annually on the 3,000 acre property. Both White River and Bong Wildlife Areas close to pheasant hunting at 2 PM.
This part of the state doesn’t have the habitat the southern portion of Wisconsin has. Pheasant hunting opportunities are less widespread. Keep in mind the Nicolet and Chequamegon National Forest offers world class public land ruffed grouse hunting for upland hunters. For those insisting on chasing ringnecks, day-old chicks are delivered to several clubs throughout Northeast Wisconsin. There is some chick mortality, but survivors are all planted on public lands or private land open to public hunting. 400 birds are raised for release on Waupaca County’s Mukwa Wildlife Area. With just 200 acres of huntable habitat, there are some good opportunities there.
If you’re willing to go off the beaten path a bit, Gilman’s Pershing Wildlife Area isn’t stocked with pheasants. However, a game farm is adjacent to the property and scratch birds can often be scooped up here. There is some good grouse cover at Pershing as well. Keep in mind, parts of this unit are refuge so watch for signs.
If you insist on hunting wild pheasants, you’ll find most of the state’s breeding population of ringnecks in the Northwest. Much of St. Croix County is dotted with Waterfowl Production Areas(WPAs). These WPAs offer the best wild pheasant hunting in the state. Keep in mind many of these properties are small, so expect to do some driving around. You can pick up WPA maps at the US Fish & Wildlife Service office near New Richmond or download a map here. Remember, lead shot is not allowed on WPAs.
The Dunnville Swamps in Dunn County is another Northwest Wisconsin pheasant hunting destination. About 700 adult birds are released on 1,500 acres every year by the DNR. Clubs raise around 500 more birds for release in the area. It’s well known but far enough from major population centers to provide a quality hunt.
If you’re looking for truly epic pheasant hunting, head to the Dakotas or Nebraska. But casual hunters and experts alike can find a fulfilling hunt in the Cheese State. Fishing is excellent throughout Wisconsin so cast & blast packages are also popular.