Do you miss the days of abundant pheasant hunting right in your hometown? Nowadays it is not uncommon to have to drive 50 miles just to see a few pheasants. Do you want to help bring more Pheasants back? The answer is simple: habitat restoration! That is exactly why the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative (MPRI) was created. This initiative is an opportunity for neighboring landowners to work together to restore habitat by building landowner cooperatives!
What is the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative (MPRI)?
The goal of the initiative is to double Michigan's current pheasant harvest. The plan will also have a tremendous impact on hunter retention and recruitment in the state. "There are more than 50,000 hunters who pursue pheasants annually in Michigan, and we can do better at meeting their demand for opportunity," says Mike Parker, Private Lands Biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, "It's a given that when you have an abundance of quality habitat, you have pheasants. Revitalizing habitat - nesting cover, escape cover, food and winter cover - is the key to revitalizing pheasant hunting in Michigan."
What is a Landowner Cooperative?
How effective the initiative is depends on what the landowners are willing to accomplish. The most important parts of the program are the landowners who wish to participate in local landowner co-ops. By participating in the initiative, it not only helps to create habitat but it also builds unity within the community. Many co-ops already exist throughout southern Michigan!
Over the years, landowners have helped on their individual properties by being conservation-minded. However, in order for this initiative to succeed, landowners living near one another must work together by adding and enhancing habitat as a whole, not as individual pieces. The goal of establishing co-ops is to see enhancements to habitat of approximately 1,200 acres within a 10,000 acre block. Habitat can be restored and enhanced to include nest cover, winter cover, and winter food, and have connectivity from property to property. Grassland and farmland are crucial to pheasant habitat. Any pheasant habitat is also beneficial for song birds, migratory birds, deer and other wildlife species.
How can I get started?
Check with your local Conservation District! Biologist Monique Ferris has been hired to help landowners in Gratiot, Saginaw, and Clinton counties coordinate and form pheasant co-ops. Monique can help find existing acreage, show where potential acreage might be available, identify areas where farmland needs to be maintained & enhanced using conservation farming, and to help with the finding of new members and hosting informational meetings. Monique is also available to help look into any Farm Bill or partner programs which can help in habitat establishment or enhancement of conservation farming.
The initiative is also supported by Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Ducks Unlimited, Conservation Districts, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Agriculture, Michigan State University Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
Benefits of Pheasant Co-op Involvement
• Funding opportunities that are only available to co-op members
• Help with cost of habitat enhancement, purchasing seeds & herbicides and rental of planting equipment
• Free workshops providing training about habitat improvement
• Collaboration with conducting surveys such as quality habitat, grasslands, and crow counts
• Free technical advice from Biologist Kurt Wolf
• Collaborative workdays for invasive species removal, brush pile establishment, tree/shrub planting
• Networking with other landowners who are interested in improving wildlife habitat
• Workshops with Michigan United Conservation Clubs for statewide networking!
If you build it, they will come (back!). The main deterrent to pheasants thriving in the central Michigan area is lack of quality habitat. Once the habitat is improved, the birds will return! We’ve seen the process in action over the past three years as we’ve participated in the DNR grant projects.
Updates to the Progress with the East Gratiot Pheasant Co-Op:
The landowners in the East Gratiot Pheasant Co-Op have been busy and eager to get into the fields and take inventory of the habitat in the core co-op area. The co-op is working hard to establish a designated boundary and set acreage goals for future habitat work. The co-op held a meeting in March, 2017 to develop a route for monitoring pheasant populations within the core co-op area. In April the group met again to go over the requirements of completing a successful crow count survey. In May the co-op hit the ground running and had a great time with some fieldwork. They had a good number of pheasants heard and seen during the survey time period. In August, the co-op hosted a field day meeting at the Gratiot-Saginaw State Game Area where they practiced plant ID and covered how to fill out landowner habitat guides. In the spring of 2018, the group will continue to work on landowner habitat guides to inventory the cover throughout the co-op.
MPRI Midpoint Accomplishments