Optimism High for 2023, More Roosters, Longer Season, New Locations…


Michigan pheasant hunters have much to look forward to this year with the tremendous increase of rooster stocking on state properties. Over 6,000 birds will be released for you, your family, friends and hunting buddies to enjoy starting on the pheasant opener, October 20, 2023. Hunters are allowed 2 roosters per day, 4 in possession and participants are required to have a pheasant license, base license and wear hunter orange while hunting. Consult the Michigan hunting digest regarding rules and regulations regarding pheasant hunting, hunting dates and locations where roosters will be released.

“There will be roosters aplenty this year because monies are in place to purchase 6,258 birds that will be stocked starting opening day,” reports Ken Dalton, President of the Michigan Pheasant Hunters Initiative. “In addition, new release sites will be open and available this year and birds will be stocked at 13 state game areas. Each location will receive stocked roosters 2 times per week. A list of pheasant hunting locations open to the public will be available from the Michigan DNR or MPHI at www.mphi.info,” says Dalton.

Pheasant hunting in Michigan has become a lost art, but MPHI has brought thousands of Michigan sportsmen outdoors to enjoy pheasant hunting like the good old days by stocking roosters. Finally, dog owners can get outdoors and hunt on public property, see birds, flush pheasants and harvest beautiful roosters.

Hunters will be happy to know pheasant hunting is open again in December following regular deer season. This will give sportsmen an extended pheasant hunting opportunity. Those who seek exciting bird hunting during the late season can schedule outings from December 1 until January 1, 2024. Some hunters prefer to chase roosters in the snow when birds sit tight, and dogs can work them. Chasing smart roosters in deep snow is challenging, and snow can be expected around the Christmas holiday. Rooster pheasants will be released weekly at all sites during December.

Dalton wants to remind hunters to purchase a pheasant hunting license before hunting. Stop at any license retailer before you hit the field, or go online and get your license at lightning speed. The license fee is $25, and all the funds will be used to purchase roosters that will be released for public hunting.

MPHI is a nonprofit sportsmen’s group with the goal of getting Michigan hunters outdoors, in the field on public land open to hunting. Their “boots on the ground” philosophy ensures hunters have ample opportunity this year, and their goal is to enhance hunting opportunities for all. This grassroots organization has an outstanding history of igniting sportsmen’s participation, creating vast hunting opportunities designed to meet their main goal referred to as the three R’s; hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation. Recruitment means attracting new hunters to the outdoors. Retention is designed to keep hunters in the field coming back. Reactivation means the hunting is so good it attracts past hunters back to the outdoors.

MPHI has developed an exciting methodology to activate the public, get folks in the field and get boots on the ground. In recent years, thousands of Michigan hunters have come to love the outstanding rooster hunt. The secret to their success is simple, put birds in the field. They know excellent hunting hinges on one important element, roosters. Michigan is flush with ideal habitat but sorely lacks live birds. Dalton’s mega-stocking program changed all that, and not only are there birds available, but they are on public property, open to hunting. Dalton also knows how difficult it is to get hunting permission these days, but using public land ensures he can bring Michigan pheasant hunters back to the fields at lightning speed.

The golden opportunity to actually see roosters, flush birds and have fun outings shooting at rooster pheasants was the dream of Dalton, who is a long-time rooster lover and decided to make pheasant hunting available to the general public. He rallied support, scheduled stocking with game bird breeders, worked with the DNR and joined in partnership with Michigan United Conservation Clubs and other sportsmen’s groups. But the proof in the pudding came when Michigan hunters took to the field in record numbers in search of winged angels. “It is the adrenaline rush you get at the sound of the flush and loud cackle of adult roosters that is enjoyable, somewhat addictive and brought thousands of savvy hunters back for more,” Dalton explains.

I’ll never forget my first trip to the Rose Lake State Game area when Dalton and I worked the ideal pheasant habitat with our dogs. My Brittany was fast to jump a big rooster in my face, and I missed with two rapid-fire shots. But the large, brightly colored cock swung left, banked over Dalton, and he dumped the beauty with one well-placed shot from his trusty Remington 870 pump he has carried afield for decades. We rallied around the fallen prize and admired its brilliant kaleidoscope of vividly colored feathers. That’s when the dog slipped into the tall grass, circled right and flushed a big rooster directly over our surprised heads. One shot, and I had the first rooster I’ve taken in over 30 years of hunting. Then we flushed two more roosters and made clean kills. Suddenly, we were done, tagged out, game bags bulging with fat roosters and long tail feathers sticking out the sides. On the way back to the parking lot, we flushed another rooster that cackled at the top of his lungs as he gained altitude and glided over two other hunters who shot five times and never cut a feather.

Dalton smiled, laughed and remarked, ”Did you see that huge rooster explode from cover like a missile, scream his presence to the world, then fly directly over other hunters that totally missed? That’s what hunting is all about!”

We sat on the back of my pickup truck, sipped hot coffee, and enjoyed cheese, fresh fruit, and a sandwich. In the distance, we could hear shots, and see roosters flying left, then some went right as bright orange-clad sportsmen worked thick cover. Dalton was all smiles to see his dream come true. You see, he takes great pride in recreating Michigan pheasant hunting, making it what it once was and should be. To him, the most rewarding result of his diligent work is sportsmen outdoors, enjoying Michigan’s vast natural resources. He is, beyond any doubt, one of Michigan’s most outstanding conservationists because he has promoted the wise use of our valuable outdoor resources for all to enjoy.

Dog owners and breeders view MPHI pheasant stocking as a gift from the heavens. In most cases, avid sportsmen finally have a place to hunt where dogs are guaranteed to locate pheasants. Old-time hunters rally at the opportunity to take family pets to a target-rich environment. You see, the best thing MPHI has going is birds aplenty and dogs can actually flush roosters, young dogs can learn how to hunt, and sportsmen and dog handlers can do it all on public property we all own.

Dalton wants us all to enjoy Michigan outdoors, get afield, enjoy time with family and friends, get exercise and put the family dog to work in search of roosters. However, he’s an old-school conservationist whose goal is to provide the public with a rooster. He wants everyone to harvest a bird. Like most savvy outdoorsmen, Dalton knows the true success of hunting is a bird in the hand, and he wants that dream to come true for all of us. Also, if you want to contribute and buy more birds, MPHI is a nonprofit organization that will accept contributions. All monies go to buy more birds. You can also expect a fundraiser event in 2023. Contact wwwmphi.info for dates.

The truth is, Michigan’s wild pheasant population is almost non-existent. If you are fortunate enough to know where wild pheasants reside, you are very lucky. Most of Michigan has zero pheasants, and the general public is tired of walking miles without a single flush. So, if your goal is to have fun pheasant hunting this year and you want to see roosters, get some shooting, harvest birds and see other pheasant hunters enjoying time afield, don’t overlook the exciting hunting opportunity created through MPHI. If you want to get in on the hot action, buy your license now, get your shotgun ready, buy a box of shells, organize blaze orange clothing and be ready and willing to get outdoors. It sounds simple, but don’t forget to properly lead fast-flying roosters, or you will be like me and miss easy shots due to the excitement of the flush. Dalton guarantees that once you see all the fun other hunters are having and that first rooster blows up in your face, you will be hooked and return for more.