For the last several years, I have associated pheasant hunting with snow. For one thing, a buddy and I have been going to South Dakota every year in December (not this year; the reports from South Dakota were abysmal) for about a decade now, and about half the time there’s been snow cover.
But December has become my preferred pheasant hunting season here, too. For one thing, most of the corn is down, so you don’t have to worry about the bird disappearing into the standing corn where you can’t get at them. And, truth is, after firearms deer season is finished, it’s a lot easier to get landowner permission than it is in October and November, when bow hunting is at its peak.
So when I met up with Brian Gross in mid-December for a morning of chasing the long-tails around, I was optimistic. There was about four inches of fresh, fluffy snow on the ground — enough that the birds might hunker down in it instead of putting on their track shoes and staying 50 yards ahead of us all the time.
We met up to hunt a couple of parcels of Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) land in Saginaw County. CREP is a refinement of the Conservation Reserves Program (CRP), a federal farm program that pays farmers to idle land and the Saginaw Bay Watershed is one of the high-priority areas for CREP in Michigan. CREP is designed to set aside land along waterways — ditches, drains, rivers, etc. — to help prevent erosion. CREP pays landowners to idle filter strips. The filter strips are narrow, but can be productive for pheasants, as I have learned over many years of pheasant hunting Out West that pheasants are often found along waterways.
The two parcels we had to hunt were filter strips along the ditches and drains around the field perimeter. Both were U-shaped parcels as there were along waterways around three borders of the fields. They were perfect for a couple of guys and a couple of dogs.