Manchurian Cross Leave Their Mark
Results from Crowing Counts
||% Increase from 1996
The Sheboygan County Conservation Association (SCCA) consists of 33 conservation-minded clubs (boating, fishing, sport shooting, hunting, trapping, etc.) in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. The SCCA is recognized state-wide for its multitude of programs and improvement of Wisconsin’s great outdoors.
One of the first projects and probably the backbone of the SCCA in early years, was the commitment to raising pheasants. For more than 40 years, the SCCA was involved in the Wisconsin Day Old Chick program. Membership has raised approximately 5,000 pheasant rooster chicks to maturity, releasing them the week before the pheasant season opens. This program was designed solely as release and harvest.
In 1996, the SCCA took a bold new approach to its pheasant program, hoping to raise a more wild strain of bird and increase the chances of establishing a sustaining pheasant population. The 2,700 Manchurian-cross birds (1,650 hens and 1,050 roosters) are purchased from the MacFarlane Pheasant Farm and raised as day old chicks. The bird is a 3/4 cross between the game farm bird and a wild strain imported from the Jillian Province of China. They are bought in June and released in early October while farm crops still stand as cover.
Not only did the strain of bird change, the release is different too. Release sites are not all necessarily hunt-able lands; habitat is stressed more. The program is designed to put a ratio of one rooster to five hens into the best habitat possible, or in areas lending to habitat lending to habitat enhancement. The remaining roosters go on hunt-able land with good habitat and are intended for harvest.
Results from Flush Counts
||% Increase from 1997
Participating clubs are required to do winter flush and spring crowing counts. Results are turned over to the SCCA Pheasant Committee. The forms for these surveys are designed after forms used by the Wisconsin State Wild Release Project.
In the year 2000, the flush count was dropped. Interest turned to brood sighting in an attempt to see how this strain of pheasant survives and reproduces in the wild, as this is really the bottom line.
Concentrating on habitat improvement, two programs were developed. The first program establishes food plots. Landowners are reimbursed for planting small plots of corn, sorghum, etc. to stand over the winter months. They are designed for food and cover for all wildlife. Landowners are paid $20 for working the land, $10 for planting, $20 for weed control, and $20 for fertilizer, totaling up to $70 per acre depending on the situation.
A new approach is being taken towards the establishment of grasslands. Instead of concentrating mainly on farmers, landowners with smaller parcels are targeted. As a new joint venture, the SCCA teamed up with Pheasants Forever in hopes of offering a more attractive package. Landowners are now paid $90 per acre to establish grasslands for nesting cover; total program acreage is limited to 180 acres per year. Initially, this doesn’t sound like much, but in a 10 year span, over 1,800 acres could be re-established as nesting cover for wildlife.
There are several contributing factors to the success of these programs. First, the willingness and ability of the SCCA to provide financial support (approximately $14,000/year). Secondly, the devotion from the clubs involved, providing manpower and money to raise not only the birds, but fund the habitat programs as well. Each club contributes $300 annually. Last but not least, is the foresight of Bill MacFarlane to raise a wilder strain of pheasant, one with enough wild instincts to survive and reproduce in the wilds of Wisconsin.
Summing it up, people are not just seeing pheasants in Sheboygan County, they’re seeing pheasants in greater numbers than in the last 25 years!
Dan Renzelman, Chairman SCCA Habitat Committee (920) 565-3191
Herb Sorensen SCCA 2nd Vice President (920) 457-4308