2017 hunting report

AtTheMurph

New member
Had first chance to get out. Just two men and my dog. Hunted between Buckley and Milford. First spot has always been a honey hole but it is now mowed like your lawn...... Still gave it a show as there was some cover deep in the ditch but had little hope.

Didn't take long and dog goes on point. Since my buddy was blocking 300-400yds down the ditch and released the dog to flush what I suspected was a hen. That it was a cock shocked the heck out of me. Had to gather my wits at the surprise. let loose one barrel and was shocked I didn't knock him down, just a puff of feathers.

As I watched him for a second @ 9 other birds boiled up around me...... Had to let loose the second barrel at the winged cock and dropped him. Watched the remaining birds fly everywhere but towards my blocker, as usual.

Next stop was a good piece of ditch and cover, about 1 mile long. Put up one measly hen.

3rd stop was a bust.

Reports from farmers is very low population this year. Our go to farmer has nixed hunting altogether this season because he just didn't see anything picking crops. He hunts too, but not this year.
 

ehudgens

Member
Hunt the same areas. Killed two on Saturday, but had to hunt all day to do it. Really sad to see some of these filter strip on ditches getting plowed under. Unless something changes in the 2018 farm bill, there's no good news in sight for pheasants in IL, or anywhere else for that matter..... It baffles me how and why these CRP filter strips get mowed as well... Very frustrating.
 

AtTheMurph

New member
Hunt the same areas. Killed two on Saturday, but had to hunt all day to do it. Really sad to see some of these filter strip on ditches getting plowed under. Unless something changes in the 2018 farm bill, there's no good news in sight for pheasants in IL, or anywhere else for that matter..... It baffles me how and why these CRP filter strips get mowed as well... Very frustrating.
I don't know enough about maintaining the filter strips to know why they mow them. Perhaps it is needed every so often to keep the types of grasses pheasants like growing. A little pain for long term gain?

What get's me is the guys who plow right up to the ditch edges. Hell, I'd be afraid the bank would give way and my $400,000 tractor would topple in.

The Milford boys who hunted opening day said they bagged 2 cocks. That's half a dozen hunting for a long time on historically good to great ground. Worst they have ever seen.

I'm trying Indiana on 12/1 near Kentland and some other areas of Newton and Benton Counties. Main place farmer reports seeing nothing.....Sad.
 

1pheas4

Super Moderator
Numbers seem to be way down. Nothing we didn't expect considering all the rain and overly wet days throughout the nesting and brood rearing season. To top it off, any late hatches had to deal with drought late summer/September. Double hit on the young.

I shot a young bird last week. He just had small numbs for spurs plus still had immature feathers on his underside/belly. Late hatch. Saw a couple older roosters on the south end of the county the other day too.

Filter strips; A few years back I asked my buddy why he mows filter strips. He said to keep the noxious weeds from coming up. They would make great run-ways for birds to safely get from one area to another. Maybe some day.
 
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On mowing strips many farmers do it to keep trees from starting. However they could mow every 3 years and accomplish this. It took me 5 years to talk my neighbor into mowing around an old pond and field drainage every 3 years. He used to mow it at least once and sometimes twice a year. Now that he has started a 3 year rotation we have a covey of about 15 quail that bounce from my fencerow to his drainage. Cover works if we manage it properly. I also took some trees out of my fencerow and made brush piles. Trees were getting to large and choking out undergrowth.

In southern IL quail numbers are up so that may be an option instead of chasing the pheasants!
 

AtTheMurph

New member
Got out Saturday and actually had a fairly productive hunt. First spot we walked kicked up a cock and two hens (ditch had been mowed but had a couple of nice little hair patches). didn't get a shot but good to see something.

Next place is a little 5 acre grass patch. Great cover and dog went on point before we even entered the grass. Other younger dog came over and busted up a nice cock. we watched as he landed on the far end. Put up another cock and hen but again didn't get shots. Got to the other end and my dog pointed at the edge, cock went up and youngest member of the party (16 year old) bagged the first cock of his life. We kicked up another cock on the return loop back to car but he was a missile in the wind and flew at least a mile, maybe farther.

Third place was plenty of action. As soon as dog went to bottom of the ditch kicked up a cock and I bagged my 2nd of the year. Not too much further put up another cock that I was hoping my buddy would get a shot at but didn't. He landed a couple hundred yards up the ditch. Put up a couple hens then got to where the cock went down and my buddy was able to drop him after a nice point from my dog. Dog made a nice retrieve across the ditch too. Thank goodness because it was deeper than either of our boots.

Further up was had a blocker and we kicked up several hens, a cock that made a nice escape out the side. Then as we all walked back to the truck kicked up a cock that I dropped, a couple more hens and a final wily cock that made its way to the very edge of the road by the truck. He went up and my host unloaded three clean misses at him.

Last spot none of us had ever hunted before. All Brome grass and i thought we'd see something. Only wildlife was a big, reddish coyote that made the mistake of running between two hunters. Thing was bigger and heavier than my 49lb bird dog. Probably a coy dog or something but that sucker was HUUUGE!

Had very low expectations so bagging 4 cocks with 4 hunters and putting about 20 birds in the air made me happy.
 

ehudgens

Member
Had a good day yesterday. Met a buddy at my mom's in Milford at 8:30 hit the first spot just norteast of town. 30 acre crp field. Got out of the truck and a big coyote runs out the back of the field. Dog pointed right away and 2 hens got up, and a rooster flushed too far to get a shot. Kept going, dog pointed 2 more hens. Turned around, dog pointed 3 more hens. Got to the very end and he locked up, and nice big rooster got up. My buddy killed, it and we had one in the bag in the first 30 minutes. Not bad. Went out to the state line area south east of Stockland. Hunted one ditch, and nothing. Hunted another ditch further south, and the dog worked birds the whole way. Finally caught up to them where a fence line crosses. Solid point. 2 hens and cock. We have 2 in the bag and it's 9:45. Head to one of my honey holes south of Milford. 40 acre crp field that hardly any one knows is there. Some years you can't get to it because it is in the very middle of a section. Dog pointed 5 hens and 1 rooster. I shot the rooster. 3 in the bag and it's 10:30. Hit another spot west of Milford. Nice ditch with filter strips. Dog literally pointed before we were loaded. By some miracle the bird held. My buddy shot it. Got our 4 by 11 am. Had a few beers at old main pub, then headed for home at 1. All in all, I was pretty pleased. We didn't see a ton of birds, but we got the 4 roosters we had a shot at, and had some great dog work.
 

ehudgens

Member
George,

We are referring to man made drainage ditches that are all over east central IL. Many of these ditches have good cover and decent bird numbers. These aren't road ditches that you can hunt in South Dakota. That's not legal Here in IL.

Just one random observation about these ditches the last 2 years, virtually every one has beaver dams in them. You can definitely tell no one is trapping these any more. It used to be a bid deal to see a beaver dam, and now they are everywhere. We had a hard time finding places to cross in the ditches we hunted yesterday.
 

1pheas4

Super Moderator
Thanks for the updates guys. To anyone harvesting wild IL pheasants, what percentage would you say have been from this years hatch?

Habitat---I looked at an area I hunted last year. One side of the road the habitat was put into beans. The other side (CRP) is on the way out as we speak. Tractors are out there now. Sad to see. It was a nice nesting area with rail road habitat linking it to other habitats.

Some better news. I've talked with a number of land owners waiting to install grassland CRP on their lands. We'll see what the next farm bill brings to the table and go from there.

Anyone have any luck on PHA's this season?
 

AtTheMurph

New member
I wasn't aware that you can hunt ditches in IL. Was this private land?
Yes. My buddy has permission from a number of farmers in Iroquois Co. If there is cover in the ditches there will be birds. Sometimes lots of birds.

"To anyone harvesting wild IL pheasants, what percentage would you say have been from this years hatch?"

4 of the 5 cocks we have bagged have been from this years crop. I'd say that is about a normal distribution. We normally kill the younger stupider ones and the wily old cocks have learned to run out and never take flight.
 
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1pheas4

Super Moderator
That's good news Murph. Thank you.

This season seemed to be a mixed bag with most of the news (I've been heard) being on the "poor" side. God willing this winter and spring will give them a window to bounce back a bit.

The best younger bird numbers I saw this season was at Green River state park in Lee county. I also noticed that the states pen-raised roosters have cross-bred with some of the wild hens out there. Most of the wild birds I saw where noticeably lighter in color. With all the habitat improvements and basically "farming for pheasants" out there, with a few good nesting and brood rearing seasons I think their wild bird numbers will really do well. A few more food plots will really help too. Time will tell.

Dose anyone have news on our PHA areas? What did you see as far as hens/roosters and young birds vs. older birds and bird numbers in general?

Thanks for any info/updates!
Nick

Here's a couple wild Illinois roosters from Green River--you can see the lighter coloration in these roosters. This birds crop was loaded with corn;

wild illinois pheasant 2017 by https://www.flickr.com/photos/151633916@N05/, on Flickr

Very Young bird taken in mid-November--this birds crop was loaded with sunflower seeds. Some seed had roots/sprouts growing from them;
wild illinois pheasant 2017 by https://www.flickr.com/photos/151633916@N05/, on Flickr
 
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AtTheMurph

New member
Nice pic!!!! Hope you killed a few. I didn’t make it down this weekend.
Those were 300 yards east of your patch in Milford. We only snapped a few pics before they all flew back into that glorious cover. There were 15 cocks and 5 hens. As we drove past the PF field I commented how much I wanted to see a whole bunch of birds standing in the corn to the north. Turned and looked forward and BAM! there they are.

Did kill a couple cocks further east. One by the state line right around Hwy 18 and another NE of Milford. I should have gotten two at the last place but was lazy. We had kicked a couple cocks down to the end of a little draw, so I knew there were two there. My dog flushed one and my gun got caught in my winter coat and I didn't get it seated on my shoulder but I shot anyways.

First barrel missed but second got him at about 45yds. Not bad in high winds with my little 20ga. At the end of the draw I knew that 2nd bird was going to be off to my left in some good bean stubble. But like lots of other times you get to the end and relax when nothing happens. I watched as my dog made his way towards where I suspected that bird was but I wasn't ready when he rocketed up into the wind and back to the beginning of the draw.

Wish I had brought my semi auto rifle. Kicked two big coyotes out of that place and both ran out my side giving me a great chance for a dog double. Probably could have reached the closest with my 20ga but I wouldn't have dropped him.
 

UplandHntr

Active member
Bad news is I had the worst season Ive ever had.

Good news is theres only one direction to go. I cannot kill any less wild birds.
 

ehudgens

Member
Lets hope we get some good new with 2018 Farm Bill. Looking at $2.00 corn and no pheasants. Not good for farmers or hunters.

Murph,

Thanks for the shout out. My dad spent a lot of time putting that together. Hopefully there will be a couple of hundred patches like that in Iroquois County in the next few years.

You wouldn't believe how different South Dakota looks from 10 years ago. It's unreal how many acres of CRP are gone in the last few years.......

No habitat no birds. Very simple.....
 

steven vecchio

New member
I live in Rockford, Illinois and have seen the pheasant population go straight down over the years. I am very interested in some info regarding quail hunting and some tips as to where to go in Illinois and
elsewhere. Just need some decent land to hit, have a great dog and plenty of walking power!
 

steven vecchio

New member
just hunted so Dakota. Saw hundreds if birds each day! Whatever is called "down" in bird population is very interesting.

Saw more birds in 4 days than I did my entire life in Illinois!!
 

AtTheMurph

New member
just hunted so Dakota. Saw hundreds if birds each day! Whatever is called "down" in bird population is very interesting.

Saw more birds in 4 days than I did my entire life in Illinois!!
I've done SD and saw hundreds of birds too. reminded me of my first couple years hunting in IL (15-20yrs ago).

The very first ditch I hunted, not far from Hudgens we kicked up close to 100 pheasants and I had 30-40 boil out of one thicket. At another spot we pushed close to 200 birds across a pretty heavily traveled country road (has a state HWY designation). there were 4 cars lined up as they allowed the birds to run across the field in single file for what seemed like 2-3 minutes. It was amazing.

Problem is there is just not enough cover. Where ever we find cover we always find birds but those spots are becoming less and less.

I've thought about doing my own CRP program and paying a farmer or two to put in grass then post the living hell out of it try to keep people out. Some farmers do it themselves maybe others need a little help.
 
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