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Michigan Bird Hunting Season

Michigan has a lot to offer hunters. The state recently simplified its small game licensing, so you can hunt everything from whitetail deer to turkey and ruffed grouse with just a base license.

Mourning doves are abundant in Michigan, especially south of a line running from Bay City to Ludington. The birds thrive in a wide range of habitats.

Ring-necked pheasant

The ring-necked pheasant is one of the most popular upland game birds in the United States. It is known for its dramatic coloration and spectacular running ability. It is also a tasty table bird.

The breeding season for the ring-necked pheasant lasts three months and begins in April. The peak nest initiation occurs in June. Incubation lasts from 23-25 days. The pheasant’s diet includes grasshoppers, corn, berries, seeds and insects. Its chicks feed on grasshoppers for their first six weeks of life.

Male ring-necked pheasants have bright red heads and an iridescent copper color on their back and sides. They have a white neck ring and long tails with black bars. Females are mottled brown with a long, pointed tail. Both sexes are vocal, with roosters crowing loudly in spring and summer at dawn and dusk. They can also make a high-pitched sound as they run. The ring-necked pheasant’s wings are not very strong, so it primarily walks on the ground and may run short distances.

Bobwhite quail

A bird hunter’s favorite, northern bobwhites are pursued with a passion in vast parts of the country. Their distinctive whistled call is heard afield in spring as they move through grassy pastures and brushy farmland. They typically live in groups, called coveys, of a half dozen to 20 birds or more. They feed on the ground, hiding beneath low cover and moving into vines or shrubs when threatened by predators.

Bobwhites prefer grasslands and early successional habitats with a mix of brush, young trees and cropland for nesting, brooding and escape cover. They can also be found in reverting fields, abandoned grain crops and hayfields with light hunting pressure. They need three types of interconnected habitat – quality nesting and brooding cover, a food source and an escape route from predators. Managing these factors doesn’t have to be complicated, as even simple steps such as mowing in March instead of October or leaving the edges of a crop field fallow can benefit quail habitat.

Ruffed grouse

The male ruffed grouse uses a non-vocal courtship display called drumming to attract females and advertise its territory. He perches on a platform, such as a log or mound, puffs up his feathers and fans his tail, then beats its wings rapidly. This creates a sound that can be heard up to a quarter of a mile away.

The sound mimics the beating of a drum and carries through forest openings. The bird’s behavior also warns predators to stay away.

After mating, the hen builds a bowl-shaped nest in dense forest on the ground or at the base of trees, stumps or brush piles. The clutch usually contains 10 – 14 eggs that hatch in 23 days. Hens do most of the parenting and defend the chicks from predators.

Landowners can help improve ruffed grouse habitat by creating patchwork of different-aged forest. Additionally, by periodically cutting and mulching forest sites, they can encourage the development of young vegetation that provides good hunting cover.

Woodcock

The American woodcock (Scopax minor) is a familiar presence in the fields and thickets of the eastern United States, where it’s pursued by a dedicated subset of hunters each spring. Also known as timberdoodle, mud snipe, marsh plover and night partridge, the diminutive game bird is distinguished by its whistling sky dance and peent call, an understated plea made during the twilight hours of dawn or dusk.

Wildlife biologists use the woodcock’s migratory pattern to monitor population trends. Each spring, they drive specific routes through the birds’ core breeding range and listen for males singing their distinctive song, which resembles a nasal “huh?” or a “pheet.”

Statewide, upland bird populations are influenced by weather conditions as well as habitat quality, especially during times of drought. During those times, the DNR and land managers in Michigan’s upland habitat initiatives work to create early successional forests through timber harvesting and planting native shrubs and trees and to manage wetlands for bird-supporting vegetation. The DNR uses Pittman-Robertson funds to support these programs on both public and private lands.

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