Pheasant season opened yesterday, with a one-rooster daily limit in place until tomorrow, when we enter the two-bird “bonus round” for the remainder of the season.

Weather conditions are the diametric opposite from second opener of the duck season last weekend—the best duck hunting weather in recent memory. Snowy, blowy and generally brutal is angel music for those who love chasing webfeet.

With so much water covering southern Wisconsin, scouting was a common factor in duck hunter success. Whitecaps on sheet water with mallards pitchin’ in is heaven on earth.

Ideal weather for pheasant hunting is frost just beginning to melt off the pumpkin with a light breeze under a sunny sky with most crops already out of the fields.

This year, “they’re hiding in the fields” is a corny—but accurate—excuse. Being the first one in the horde to harvest a rooster ranch ringneck from Poynette on the Public Hunting Grounds is hardly a feat worth crowing about.

The “golden triangle” of Rock, Green and Dane counties offers the best pheasant hunting in the state because a plethora of ideal habitat on the PHGs is the release site for about 75,000 ringnecks this fall.

DNR wildlife manager Jason Cotter said about 6,000 roosters were stocked over more than 14,500 acres of public hunting areas prior to yesterday’s opener.

By early this afternoon, the wiliest of the first game-farm bird release will be hunkered down a half-mile from the nearest road in the middle of a grassy sea between Evansville and Footville. A savvy hunting dog is key to stumbling out of the field with a rooster in the gamebag.

Carrying ballast in the form of a gallon of water and collapsible dish in that gamebag when exiting the vehicle for that long walk is especially important with Native American summer weather ruling the skies overhead.

The perfect gamebag is one of those desert mesh jobs with plenty of blaze orange with elastic loops to hold just four shotgun shells. This is pheasant hunting in Wisconsin for just one bird, not a combat mission.

If the dog does its job, you should return home with at least two shells. Take your time on this late-summer stroll. You can’t outrun the dog or a pheasant. Stop every 20 yards or so once you’re busting through cover. Birds often think flight is the best survival option when footsteps stop.

Lakes might be a better choice

Fishing might be a smarter option this afternoon than a sweaty romp through the swamp. Water temperatures across southern Wisconsin have dropped like a stone since last weekend. Many lakes are close to fall turnover.

When a lake’s surface temperature hovers around 55 degrees in the spring and again in the fall, the cooler water becomes more dense and sinks in the water column to mix with the thermocline and bottom layers in the water column. The result is a dirty, scummy mess for a few days.

Some lakes, like shallow Koshkonong, don’t go through fall turnover. A few days ago, the water temperatures were actually tickling the upper 40s—prime for walleye fishing on perhaps the best lake within a hundred miles of Janesville.

Those with the luxury of retirement, independent wealth or pragmatic priorities might be wise to spend this afternoon doing yard work, putting on storm windows or similar tasks if there is need to appease a life partner.

Complete these “honeydew” projects with the vociferous feigning of angst over a missed opportunity for both you and the faithful Rover on OPENING DAY.

Given prevailing weather and upland habitat conditions, it might be smarter to wait until tomorrow when the “bonus round” kicks in. Better yet, Tuesday afternoon or maybe Wednesday when the pheasant truck from Poynette makes another chicken run—or hunt in the morning and fish in the afternoon.

Life doesn’t get any better than Wisconsin in October.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at tedpeck@acegroup.cc

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