January 01, 2017The poster reads...
Have you seen this bird?
Ken Dalton with his brother Terry at one of their Michigan pheasant hunting hotspots several years ago. photo by Author Photo.
Last seen: Rural areas in midwestern states.
Description: Iridescent green head, white ring around neck, copper and gold feathers, red wattle, long tail and cackles when flying.
If found please call: Ken Dalton, 810-358-9372.
There are many who miss the good ol' days of Michigan's pheasant hunting. Most of us understand pheasant hunting in Michigan will never be what it once was.
Ken Dalton, a soft spoken man carries an undeniable passion for pheasant hunting. He's tireless in asking pointed questions. A man who, I suspect is being a pain in the side of some DNR officials. A man who is not ready to give up.
I think I can safely say, "Ken Dalton is as persistent as a badger."
Some close friends have joked with him, asking if he's running for "Pheasa-dent of the United States."
Ken, I can assure you, is clearly not joking! He has studied what other states have done, he has talked with newspaper reporters, radio and TV hosts. He has talked with hunting preserve hunters, preserve owners, clubs, DNR officials, Senators, State Representatives and anyone who will listen or answers his questions. He has piles of news clippings and reports on the subject of pheasants and pheasant hunting.
Sparking an interest...
Ken is working hard to somehow spark an interest once again in pheasant hunting. Like the interest Verley Davis sparked in him as a boy.
"I saw my neighbor acting strange...he had a bird wing hooked to a fishing pole. And his young dog was chasing it all over the back yard. I thought that was odd?" he told me chuckling.
"Verley, what you doin'?" I asked him.
"He told me he was training his pheasant dog. I had never seen anything like it, after all, I was raised on concrete in downtown Pontiac," he explained.
As the story unfolded, Verley took the 15 year-old Ken under his wing and introduced him to pheasant hunting. The two often hunted pheasants north of Pontiac in Auburn Heights on Truman Bollin's farm. Soon Ken's brothers, Terry and Jeff became interested in the sport.
"I owe Verley and Truman a great deal for taking the time to share pheasant hunting with me. What I learned from them I taught to my brothers and we have shared so many wonderful times together hunting, we are grateful," Ken tells me.
"Do you know we have nearly three decades of people who have not hunted wild pheasants in Michigan?" he asked me.
"Have you thought about the conservation, retail and tourism dollars we have lost because there are no pheasants?" he went on ask me, his brow and arms raised.
The moment Ken walked into my office you could feel his passion, you could see it and you could hear it in his voice. He understands why pheasant hunting is so poor. He understands the effect of large farms, the use of pesticides, lack of grass lands, loss of habitat and increase in predators.
Ken wants everyone to know and understand he's not against the DNR, he has no answers they don't already have. He is a supporter of Pheasants Forever, The Pheasant Restoration Incentive and any and all other programs which promote pheasant hunting.
"But we've been doing the same thing for 25 years now. Are we going to just keep doing the same thing?" he wonders.
"I know this will make some people upset, but what we've been doing is taking our money and building bike trails! We don't need any more bike trails," Ken says sternly.
Ken believes in recruitment and retention.
"What we need is to get Michigan hunters back in the fields, using our public lands for recreational hunting opportunities," he explains to me.
Raise and Release...
Ken believes in raise and release programs similar to those in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Illinois and Nebraska. Several thousand pen raised birds are released on public lands for recreational hunting. It is considered a great tool for hunter recruitment for both young and old alike to bring family and friends together. Ken would like to see that happen here in Michigan.
Wisconsin is building a $1.5 million hatchery releasing 200,000 pheasants for hunters.
They hatch and rear the chicks in prison facilities to keep the costs down. In Wisconsin it is funded through the state with a $10 pheasant stamp.
Pennsylvania has four game farms releasing nearly 250,000 pheasants, which generates about $35 million in revenue for the economy. The program is funded by the revenue captured from hunting license sales.
South Dakota has about $170 million in hunting revenue from pheasants, with the majority of those revenues coming from non-residents. Wild birds and well over 200,000 pen raised birds on state approved lands are released throughout the season.
"Is that philosophy not worth looking into here in Michigan?" Ken asks.
"We don't have to re-invent the wheel."
Why not pheasants and fish?
"Before everyone gets all excited about a pheasant release program here in Michigan let's think about it, we do offer it for fishing," Ken says, as he smiles slightly.
Fish stocking creates numerous fishing opportunities throughout Michigan. The DNR fish stocking trucks release a prized recreational cargo into hundreds of lakes and streams throughout the state each year. According to the DNR news releases, fish stocking is a valuable tool used by fisheries managers to restore, enhance and create new fishing opportunities. Fisheries Division has six fish rearing facilities in Michigan.
Over the course of a typical year the DNR will stock roughly 20 million fish. Michigan anglers have access to four Great Lakes, 3,000 miles of shoreline, more than 11,000 inland lakes and tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams. That puts residents and visitors no more than 10 minutes away from great angling opportunities and world-class fisheries.
"If funding is an issue to build a pheasant raise and release program then let's look at a gas tax, Pittman-Roberts money, royalties from timber sales or a new license," Ken questions.
"Can we afford it?" I asked Ken.
He looked me sternly in the eye and said, "We can't afford not to!"
Town Hall meeting...
Wisconsin, Pennsylvania South Dakota and some other states are offering successful raise and release pheasant hunts. Why can't Michigan?
"Currently we have fewer and fewer pheasant hunters, only because we have fewer pheasant hunting opportunities," Ken explains.
If you would like to get involved in offering a solution and or discussing this issue a Town Hall meeting has been set up for January 8th, 2017 at Castle Creek Golf Club, 5191 Lum Rd. Lum MI 48412. The meeting is to discuss ideas on how to recruit pheasant hunters, putting them back in the fields. Doors open at 4 p.m. at Castle Creek Golf Club on January 8th.
Ken Dalton can be reached at 810-358-9372.