How good will your pheasant hunting be this year?
Over the long term, good pheasant hunting depends on good grassland habitat.
But year to year, pheasant numbers rise or fall on the vagaries of weather. Long periods of cold and snow hurt pheasant survival, especially if habitat is marginal. Wet, cold springs hamper nesting success.
And so it was this year. Some states and regions were blessed with both mild winters and springs. Others were pummeled with snow and rain.
Pheasant-country biologists will better understand how good hunting will be once they complete roadside survey later this summer. But in the meantime, here are their best guesses, based on nesting conditions and anecdotal reports.
A multi-year drought had shriveled nesting and brood habitat and driven pheasant numbers to record lows in recent years. But a favorable spring is helping Kansas birds to recover.
“For the first time in 45 years, we actually had some rain in April so nesting conditions were pretty good coming in,” says Jeff Prendergast, small game specialist. The rain was enough but not too much, greening up habitat and spurring a good insect crop for chicks.
Some localized storms in late May and June may have hurt nesting in specific areas. Setbacks to birds seem to have been spotty. “Some farmers are saying they’re seeing a lot of birds, a lot of broods, and in some areas they’re saying they’re not seeing any broods at all,” says Prendergast.
“My general impression is that we’re going to go up everywhere,” he says. The state’s roadside survey, which begins in late July, will tell for sure.
Though it won’t affect hunting this year, a new $1.6 million Regional Conservation Partners initiative in Norton, Mitchell and Osborne counties will begin improving nesting and brood habitat starting next year.
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Source: Pheasant Forever