Posts Tagged ‘Colorado pheasant hunting’

Rooster Road Trip Recap: Blown Away in Colorado

Monday, November 10th, 2014

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The Colorado of my imagination is painted by herds of elk roaming the Rocky Mountains. In reality, Colorado is a state of dramatic topographical diversity with an agricultural terrain not unlike neighboring Kansas or Nebraska dominating the eastern third.

The state’s primary pheasant range exists in a geographic triangle between the towns of Sterling, Holyoke and Yuma. This land is checkered with corn, wheat and grassy CRP blocks. In fact, Colorado has 1.98 million acres currently enrolled in CRP which is the third highest mark in the country behind only Texas and Kansas

Bob Hix, Pheasants Forever’s regional representative for Colorado, favors hunting walk-in areas of harvested wheat fields in which shin-high stubble has been left as residual cover. Upon our arrival in the state over the weekend, we spent some time hunting these areas, but found only limited success with Pheasants Forever’s Logan Hinners dropping the group’s first Colorado ringneck.

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For the first day of the Team Pointer leg of the Rooster Road Trip, we were joined by a group of representatives from Colorado Parks & Wildlife which included Director Bob Broscheid and Terrestrial Section Manager Craig McLaughlin and his talented trio of German shorthairs. As we pulled into the parking area this morning, a cloudless sun-soaked sky shined 50 degree temps onto our 10 person hunting group. Whenever I hunt in groups this large, I’m always concerned about safety. To this gathering’s credit, every hunter was diligent about safety to the point of being overly polite when the first rooster cackled to the sky at 20 yards in front of the center of our line. It was that Colorado pheasant’s lucky day with every gun’s muzzle safely pointed straight up and every safety firmly engaged in each hunter’s hand. The second rooster must have figured his chances as good as the first and he was right.  Even the third rooster flushed without a shot fired. Finally Ed Gorman, a Pheasants Forever chapter member and Parks & Wildlife employee, swung on a fourth rooster that was not to be so lucky as the first three pardoned birds.

By the time we returned to the parking area, temperatures had plummeted 25 degrees and winds had grown to a steady 30 miles per hour with gusts somewhere just shy of almost knocking us over. Winter was coming to Colorado and we were squarely in its path.

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After a few fruitless efforts to push walk-in areas along the state’s eastern border with Kansas, the wind pushed us back to our trucks in retreat. The downside of our Rooster Road Trip is the need to keep moving to the next destination. Colorado is a state with tremendous sunsets, topographical beauty and wonderfully nice people. It’s a pheasant destination worth spending more than 24 hours trying to figure out.  Count me and my pointers in for a return Colorado connection.

Total Productive Points Today: 13

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Follow along to the 2014 Rooster Road Trip at www.RoosterRoadTrip.org and be sure to mention #RRT14 in all your Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

Rooster Road Trip Preview – Team Pointer in Colorado

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

Monday, November 10th

We’ll be hunting in Colorado’s famed pheasant golden triangle located between Holyoke, Sterling and Yuma.

Shooting Hours: 30 minutes before sunrise till sunset

Daily Pheasant Limits: 3 rooster pheasants per day / 9 in possession.

Mixed Bag Potential: we’ll be hunting where we may run into some bobwhite quail.  Daily bag is 8 quail with 24 in possession.

Nonresident Licensing

Colorado Parks & Wildlife offers an easy online license purchasing experience and it is one of the most affordable pheasant destinations for the traveling wingshooter.  A daily small game one day non-resident license costs $10 with an additional $10 habitat stamp.  A second day can be added for a mere $5 more.  One special note unique to Colorado is that they do require you to have your Hunters Safety Certificate on you unless that card has been verified at a CPW office.  Once verified, hunters are in the system and are no longer required to carry their certificate in the field.

Future Chukars

One other note of interest: Colorado has chukar hunting opportunities on the west slope and has recently started an introduction program up the Poudre Canyon on the front range (this area is currently closed for hunting).  Although we won’t have chukar opportunities on this hunting trip, it will soon provide a unique hunt for the traveling upland hunter in the future.

Colorado’s most productive pheasant country is the triangular area between Holyoke, Sterling and Yuma.

Colorado’s most productive pheasant country is the triangular area between Holyoke, Sterling and Yuma.

Pheasants Forever’s Impact in Colorado

Pheasants Forever Chapters: 16

Pheasants Forever Members: 3,372

Pheasants Forever Expenditures in Colorado: $11.6 Million

Habitat projects completed by Pheasants Forever in Colorado: 8,412 projects

Total habitat acres improved by Pheasants Forever chapters in Colorado: 104,929 acres

Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologists in Colorado have also improved 531,859 acres

Grand Total: 636,788 acres improved by Pheasants Forever in Colorado!

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Follow along to the 2014 Rooster Road Trip at www.RoosterRoadTrip.org and be sure to mention #RRT14 in all your Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

Rooster Report: Colorado 2014-15 Eastern Plains Upland Preview

Friday, November 7th, 2014

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Across much of Colorado’s core pheasant range, the effects of drought were clear and significant in terms of the total population of pheasants. Two successive years of drought have finally given way to above normal precipitation, and pheasant populations across the eastern plains of Colorado are slowly improving.

It is a safe assessment that as weather conditions became nearly optimal in many locations on the eastern plains, pheasant populations are doing better than in 2012 and 2013. Hunters should not expect to see a complete recovery over a single year, as the level of the breeding population impacts recovery in addition to weather and habitat.

Northeast Colorado (Yuma, Phillips, Sedgwick, Logan, Washington, Morgan and SE Weld Counties):
Populations across the region are better than in 2013. During the initial stages of the nesting season, conditions ranged from poor to excellent across the region, suggesting that hunters would be wise to expect that the highest populations will be highly variable and spot specific this year. Beneficial precipitation continued throughout the summer in many areas, providing ample opportunities for unsuccessful hens to re-nest. There are some areas within this area that did not receive ample precipitation in 2014, or were subject to severe and widespread hail storms during the summer period, both of which contribute to the “spotty” nature of the forecast for 2014.

Habitat is in much better shape due to optimum, in some cases record, levels of precipitation that large portions of the area received in 2014. However, it is also apparent that precipitation did not fall equally across this region, leaving some areas relatively dry through the summer period. Also, it is important to note that total CRP acres are declining across the core pheasant range, a trend which will likely continue as many CRP contracts will expire over the next 2 years.

While drought concerns have moderated, fire danger is always a concern. Please be considerate where vehicles are parked. Refrain from smoking while in the field. Similarly, road conditions can deteriorate quickly when precipitation falls making unimproved roads virtually impassable. Also note that WIA sprinkler corners are closed to WIA hunting when the landowner is harvesting the associated crop. This closure is in effect to allow harvesters to work efficiently and to minimize safety concerns for hunters and harvesters. Corners are posted with closure signs in addition to WIA boundary signs. As of November 3, 2014, corn harvest ranges from 30-60 percent complete depending on the area, so hunters should expect to find some standing corn present on the opener.

South Platte River (eastern Morgan, Washington, Logan, Sedgwick):
Bobwhite quail populations remain a question mark for 2014 due to the impacts of higher water during the spring runoff period. Cover will be greatly improved from what hunters observed in 2013, but that will also impact hunting success because in some areas, cover may be too tall and dense to effectively hunt. Landowner reports have been highly variable in 2014, while CPW staff has reported some bobwhite broods and coveys on State Wildlife Areas. Hunter reports from the upcoming opening weekend will provide another clue as to bobwhite numbers in the South Platte corridor in 2014.

East-Central Colorado (Southern Yuma, Kit Carson, Cheyenne, Kiowa Counties):
Pheasant populations should be higher than in 2012 and 2013. Expect similar conditions in the NE portion of Colorado with very site-specific conditions in terms of habitat and pheasant population recovery. While precipitation levels were much improved over the recent past, some areas experienced severe hail storms and populations will be lower in these areas, although the habitat may look very good.

Expect to find drier conditions in Cheyenne County, where conditions have improved but not to the degree that Kit Carson County has. Pheasant densities will increase within the areas that provide sprinkler irrigation fields.

Hunters should note that many areas in WIA in Kiowa County are enrolled primarily for their value for light goose hunting, including some fields that will offer little cover for pheasants and quail.

Extreme Southeast Colorado (Baca & Prowers Counties):
Populations of pheasants were severely impacted by drought from 2010 through the spring of 2013. Conditions have improved this summer to nearly normal precipitation in some areas, but recovery of the habitat and population will require additional years of good conditions. Even so, CPW observed a fair number of quail broods this fall. Expect that pheasant populations will be low across the area, although a bit higher in areas with sprinkler irrigation systems.

Some late hatches of quail have been observed, although both bobwhites and scaled quail breeding populations were reduced by the severe 2010-2013 drought. The general feeling is that quail populations are improving but not yet recovered from the recent drought, with some areas that will be better in terms of habitat and population.

-Info and photo provided by Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Pheasant Nesting Habitat Conditions

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Re-nesting efforts, which may be common this year because of cool, wet early nesting conditions, typically result in smaller clutches. Photo by Roger Hill

Re-nesting efforts, which may be common this year because of cool, wet early nesting conditions, typically result in smaller clutches. Photo by Roger Hill

Colorado

Lasting effects from the drought have carried into this pheasant nesting season as Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) nesting cover was reduced by last summer’s haying and grazing emergency.  And winter wheat, the state’s most important cover for nesting pheasants, was slow to develop this spring due to the cool spring temperatures.

Though breeding populations remain higher than the long-term average in the state, the spring crowing count dropped 31 percent from 2012, according to Ed Gorman, Small Game Manager with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Gorman notes the nesting period appeared to be later than normal this spring, so only time will tell if pheasants will produce prolifically given slightly improved conditions as compared to 2012. Colorado’s proposed 2013-2014 pheasant hunting season is Saturday, November 9 through Friday, January 31, 2014.

Iowa

Iowa pheasants are struggling to recover from a modern low population point, but on top of continued grassland habitat loss, the weather isn’t doing them any favors.

“This year, unfortunately, we are predicting a decline in bird numbers,” says Todd Bogenschutz, an Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Upland Wildlife Biologist. “Our pheasant population typically shows increases following mild winters and dry, warm springs.  This past winter, while starting mild, ended with a vengeance.”

Many bird hunting enthusiasts were hoping a warm, dry spring would offset the snowy winter. Unfortunately this year’s nesting season (April/May) has been record-setting for cold temperatures and rainfall.  Statewide, nesting season rainfall was 15.4 inches, and temperatures were 4.1 degrees cooler than normal. Iowa’s pheasant population has never seen a spring this wet since they were established in the state back in the 1920s.

Based on this weather data, Bogenschutz predicts Iowa’s statewide pheasant population will be lower than in 2012.  However, Bogenschutz says the DNR’s August roadside survey is the best gauge of what populations are, and that report is available in mid-September.

Progress is being made on habitat for pheasants, says Bogenschutz.  Iowa was awarded a new continuous Conservation Reserve Program practice targeted specifically for pheasants.  The practice is called Iowa Pheasant Recovery (CP38) and 50,000 acres are available for enrollment statewide.

Kansas

While other parts of pheasant country are recovering from the drought of 2012, Kansas isn’t one of them. In fact, as of mid-summer, all of western Kanas remained in an extreme-to-exceptional drought.

The drought is taking its toll on the pheasant population, as indicated by hunter harvest numbers. Last year, pheasant hunters bagged about 230,000 birds in the state, the lowest harvest in nearly six decades. And this year’s spring breeding population is extremely low. Spring crow counts were down 37 percent region-wide, according to Jim Pitman, Small Game Coordinator with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

“This is horrific compared to where we were just a few years ago,” says Pitman. “When you’re as low as we are this year, it means you’re pretty much going to have very low populations, even with good production. We just don’t have many birds out there.” Spring crow counts were down 40 percent in northwest Kansas, which still has the best bird numbers in the state. And losing nearly 185,000 CRP acres statewide in the last year was the last thing Kansas pheasants needed.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks’ annual brood count will be out in September and will provide a better idea of what the fall pheasant population will look like. The state’s 2013-2014 pheasant hunting season runs Saturday, November 9 through Friday, January 31, 2014.

Minnesota

Late-season snowstorms, a delayed green-up, and wet conditions during spring and summer definitely impacted the pheasant nesting season in Minnesota. “Many hens likely delayed nest initiation due to weather and habitat conditions or had to re-nest due to failed first attempts,” says Nicole Davros, Upland Game Project Leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, “The peak hatch normally occurs during June, but recent heavy rains may have decreased survival rates of chicks that did hatch during this timeframe.”

Quality pheasant habitat in Minnesota is at a premium right now, as the state has lost 164,000 CRP acres in the last year. “Conversion of native prairies and field tiling is occurring at a rapid pace across much of Minnesota’s farmland region, especially across the northern and western parts of Minnesota’s pheasant range,” Davros says. And many roadsides have already been mowed this nesting season for hay, further reducing nesting success.

On a bright note, Minnesota has expanded its Walk-in Access (WIA) program to 35 counties in 2013. “The WIA program targets parcels greater than 40 acres in size that are already enrolled in conservation programs such as CRP or Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM), although other high-quality habitats are also considered,” Davros said, adding that in 2013, a $3 WIA validation will be required when using WIAs. The validation will aid in determining WIA participation levels, which will help guide future funding and expansion efforts of the program. Results from Minnesota’s August Roadside Survey are typically available by Labor Day weekend. Minnesota’s 2013-2014 pheasant hunting season runs Saturday, October 12, 2013 through Wednesday, January 1, 2014.

Montana

In northeast Montana, spring crow counts were 15 percent above the 10-year average, these numbers certainly boosted by moderate winter conditions that resulted in low overwinter mortality. Spring nesting cover was dramatically improved by prolonged rains in late May and early June, so while early nesting was considered fair to good, conditions for re-nesting and late nests have been fantastic. In southeast Montana, spring crow counts are down 40 percent from last year’s all-time high counts. Carryover from last year’s drought resulted in hardly any residual cover for nesting birds, but early summer moisture events dramatically improved habitat conditions. Poor early nesting conditions combined with exceptional late nesting conditions create an average overall nesting outlook for southeast Montana. Montana’s 2013-2014 pheasant hunting season runs Saturday, October 12 through Wednesday, January 1, 2014.

Nebraska

Coming off an overall mild winter and a spring that helped to replenish some nesting cover following last year’s drought, Jeff Lusk, Jeff Lusk, Upland Game Program Manager, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, remains optimistic that nesting production will be much improved this year.

That is, of course, where quality habitat remains, as more than 108,000 CRP acres in Nebraska were not re-enrolled in the program in the last year. And Lusk reports there were some regional severe winter weather events that could have adversely affected populations, particularly in areas hit hardest by the drought last summer.

Last year, 35,000 pheasant hunters in Nebraska harvested 120,785 roosters. Nebraska conducts a Rural Mail Carrier Survey in July to give hunters the best idea of what they can expect come open season. Results from that survey are available in August. Nebraska’s 2013-2014 pheasant hunting season runs Saturday, October 26 2013 through Friday, January, 31 2014.

North Dakota

Though North Dakota’s s spring crow count was down 11 percent statewide and 12 percent within its core pheasant range, Stan Kohn, Upland Game Management Supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, says late spring/early summer habitat conditions were excellent, leading him to predict a fair nesting outlook in the northern half of the state and a fair-to-good nesting outlook in the southern half.

Kohn says cool and wet weather in April and May likely caused some nest failures, but that June has been warm and dry so re-nesting efforts should have a chance. And though the early spring rains wreaked havoc on early nests, the moisture improved habitat conditions immensely.

Keeping upland habitat on the landscape in North Dakota remains the greatest challenge, evidenced by the nearly 630,000 CRP acres that weren’t re-enrolled in the program last year. Small but notable habitat success stories are the continuous CRP practices in North Dakota, the State Acres For wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program and the Duck Nesting Habitat practice, as Kohn says interest in them from producers has been strong.

North Dakota’s walk-in hunting access program will drop by about 50,000 acres this autumn. Results from the state’s August Roadside Survey will be available in mid-September, and the pheasant hunting season opens on Saturday, October 12, 2013 (full season dates not yet determined).

South Dakota

The most telling statistic to come out of South Dakota this year isn’t weather related. “For the first time in two decades, less than 1 million acres of CRP grasslands will be available to nesting pheasants,” says Travis Runia, “The premier nesting cover has helped sustain high pheasant numbers since CRP was established in 1985.”

South Dakota has become ground-zero for accelerated upland habitat loss and Runia points out the conversion of non-CRP grassland (including native grassland) to cropland has exceeded even the CRP conversion rate, further reducing available nesting cover.

On top of this habitat double whammy, South Dakota experienced a very cold and wet spring – including April snowstorms – which is not favorable for pheasant production. “Birds that had initiated nests in late April probably abandoned their nest, and re-nested when spring-like weather finally arrived in May,” Runia said, “The delay in nesting chronology can limit the time pheasants have to re-nest if their first nests are unsuccessful.” Wet conditions and widespread severe thunderstorms extended into June, the period of peak pheasant hatch.

Runia says the rains, though untimely for nesting birds, were needed. “Nesting conditions would have been terrible in 2013 without some moisture to spur growth of cool-season grasses.” And though conditions have not been ideal, reports of pheasant broods at the end of June were coming in. “Pheasants are extremely resilient and are capable of modest reproductive success under poor conditions,” Runia says.

South Dakota’s popular Walk in Area program will again have 231,000 acres within the state’s primary pheasant belt, and the eastern James River CREP walk-in program will add at least 9,000 new acres to hunter accessibility this year. Results from the South Dakota’s annual brood survey are available around Labor Day, and the state’s 2013-2014 pheasant hunting season runs Saturday, October 19, 2013 through Sunday, January 5, 2014.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Early Season Pheasant Hunting Report: Colorado

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Colorado pheasants have been caught in the severe drought that’s gripped most plains states, so the pheasant population isn’t what it’s been in recent modern-record years (see Colorado pheasant hunting forecast). Still, hunters there – now entering the second week of the season – may find birds in areas of high quality upland habitat. Here are Colorado field reports from a pair of Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologists:

Jerry Miller, a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist in Colorado, with a limit of roosters. 

Northeast Colorado has been suffering through a severe drought. The pheasant broods were exposed to many 100-plus degree days just as they were coming off the nests. The areas that had good residual cover from 2011 were able to produce good numbers of birds, while those with short cover probably lost broods to the heat. Again, it is proven that given good habitat, good numbers of birds can be produced, even under drought conditions.

I hunted with family on family irrigated property over opening weekend north of Sterling and encountered great numbers of birds. Saturday evening on one sprinkler corner, we flushed over 30 hens and several roosters. The cover was mixed patches of 3-4’ kochia, wild sunflowers and switch grass.

-          Jerry Miller, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist – Sterling, Colorado

I hunted in the season opening morning in Kit Carson County. With the drought conditions this past spring and summer, vegetation height was much shorter than previous years, and it took a bit more work to find taller grass or forb cover that the birds were in. The morning brought sustained winds of 20-30 mph with gusts of 40 mph, which made finding roosters and making good shoots tough.  Hunting strategy had to be shifted to tall grasses and thicker cover (shrub thickets, tail-water pits, and old homesteads).  Birds were scattered and there was a definite reduction from previous years’ numbers, but our group still managed a good hunt and harvested 13 roosters by lunch. Something I did notice was we flushed 3 hens to every 1 rooster, a good sign for future pheasant populations.

-          Shannon Bowling, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Burlington, Colorado

 

Have you been pheasant hunting in Colorado this year? If so, post your own report in the comments section below. 

 

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

 

Field Report: Pheasant Nesting Habitat Conditions

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Weather conditions for nesting pheasants have been mild across much of the ringneck range, but habitat loss remains the primary concern. Pheasants Forever File Photo

While the date may vary slightly from the northern reaches of the pheasant range to its southern fringe, the average pheasant nest incubation start date is May 24th. The peak of the pheasant hatch follows 23 days later on approximately June 15th. The following describes recent pheasant nesting conditions, and was compiled through field reports from state natural resource agency wildlife biologists.

Colorado - Coming into spring, the overall pheasant population in Colorado was strong, and the state’s spring crow count survey should be comparable to last year’s phenomenal showing, says Ed Gorman, Small Game Manager with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The downside is there was no winter moisture, so while there is good nesting cover, buoyed by green wheat, brood survival could be an issue due to a lack of forbs and broadleaves to generate brood cover and insect production as brood food. Gorman said the silver lining to the significant amount of CRP that’s expired from the program in Colorado is that most is being replaced as winter wheat, which serves as suitable pheasant nesting habitat for Colorado birds in the spring.

Illinois - The mild winter should have led to better pheasant survival, and though much of the pheasant range was abnormally dry in early spring, May rain events brought much of that range back to normal, reports Michael Wefer, Ag and Grassland Wildlife Program Manager with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Wefer added that a warm spring with low-to-normal rainfall bodes well for pheasant nest success where habitat remains. One habitat bright spot is the acreage enrolled in Illinois’ CRP State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, which accounts for 6,300-plus acres in the pheasant range that are now two years old and close to being fully established as productive upland habitat.

Indiana - A good breeding summer last year and the extremely mild winter of 2011-2012 led to a big increase in Indiana’s spring pheasant crowing count, reports Budd Veverka, Farmland Game Research Biologist with the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife. “Road routes in our primary pheasant range of Benton County exhibited a 127 percent increase over 2011 numbers, and were 88 percent higher than the 10-year average, with more modest increases observed across the rest of the range,” Veverka said. With enough rain to keep things green, Veverka feels good about the prospects of this nesting season. Indiana is also putting more funding toward habitat management at its game bird habitat areas.

Iowa - Barring increased wet and or cold temps through mid-June, Iowa may finally see an increase in bird numbers after five lousy years, reports Todd Bogenschutz, Upland Wildlife Research Biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. In examining recent trends, Bogenshutz says this year is shaping up much like 2003, when Iowa saw a 42 percent increase in its overall pheasant count. The northwest and north-central regions of Iowa had the highest average counts last year and thus are the region’s most likely to have the best rebounding numbers this fall.

Kansas - The state is looking at a decline in its breeding population of pheasants due to the carryover effect of last summer’s extreme drought in western Kansas. “This decline was extreme in southwest and south-central Kansas, and our spring crow counts are showing declines in those areas,” reports Dave Dahlgren, Small Game Specialist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Spring has brought precipitation to western Kanas, and conditions for nesting hens have been “near perfect” according to Dahlgren. Now attention turns to winter wheat conditions in western Kansas, as the crop serves as nesting habitat for pheasants. “The only concern now is the prospect of an early harvest, which could reduce nest survival at a large landscape scale. Currently the agricultural community is anticipating the wheat harvest to be at least 2 weeks earlier than normal,” Dahlgren said, adding the state could use a little more precipitation to continue the good nesting conditions and create good brooding conditions.

Michigan - The winter was abnormally mild this year and spring came early and has stayed relatively dry so far, reports Ben Wickerham, Pheasants Forever’s Michigan Regional Representative. Anecdotal reports of brood sightings in areas absent of them in recent years are a good sign.

Minnesota – The winter of 2011-12 was one of the mildest on record for Minnesota. “Pheasants were able to use grassland habitat and waste grain in harvested cropland throughout the entire winter, which is very uncommon for Minnesota.  Hen survival should have been excellent during the past winter,” reports Kurt Haroldson, Assistant Regional Wildlife Manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Spring weather has been warm and dry, though a recent period of heavy rains and flooding is a concern in some locations. “If favorable weather persists, good progress should be made toward recovery from the previous devastating year (64 percent decline in pheasant counts).” Haroldson notes the significant area of concern is that nearly 300,000 acres of CRP lands will expire from the program this September.

Montana - It’s been a great spring, weather-wise, so far for Montana pheasants, reports Rick Northrup, Habitat Section Supervisor with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, though he notes more reports of former CRP lands in eastern Montana being converted for agricultural use.

Nebraska - According to the state’s April Rural Mail Carrier Survey, the statewide pheasant index was slightly higher in 2012, up 2 percent from 2011. Spring seems to be on an accelerated timetable this year in Nebraska, where there are already reports of pheasants hatching in the southern tier of the state, according to Jeff Lusk, Program Manager for Upland Game for the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission. Spring conditions have been warm and relatively dry leading into what will be the peak hatch period.

North Dakota – A very mild winter allowed North Dakota pheasants to enter spring in excellent shape, says Stan Kohn, Upland Game Management Supervisor with the North Dakota Game & Fish Department.  The spring season has continued the trend, with mild rains and good nesting vegetation. Kohn notes that though the spring breeding population is lower than recent years, it is still above average. “If present spring weather conditions remain, pheasant populations will bounce back some, with the southwest probably having the best population this fall,” Kohn says. The major habitat concern is the 840,000 acres of CRP slated to leave the program in North Dakota later this year, with the biggest losses expected in the eastern part of the state.

South Dakota - Over winter survival of pheasants was excellent in South Dakota, reports Travis Runia, Senior Upland Game Biologist with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. The mild winter weather trend continued into spring as above normal temperatures and normal precipitation prevailed over much of the pheasant belt.  “Adequate moisture existed to prompt good growth of cool season grasses used by nesting pheasants.  So far, weather has been favorable for nesting pheasants,” Runia said. Of more concern than the weather is the continued loss of upland nesting cover in “The Pheasant Capital.” “CRP grassland acreage has declined by 400,000 acres since 2007 and 225,000 of the existing 1.1 million acres are scheduled to expire this fall,” Runia said. In addition to the loss of CRP acres, the conversion of grazing lands to cropland has reduced available nesting cover by approximately another 3 million acres since 1985.

Oregon - Conditions in Oregon are shaping up more favorably than the past two years, says Dave Budeau, Upland Game Bird Coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “This year we had good moisture in March and the first part of April with current May conditions dry and above average temps.  If this pattern holds through the peak hatching period over the next few weeks we could be in good shape for upland game bird production,” Budeau says.

Utah – The adult breeding population of pheasants in Utah is holding steady, but the spring has been very hot which could translate into lower nesting success, this according to Jason Robinson, Upland Game Coordinator with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Wisconsin - One of the state’s mildest winters on record certainly helped pheasant survival – a much needed reprieve from the previous severe winters. Anecdotal reports from state biologists indicate an increase in the number of crowing roosters this spring, including at the state Department of Natural Resources’ Glacial Habitat Restoration Area in east-central Wisconsin, and nesting season weather has been favorable, says Doug Fendry, Pheasants Forever Regional Wildlife Biologist in Wisconsin.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

The 25 Best Pheasant Hunting Towns in America

Monday, April 30th, 2012

I always enjoy reading Outdoor Life’s annual list of America’s top hunting & fishing towns.  Following is my list of America’s top pheasant towns factoring in area bird counts, annual harvest, acres of accessible public hunting land, local Pheasants Forever chapter activities and available lodging for the traveling bird hunter.  It’s by no means scientific, but a fun exercise in day dreaming about next fall. Hopefully you’re lucky enough to live in one of these pheasant country towns, and if not, have the chance to visit often.

These dots on the map are great starting points for autumn pheasant hunting adventures, but this is a conversation starter. If you live in or know of a pheasant hunting town that has yet to be represented, please share it with us in the comments section below!

1. Chamberlain, S.D.  For jaw-dropping pheasant numbers, you won’t beat this Missouri River town in south central South Dakota. Part of the famed “Golden Triangle” region (the storied pheasant hunting area from Gregory, Winner to Chamberlain), the pheasant brood counts around Chamberlain have averaged 15.7 birds per mile during the last decade, more than double the statewide average.

2. Bismarck, N.D. Maybe calling Bismarck a “town” is a stretch, but it may be the only population center of 60,000 or more with world-class pheasant hunting just minutes outside of town.

3. McCook, Neb.  This southwest Nebraska town boasts a fair amount of lodging. Drive out of town in any direction, and you’ll find plenty of CRP-MAP (Conservation Reserve Program – Managed Access Program) areas. Through the program, the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, in partnership with PF, pays private landowners to improve their CRP acres for wildlife and open them up for public hunting. Don’t be surprised to bump a covey of quail either. Note: CRP-MAP lands are being restructured and transitioned into Nebraska’s Open Fields and Waters Program.

4. Oakley, Kans.  Conveniently located on Interstate 70, which bisects the Sunflower State, getting to Oakley is only the beginning: more than 350,000 acres of publicly accessibly hunting lands, and pheasants, quail and prairie chickens in northwest Kansas awaits.

5. Lewistown, Mont. This agriculture community is located in the geographic center of Montana, where pheasants can be found with buttes and mountain ranges as beautiful backdrops. Travel northwest to hunt the Pheasants Forever Coffee Creek BLOCK Management Area, one of the largest habitat projects in Pheasants Forever’s history.

Get out of town! Some of America’s top pheasant hunting towns provide great hunting literally just outside the city limits. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

6. Aberdeen, S.D.  Even in pheasant-filled South Dakota, the Aberdeen area in the northeast part of the state stands out as one of the most appealing destinations for public land and outfit-based pheasant hunters. The surrounding area has more than 200,000 acres of public hunting land available. Hunters in Aberdeen’s Brown County averaged 8.5 birds each during the course of the last hunting season.

7. Mott, N.D. Mott bills itself as a pheasant hunting destination, and with good reason. Contrary to rumor, there’s enough Private Land Open to Sportsmen (PLOTS) areas in the area to make a shoe-string budget hunt an option.

8. Sterling, Colo. Eastern Colorado has its own version of a “Golden Triangle” – the state’s best pheasant range from Sterling to Holyoke to Burlington. With proximity to the prime hunting grounds of southwest Nebraska and western Kansas, the traveling bird hunter that’s willing can plan a triple threat trip.

9. Okoboji, Iowa.  This tourist destination is a great place to base a freelance pheasant hunt. The 4-county block of Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, and Palo Alto Counties offer more than 40,000 acres of pheasant habitat open to public hunting.

10. Marshall, Minn. Marshall is the ideal jumping off point to hunt four rectangular shaped counties in southwest Minnesota – Lyon, Lincoln, Murray and Pipestone Counties – which offer up some of the best rooster action Minny has to offer. Minnesota’s vast Wildlife Management Area system provides excellent public hunting opportunities in each county.

11. Kimball, Neb. The southern portion of Nebraska’s Panhandle region boasts an abundance of CRP-MAP lands, highlighted by more than 21,000 acres enrolled in Kimball County.

12. Hart, Tex. Believe it or not, the 37-county Texas Panhandle offers some of the best pheasant hunting around. In many of the area’s towns, private landowners offer up blocks of acreage for hunting at relatively nominal fees, some good just for opening weekend, some all season long.

13. Medicine Lake, Mont. Set in the rolling plains of northeastern Montana, between the Missouri River and the Canadian border, you’ll find the Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The 31,700-acre area consists of two separate tracts, and hunting is allowed on designated areas and all Waterfowl Production Areas.

14. Lemmon, S.D.  If solitude is the name of your pheasant hunting game, you’ll find it in this modest northwest South Dakota locale, along with opportunities for sharptails and Hungarian partridge. A reasonable drive to the south and west puts you in the Grand River National Grassland, and if you’re up for a two-state trip, a mile to the north you’re in the other Dakota. To give you an idea of its remoteness, there were more resident hunters in Perkins County last year than nonresident hunters.

15. Montevideo, Minn.  Getting here puts you a stone’s throw away from the 31,000-acre Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area, which is managed intensely for wildlife and contains more than 2,000 acres of food plots.

16. Russell, Kans.  You’ll find pheasants and quail in the heart of the Smoky Hills around the town that Outdoor Life named one of the 35 Best Hunting and Fishing Towns in the U.S.

17. Mobridge, S.D.  Another Missouri River town, the Mobridge area boasts historically strong pheasant numbers, while drawing roughly half as many nonresident hunters as its nearby counties to the east.

18. Hays, Kans. Lodging in northwest Kansas is at a premium. Hays is the largest town in the northwest region of the state and serves as a great overnight location with more than 1,000 motel rooms.

19. Mitchell, S.D.  The annual Pheasant Country Pheasants Forever chapter banquet on the eve of South Dakota’s general pheasant hunting season opener is held at the famous Corn Palace.

20. Worthington, Minn. Nobles County has more than 30 Wildlife Management Areas, including the Pheasant Run 1 Wildlife Management Area, a 32-acre grassland the was Pheasants Forever’s first land purchase wildlife project.

21. Dodge City, Kans. This famous frontier town serves as the gateway to more than 180,000 acres of publicly accessible land in southwest Kansas.

22. Pendleton, Oregon. This sportsmen’s paradise rests in the unique landscape of the Columbia Basin, where wild roosters are the progeny of the first-introduced pheasants in the U.S.

23. Le Mars, Iowa. Plymouth County and the northwest corner of Iowa currently provide the best pheasant hunting opportunities in the Hawkeye State.

24. Winner, S.D. Located in the farm and ranch country of south central South Dakota, the Winner area has long been known for its incredible pheasant hunting.

25. Bird City, Kans. The origin of the town’s name actually has nothing to do with pheasant hunting, but it lies in northwest Kansas pheasant country, so it’s worth it.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

January Pheasant Hunting

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Three of us bagged our 4-bird Kansas daily limit of roosters in early December. Notice the snow on the ground behind us.

As the pheasant season begins to wind down in the northern reaches of the rooster range, I begin to receive calls from Pheasants Forever members in places like Traverse City, Michigan; Baraboo, Wisconsin and St. Cloud, Minnesota.  These callers all draw out their “O’s” and are known to drop an occasional “eh” to the end of their sentences.  They also share a common question this time of year, “Where should I travel this January to extend my pheasant hunting season?

 

My short answer to that question is to follow the Nebraska/Kansas border from Norton, Kansas and McCook, Nebraska all the way to the Colorado border.  The further west you go along that line, the better the bird numbers with decreasing hunter pressure.  In Colorado, draw a triangle from Sterling to Holyoke to Burlington.  Any of the regions in that three state corridor should produce roosters if you’re riding with good dog power.

 

My longer answer to the question involves a story you’ve probably heard before centered on habitat loss and harsh weather.  Like most states in the last year, this trio of January “hotspots” have suffered through significant habitat loss due to CRP conversion coupled with poor spring reproduction conditions.  Additionally, the early winter weather has been brutal.  Kansas, for instance, has been hammered with two winter storms already this month leaving more snow on the ground there than we have in Saint Paul, Minnesota outside the PF offices.  That’s right; there is more snow on the ground in Kansas than in Minnesota to start 2012.    

 

Nebraska’s Pheasant Hunting Forecast

Season Ends: January 31, 2012

 

Kansas’ Pheasant Hunting Forecast

Season Ends: January 31, 2012

 

Colorado’s Pheasant Hunting Forecast

Season Ends: January 31, 2012

 

The other nugget I’d suggest is to get your hand-shaking smile warmed up.  There is a lot of public hunting ground in all three of these states, but those acres have been pounded with Danner boots the last few months.  During an early December trip to Kansas, a pair of my pheasant hunting partners purchased a county plat book and began knocking on doors to gain permission.  Three front steps later, we had access to half a township’s worth of private ground filled with ring-necks. 

 

One final note on gaining permission to hunt private land; all three of those landowners have received notes of our sincerest thanks and a pound of fresh pecans shipped direct to their doorstep at Christmas.  Remember, it only takes one idiot to ruin a landowner’s impression of hunters, so do your part to thank them for the habitat they’ve left alongside their crops and show them your appreciation for the access they’ve granted after the hunt.  It’s a lot easier to slam the door in your face the next time around after a bad experience. 

 

And after all the seasons are closed, remember to mark your calendars and join the fun for Pheasants Forever’s National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic 2012 in Kansas City on February 17, 18 & 19.

 

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

Where will you be on the 2011 Pheasant Opener?

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Opening Day 2010 with (left to right) me, Billy Hildebrand, Erik Hildebrand & Chad Hildebrand. In addition to a limit of roosters, the Hildebrand boys bagged a few ducks early that morning.

Are you ready to go bird hunting?  Personally, I’m ready to hang up the fishing pole and shrink-wrap the boat in exchange for my over/under.  My shorthaired bird dog is wagging her tail in agreement as well. 

 

Yes, I know it’s only August, but hunting season can’t get here quick enough as far as I’m concerned.  And judging by the comments on PF’s Facebook page, I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for pheasant season’s arrival.

 

While I’ve already got two ruffed grouse hunts and a sharp-tailed grouse hunt on my September calendar, I am also happy to report that I know where I’ll be spending my first pheasant hunt of 2011.  For the 4th consecutive season, I will be hunting in central Minnesota on Saturday, October 15th with my FAN Outdoors radio partner Billy Hildebrand and a small collection of friends, family and bird dogs. 

 

Where & when will your 2011 pheasant hunting season begin?

 

 

2011 Pheasant Hunting Opening Days

(These dates are tentative, please be sure to check your state’s regulations)

Colorado                                                    Still TBD

Iowa                                                           Saturday, October 29

Kansas                                                       Saturday, November 12

Montana                                                     Saturday, October 8

Minnesota                                                  Saturday, October 15

Nebraska                                                    Sunday, October 30

North Dakota                                             Saturday, October 8

Ohio                                                           Friday, November 4        

South Dakota                                             Saturday, October 15

Wisconsin                                                  Saturday, October 15

 

 

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.