Posts Tagged ‘Colorado pheasant hunting’
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:
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.
Thursday, May 31st, 2012
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.
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.
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. Bend, 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.
Thursday, December 29th, 2011
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.
Season Ends: January 31, 2012
Season Ends: January 31, 2012
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.
Tuesday, August 9th, 2011
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