Posts Tagged ‘kansas quail hunting’

The 25 Best Bird Hunting Towns in America

Monday, April 29th, 2013

25-best-towns-2013 (1)

Last year’s list of the 25 Best Pheasant Hunting Towns in America selected locales predominately based in the Midwest where the ringneck is king. Because Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever members hail from all reaches of the United States, from Alabama to Alaska, we’ve assembled this year’s list to include pheasants as well as multiple quail species, prairie grouse and even forest birds. The main criterion was to emphasize areas capable of providing multiple species, along with destinations most-welcoming to bird hunters. In other words, there were bonus points awarded for “mixed bag” opportunities and neon signs “welcoming bird hunters” in this year’s analysis.  We also avoided re-listing last year’s 25 towns, so what you now have is a good bucket list of 50 destinations for the traveling wingshooter!

What towns did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.

1. Pierre, South Dakota. This Missouri River town puts you in the heart of pheasant country, but the upland fun doesn’t stop there. In 2011 (the last year numbers were available) approximately 30 roosters per square mile were harvested in Hughes County. Cross the river and head south of Pierre and you’re into the Fort Pierre National Grassland, where sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens become the main quarry. In fact, the U.S. Forest Service manages the Fort Pierre National Grassland specifically for these native birds.  Just North of Pierre also boasts some of the state’s best gray (Hungarian) partridge numbers as well.

While you’re there: Myril Arch’s Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse goes through an average of 60,000 pounds of aged, choice beef a year, so they must know what they’re doing.

2. Lewistown, Montana.  Located in the geographic center of the state, Lewistown is the perfect city to home base a public land upland bird hunt. Fergus County has ring-necked pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, gray (Hungarian) partridge, as well as sage grouse. You’ll chase these upland birds with stunning buttes and mountain ranges as almost surreal backdrops, and find no shortage of publically accessible land, whether state or federally owned. Two keystone Pheasants Forever wildlife habitat projects are 45 minutes from Lewistown. Located six miles north of Denton, Montana, the 800-acre Coffee Creek BLOCK Management Area is located between a 320-acre parcel and an 880-acre parcel of land – all three areas are open to public hunting. Pheasants Forever also acquired a 1,000 acre parcel known as the Wolf Creek Property, a project which created 14,000 contiguous acres open to public walk-in hunting.

While you’re there: Once the birds have been cleaned and the dog has been fed, head over to the 87 Bar & Grill in Stanford for their house specialty smoked ribs and steaks.

3. Hettinger, North Dakota. Disregard state lines and you can’t tell the difference between southwest North Dakota and the best locales in South Dakota. Hettinger gets the nod in this region because of a few more Private Land Open to Sportsmen (P.L.O.T.S.) areas.

While you’re there: A visit north to the Pheasant Café in Mott seems like a must.

4. Huron, South Dakota. Home to the “World’s Largest Pheasant,” Huron is also home to some darn good pheasant hunting. From state Game Production Areas to federal Waterfowl Production Areas to a mix of walk-in lands, there’s enough public land in the region to never hunt the same area twice on a 5 or 10-day trip, unless of course you find a honey hole.

While you’re there: The Hwy. 14 Roadhouse in nearby Cavour has the type of good, greasy food that goes down guilt free after a long day of pheasant hunting.

5. Valentine, Nebraska. One of the most unique areas in the United States, the nearly 20,000 square mile Nebraska Sandhills region is an outdoor paradise, and Valentine, which rests at the northern edge of the Sandhills, was named one of the best ten wilderness towns and cities by National Geographic Adventure magazine in 2007. Because the Sandhills are 95 percent grassland, it remains one of the most vital areas for greater prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse in the country.  Grouse can be found on the 115,000-acre Samuel McKelvie National Forest, and grouse and pheasants may be encountered on the 73,000-acre Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.

While you’re there: Head over to the Peppermill & E. K. Valentine Lounge and devour the Joseph Angus Burger, a finalist in the Nebraska Beef Council’s Best Burger Contest.

6. White Bird, Idaho. Hells Canyon is 8,000 feet of elevation, and at various levels includes pheasants, quail, gray partridge and forest grouse. Show up in shape and plan the right route up and down, and you may encounter many of these species in one day. It’s considered by many wingshooting enthusiasts to be a “hunt of a lifetime.” Nearly 40 percent of Idaho’s Hells Canyon is publically accessible, either through state-owned lands, U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands or U.S. Forest Service lands.

While you’re there: Floats and rafting adventures are popular on the Salmon River, in case your bird hunt also needs to double as a family vacation.

7. Heppner, Oregon. Nestled in the Columbia Basin, within a half-hour drive hunters have the opportunity to harvest pheasants, California quail, Huns, chukar, and in the nearby Blue Mountains, Dusky grouse, ruffed grouse and at least the chance of running into mountain quail. With the exception of the Umatilla National Forest for grouse, the hunting opportunity is mostly on private land in the area, but the state has a number of agreements in the area for private land access through its Open Fields, Upland Cooperative Access Program and Regulated Hunt Areas.

While you’re there: As you scout, make sure to drive from Highway 74, also called the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, winding south from Interstate 84 through Ione, Lexington and Heppner.

8. Winnemucca, Nevada. Winnemucca claims legendary status as the “Chukar Captial of the Country.” Long seasons (first Saturday in October through January 31), liberal bag limits (daily limit of six; possession limit of 18) and the fact that these birds are found almost exclusively on public land make chukar Nevada’s most popular game bird. The covey birds do well here in the steep, rugged canyons that mirror the original chukar habitat of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the birds’ native countries. Just know the first time you hunt chukar is for fun, the rest of your life is for revenge.

While you’re there: Nearby Orovada, 44 miles to the north of Winnemucca, is known for excellent hunting areas as well as breathtaking views of the Sawtooth Mountains.

9. Albany, Georgia. Buoyed by tradition and cemented with a local culture built upon the local quail plantation economy, Albany has a reputation as the “quail hunting capital of the world” and a citizenry that embraces “Gentleman Bob.”

While you’re there: save an hour for the 60 mile trip South to Thomasville, Georgia where you can visit Kevin’s, a landmark sporting goods retailer devoted to the bird hunter.

10. Milaca, Minnesota. There are places in Minnesota where pheasants can be found in greater abundance, ditto for ruffed grouse. But there are few places where a hunter may encounter both in such close proximity. While pheasants are found primarily on private land here, state Wildlife Management Areas in the region offer a chance at a rare pheasant/grouse double, including the 40,000-acre Mille Laces WMA. The nearby Rum River State Forest provides 40,000 acres to search for forest birds.

While you’re there: For lunch, the Rough-Cut Grill & Bar in Milaca is the place. This isn’t the type of joint with a lighter portion menu, so fill up and plan on walking it all off in the afternoon…before you come back for supper.

11. Sonoita, Arizona. Central in Arizona’s quail triangle – the Patagonia/Sonoita/Elgin tri-city area – the crossroads of U.S. Highways 82 and 83 puts you in the epicenter of Mearns’ quail country, and 90 percent of the world’s Mearns’ hunting takes place in Arizona. Surrounded by scenic mountain ranges, the pups will find the hotels dog friendly, and moderate winter temps extend through the quail hunting season. Sonoita is also close to desert grasslands (scaled quail) and desert scrub (Gambel’s quail). After your Mearns’ hunt in the oak-lined canyons, you can work toward the Triple Crown.

12. Abilene, Kansas. A gateway to the Flint Hills to the north and central Kansas to the west, the two areas in recent years that have produced the best quail hunting in the Sunflower State.

13. Eureka, South Dakota.  Legend has it the town’s name stems from the first settler’s reaction to all the pheasants observed in the area – “Eureka!”

14. Wing, North Dakota.  Located just northeast of Bismarck, this town’s name is a clear indication of its premiere attraction.  While primarily a waterfowler’s paradise, bird hunters looking to keep their boots dry can find pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and Huns on ample public ground.

15. Redfield, South Dakota.  By law, there can only be one officially trademarked “Pheasant Capital of the World” and Redfield is the owner of that distinction . . . and for good reason!

16. Tallahassee, Florida.  Home to Tall Timbers, a partner non-profit focused on quail research, this north Florida town is steeped in the quail plantation culture and quail hunting tradition.

17. Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.  This fisherman’s paradise also makes for an excellent October launching off point for the bird hunter.  Head south toward Fergus Falls to bag your limit of roosters, then jog northeast to find ruffed  grouse and timberdoodles amongst thousands of acres of public forest lands.  Point straight west and you’ll find prairie chickens in nearby Clay County if you’re lucky enough to pull a Minnesota prairie chicken permit.

18. Park Falls, Wisconsin. For more than 25 years, Park Falls has staked its claim as the “Ruffed Grouse Capital of the World.” It’s more than just proclamation – more than 5,000 acres in the area are intensively managed as ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat.

19. Iron River, Michigan. Four-season recreation is Iron County’s claim to fame, and with the nearby Ottawa National Forest, it’s no coincidence the county bills itself as the woodcock capital of the world.

20. Lander, Wyoming. Wyoming is home to about 54 percent of the greater sage-grouse in the United States, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Wyoming manages millions of publically-accessible acres.

21. Miles City, Montana. Sharp-tailed grouse are well dispersed throughout southeast Montana, and the state boasts the highest daily bag limit – four birds – in the country. Thicker cover along riparian areas also provides chances at ringnecks. Did we mention there are roughly 2.5 million acres of publicly-accessible land in this region?

22. Spirit Lake, Iowa. The many Waterfowl Production Areas and their cattails make northwest Iowa a great late-season pheasant hunting option.

23. Holyoke, Colorado. Lots of Pheasants Forever and state programs – including walk-in areas – are at work in Phillips County which has made the rural, northeast Colorado town of Holyoke the state’s shining upland star.

24. Barstow, California. San Bernardino County  is a top quail producer in the state, and the vast Mojave National Preserve is the most popular destination for hunters from throughout southern California, where wingshooters can also find chukar in addition to quail.

25. Anchorage, Alaska. From the regional hub of Anchorage, bird hunters can drive or fly to excellent hunting areas in all directions, which include ptarmigan, ruffed grouse and spruce grouse. To maximize your chances and stay safe here, consider hiring a guide.

Return to the On the Wing eNewsletter

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

Late Season Pheasant Hunting Report: Kansas

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Areas of quality upland cover have been few and far between in Kansas this year. Photo by Rehan Nana / Pheasants Forever

Areas of quality upland cover have been few and far between in Kansas this year. Photo by Rehan Nana / Pheasants Forever

This upland hunting season has been trying in many traditional pheasant strongholds, not the least of which is Kansas. “Upland bird hunting has been disappointing in most areas of the state as a result of below average populations due to prolonged drought and extreme summer heat,” according to a statement issued by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT).

“Expectations were quite low in west central Kansas this season due to a second year of extensive drought and excessive heat; those low expectations were warranted, as pheasant, quail and lesser prairie-chicken numbers were down substantially,” reported Mark Witecha, a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist who serves seven counties around Ness City, “Furthermore, much of the habitat was hayed, grazed or stunted by the unfavorable climatic conditions, and is in less than ideal condition. Many local hunters have long since given up for the year, and out-of-state hunters simply never came.”

In early January, some regions in Kansas received up to 8” of snow, a blessing for hunters that timed it right. “We finally had birds flushing at our feet rather than 200 yards out in front,” Witecha said.

While the snow cover has since melted, two weeks remain in the season for hunters willing to give it one final try. “There are some bright spots, and for the hunter willing to travel and work, birds are there,” the KDWPT report continued, “The late season can be especially good because fewer hunters are afield and birds will be more concentrated in heavier cover.”

Have you been pheasant and/or quail hunting in Kansas 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.

Early Season Pheasant Hunting Report: Kansas

Monday, November 26th, 2012

The state of Kansas is annually among the top three pheasant producing states in the country, but the devastating drought of 2012 definitely hurt this year’s ringneck crop. Kansas’ pheasant and quail hunting seasons are a couple weeks old, so are the effects of the drought and habitat loss as significant as previously advertised? Here with on-the-ground reports is a trio of Pheasants Forever staff members in Kansas:

Bobwhite quail handle drought conditions better than pheasants, so more bobs are expected to find their way into Kansas upland hunters’ game bags than ringnecks this year. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

Conditions in west central Kansas are far from ideal. Due to the drought, we had very poor reproduction and brood survival in the pheasant population. Much of the CRP has been emergency hayed or grazed, failed milo and corn has been cut for forage, and the grass that was left untouched experienced limited growth. In talking with other hunters, very few were successful in their efforts and the number of hunters in the area is down significantly. On opening day, I only saw one other group hunting, which was shocking. On a positive note, the northwest and north central part of the state is expected to have decent quail hunting this year, as quail are much more tolerant of drought and heat (but less tolerant of the cold).

-          Mark Witecha, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist – West Central Kansas

 

I went out with two other guys and at least two dogs in each field (opening weekend).  We walked three CRP fields adjacent to harvested row crops and kicked up one hen and two roosters. We knew birds were living in these CRP fields (I’d even seen eight birds moving from one of them into the neighboring cropland as I drove by to meet up with my friends at daylight). We also hunted two quail pastures and kicked up one covey of about ten birds. Those quail flew to the adjacent property where another group of hunters were, and I saw them harvest a few birds from the covey. The long and short of it is that there are some birds in the area (quail populations may be stronger than pheasants) but with the hot, dry and windy conditions, birds were not sitting tight, and the dogs couldn’t pick up scent.  We got some rain Saturday night which may improve things a bit.  Cooler temperatures and lower wind speeds would help too. Every person that I’ve spoken with in this area says they got about one bird for every one to two people hunting in a group.  I’m optimistic, though, that there will be better days later in the season.

-          Zac Eddy, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist – Central Kansas 

 

Conditions near Marysville (in northeast Kansas) were hot, dry and windy for the Kansas opener. Our hunting party only saw a few pheasants and two coveys of quail during the day’s hunt. Overall, this area has seen a tremendous decline in quality upland habitat as CRP contracts expire and the acres go into agricultural production. The area has also seen a shift in the type of grain that is being produced, which is further limiting pheasant production. At one time, this part of northeast Kansas was known as “The milo capital of the world” and production of wheat and milo ruled the landscape.  Now, the bulk of the farming is producing corn and soybeans. It should also be noted that a large percentage of the remaining CRP acres need a great deal of management before they will again be productive for upland birds.  On a personal note, the CRP field where I harvested my first pheasant is now a soybean field so the only people who will see roosters rising from this field this year are those who have memories of this once great parcel of upland habitat…My how things change in 20 years.”

-          Jordan Martincich, Pheasants Forever Development Officer – Ottawa, Kans.

 

Have you been pheasant hunting in Kansas 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.

The Fort Riley Ramble-My season’s last hunt in Kansas

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Hunting Fort Riley in Kansas from left were Connor Greening, Nicholas Dombrowski, SGM Mark Dombrowski (active duty, Nicholas’s father), Tom Greening (QF member and Connor's father), Alan Hynek, (PF member; Fort Riley Conservation Branch Chief ) and Shawn Carlson, (QF member).

Three gun dogs struck point, hard, not 10 feet before me. I pulled up my 20 ga. just before a bobwhite broke right. My first shot was behind, but the second put him down.

It was an exciting moment at the Fort Riley Army Base with the Fort Riley Pheasants Forever chapter in south central Kansas. I was also hunting last Friday with members of

Alas, the author with the last bird of the 2011-12 hunting season. Farewell, it was a good one. Let's hope 2012-13 is as good.

the Flint Hills Quail Forever chapter. Both chapters work hard to improve habitat for quail at the 100,656-acre Fort Riley Army Base, most of which is open to public hunting for a small fee.

For you history buffs, the fort was founded in 1853 and was named after Major General Bennett C. Riley, who ran interference against understandably upset Native Americans on the besieged Santa Fe Trail. The base, home to about 25,000 people on any given day, was also once home to the late General George Armstrong Custer.

Not only was the quail hunting exciting at times, but the live fire too. Yes, at one point we were directly beneath the flight path of 105mm artillery shells flying overhead. We also heard 50 cal. machine gunfire off in the distance. Of course, we were hunting far from any firing or impact zones. It was fascinating, though. I always wondered what real artillery fire sounded like. My thanks to our armed forces at Fort Riley and elsewhere, especially overseas, for their service!

As we hunted the expansive prairie and wood lots, civilian Alan Hynek, Fort Riley PF chapter leader and base conservation branch chief, explained the many things the chapter is doing to improve habitat for quail, but also for pheasants, prairie chickens, elk, deer and endangered Topeka shiners, piping plovers, least terns and much more. The chapter’s work includes controlled burns, native plant restoration, food plots, tree control, base youth hunts and much more.

Read more about this interesting adventure in coming issues of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever magazines. If you can’t wait to learn more about Kansas, attend our National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic Feb. 17-19 in Kansas City.

The Nomad is written by Mark Herwig, Editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever
Journal. Email Mark at 
MHerwig@pheasantsforever.org.

 

Day 6 – End of the Road

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Andrew Vavra, his Lab, Beau, and nothing but blue skies and grass on the Kansas pheasant hunting opener.

While the Rooster Road Trip had fun mingling with fellow pheasant hunters at the Longspur Pheasants Forever chapter banquet last night, we wanted nothing to do with them today. Nothing personal, just trying to avoid the crowds and find a few nice, quiet places on this Kansas pheasant and quail hunting opener.

And crowds there were around the Norton Wildlife Area just west of town – more in a few square miles than we’d seen all week in four previous states. To escape, we pulled out the Kansas Hunting Atlas and zeroed in a cluster of yellow Walk in hunting areas to the north and west. Our primary goal was to escape the hoopla, with the secondary goal of flushing a covey or two of bobwhite quail. I really like how, unlike other states, Kansas lists an index of what species you’re most likely to find on specific pieces of property. Quail were a possibility where we were going.

The first area looked okay, but we weren’t competing for spots and decided to be a little picky. Turned out to be a good call, because the second walk in area we came to had it all – quality cover, a bordering harvested corn field and a few brushy draws that could hold bobs. The dogs were hot right off the bat, and a rooster flushed wild. As we came over the hill on the backside of the piece, about 10 pheasants were out feeding in the field and busted us. One ringneck stayed tight in the grass, and Bob St.Pierre put the Rooster Road Trip on the board in Kansas. Bob also has the distinction of being the only one in our three man crew to bag a rooster in every state. Roosters in 5 states in 6 days? That’s select, if not exclusive, company.

Minutes later, we worked a draw on the edge of the tract. “Is that a quail?” Bob said as a loner buzzed through the brush and landed 15 yards in front of me. Before I could rush up to re-flush it, the covey busted on Bob’s side. Two dozen quail scattered every which way. These were the first quail Andrew had seen in the wild, and he was amazed. A few shots rang out, and I mixed the Rooster Road Trip’s bag for the first time.

As we drove around our next spot, we could hardly believe how hundreds of hunters were pounding an area just 15 miles away, and here sat multiple areas of prime hunting ground with no hunters. The landowner (remember, Walk in hunting areas in Kansas are privately owned, as landowners receive payment to open the land to hunting) had seen us at the banquet and stopped to say hi. As nice a guy as you’ll meet, he said he was happy to open the property for the public to enjoy. There were plenty of pheasants out there, he said, and come back in the spring for turkeys.

A week on the road, hunting and driving hard, has us feeling good about a successful public land tour, but looking forward to returning to our families. There is no place like home. Except maybe Kansas on the pheasant opener.