2009-10 Pheasant Forecast

California With drought and fires, much of the state has been a weather-related nightmare. Pheasants continue below-average production, and hunters face a tough season, well below the usual harvest of around 150,000 birds. Season Dates: Nov. 14 thru Dec. 27 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 2 for first two days of season, 3 for duration/Double daily bag. Contact: http://www.dfg.ca.gov
Colorado The pheasant hunting outlook in Colorado has improved significantly compared to recent years, thanks to an excellent spring nesting and brood-rearing season. With crowing counts 15 percent higher than 2008, hunters should surpass last year's harvest of 41,000 roosters. Colorado's leading pheasant hunting destinations are Yuma, Kit Carson, Phillips, eastern Logan and eastern Sedgwick counties. But don't overlook southeast Prowers County and southeast Baca County. The state's Small Game Walk-In Access Program will offer approximately 200,000 acres for public walk-in hunting in 2009. Season Dates: Nov. 14 thru Jan. 31, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 3/9 Contact: http://www.wildlife.state.co.us
Iowa Habitat and weather are what determine pheasant populations, and neither has been particularly kind to pheasants in Iowa recently. Last season, Iowa's pheasant harvest fell to 383,000 - the lowest ever recorded - from a series of hard winters, abnormally wet and cool spring nesting seasons and massive losses of habitat. Winter hit the northern third of Iowa hard again in 08-09, cool temps hampered spring production. That's reflected in the August roadside survey, down 12 percent. The northwest quarter of the state will provide best hunting this fall, and large public lands should hold good bird numbers. Statewide harvest is expected in the 300,000-350,000 range, down from last year. Iowa's hopes of a pheasant resurgence hinge on CRP. Current CRP enrollment has dropped by half a million acres in the past two decades, and 85,000 more are set to expire this September. Enrollment for CRP SAFE and Upland Bird Habitat Buffers (CRP Conservation Practice 33) has been strong in Iowa, and more acres could be enrolled in these programs as soon as the USDA makes them available. Season Dates: Oct. 31 thru Jan. 10, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 3/12 Contact: http://www.iowadnr.gov
Idaho Pheasant hunting success will vary according to state region. Areas that did not receive as much rain and stayed a bit warmer look to have very good classes of birds. Unseasonably cool and wet weather in June settled in the southern portion of the state, while spring conditions were excellent in north Idaho. Still, the highest harvests last year occurred in the southwest, southeast and the Magic Valley regions, and those areas should be top producers once again. The Clearwater Pheasant Initiative in the Clearwater Region and the statewide Habitat Improvement Program (HIP) have created top pheasant hunting opportunities on private land, so those willing to wear through some boot leather as well as knock on doors can find good success. Season Dates: Area 1(North) is Oct. 10 thru Dec. 31 Area 2 (East) is Oct. 17 thru Nov. 30 Area 3 (SW) is Oct. 3 thru Dec. 1 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 3/6 Contact: http://www.fishandgame.idaho.gov
Indiana Overall, the Hoosier State's 10,000 pheasant hunters should find birds in numbers similar to last year. Though some severe weather events moved across the state during the year, Indiana's primary pheasant areas in the northern third of the state were spared. Indiana altered it's spring call count to establish a more reliable survey, which did show a slight increase in calling males. Traditionally, Benton and Newton Counties are best areas of the state, but pheasant numbers are looking good in northeast Indiana, particularly Steuben County. Funds from the state's game bird habitat stamp have helped the Indiana Department of Natural Resources establish game bird habitat areas, which are managed specifically for pheasants and can produce some of the state's best hunting. Gunners can register for a chance to tap game bird habitat areas in Benton, Newton, and White Counties until Oct. 2. The Indiana DNR is also addressing the decline in ringneck populations with its pheasant habitat development program, in which wildlife biologists provide landowners with habitat management plans for their property. For more info, log onto www.IN.gov/dnr/fishwild and look under Landowner and Habitat Assistance. Season Dates: Nov. 6 thru Dec. 20, 2009 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 2/4 Contact: http://www.IndianaOutdoor.IN.gov
Kansas Overall, prospects for the pheasant hunting season in Kansas are excellent, and that's coming off a season when 108,000 hunters harvested 680,000 roosters. Strong breeding populations, plus nice spring nesting conditions and good cover conditions has the Jayhawk state poised for one of its best seasons in years. Preliminary results indicate that northwest Kansas pheasant numbers are at their highest level in a quarter century, as the crowing index there hit a record high this past spring. Statewide, the crowing index was at it's second highest level ever. Production in southwest Kansas has substantially improved numbers this year compared to the drought-suppressed numbers of last year. The best hunting will include Cheyenne County in the northwest corner of the state, east to Phillips County along the Nebraska border, south to Pawnee County, west-northwest to Wallace County along the Colorado border, and then back north to Cheyenne County. Some parts of southwest Kansas will also be very good. Pheasant numbers in central Kansas may be down slightly overall, but good to very good locally. Season Dates: Nov. 14 to Jan. 31, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 4/16 Contact: http://www.kdwp.state.ks.us
Michigan Michigan's annual harvest typically checks in around 100,000 roosters, and this season should be in that ballpark again. A bit harsher winter and a cool, wet spring in the southern part of the state were factors, but the season should still be comparable to last year. The state is now approaching 67,000 Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program acres, and Michigan's two CRP SAFE projects are geared toward grassland species, including pheasants. Currently 1,700 acres are enrolled, and there is potential to enroll up to 10,000 acres. Season Dates: multiple, consult regulations Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 2/4 Contact: http://www.kdwp.state.ks.us
Minnesota Though not grim by any means, Minnesota is preparing for a season that will undoubtedly be unlike recent years which brought statewide harvests of over 500,000 birds. Statewide, the pheasant index was down 27 percent from 2008, when the harvest hit 522,000 roosters. The loss of 110,000 CRP acres in two years, a moderately severe winter and a cool, wet spring that reduced early brood survival were the chief culprits. Minnesota pheasant hunters are expected to find birds in about the same abundance as 2004, when 420,000 roosters were harvested. Southwestern Minnesota will provide best opportunities, where observers conducting the August Roadside Survey reported 116 birds per 100 miles of survey driven. Good harvest opportunities might also be found in the west-central, central and south-central regions, where observers reported 65, 59, and 53 birds per 100 miles driven, respectively. As Minnesota braces for the expiration of another 63,000 acres of CRP on Sept. 30, cause for optimism includes the nearly 23,000 acres that have been enrolled in Minnesota's Back Forty CRP SAFE, which is specifically aimed at enhancing habitat for pheasants. Minnesota pheasants should also benefit over the next 25 years from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment passed by Minnesotans last year (of which Pheasants Forever was a strong supporter). The Amendment will generate over $100 million annually for Minnesota's Outdoor Heritage Fund. Season Dates: Oct. 10 thru Jan. 3, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 2/6; 3/9 after Dec. 1 Contact: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us
Missouri Like many other states, Missouri is taking a beating from loss of game habitat. Look for the best field, nesting and breeding areas along the Iowa border, especially in areas still having extensive CRP. Pheasants are best northwest of Livingston County, and in Scotland County in the northeast. About 10,000 pheasant hunters take an average of three birds apiece in Missouri, but those figures are unlikely attainable this year. Season Dates: Youth season is Oct. 24 & 25, Northern Zone is Nov. 1 thru Jan. 15, 2010, Southern Zone is Dec. 1 thru Dec. 12. Daily Bag/Possession Limits: Youth & Northern Zone 2/4; Southern Zone 1/2 Contact: http://www.mdc.mo.gov/
Montana It's unlikely that Big Sky pheasant hunting will be as fruitful as last year's harvest of 127,000 roosters. Prolonged winter with deep snow in the northeastern counties affected carryover, and drought during summer across the Montana Hi-Line from the Rocky Mountain Front to the North Dakota state line likely affected brood survival and will limit cover. Crowing counts in northeast and north-central Montana were down. Further south, habitat tends to be more limited, but over-winter survival was better and production/brood survival is generally expected to provide comparable or better pheasant hunting opportunities this fall relative to last fall. Hunting further west in inter-mountain valleys remains a very limited opportunity due to public access limitations, and pheasant abundance is expected to be near average in these areas. In cooperation with Pheasants Forever and other conservation groups, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has two habitat farming positions - in Billings and Lewistown - focusing habitat work on lands accessible to public hunting. Montana's three CRP SAFE projects are halfway enrolled, providing over 9,600 acres of pheasant winter cover, prairie pothole and sagebrush habitat. Season Dates: Youth-only weekend Sept. 26-27 General season runs Oct. 10 thru Jan. 1, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 3/9 Contact: http://www.fwp.mt.gov/
North Dakota North Dakota's pheasant population was hit hard by last winter's brutal conditions - the worst pheasant winter mortality since the record-setting winter of 1996-97. The harsh winter exacerbated CRP loss - 570,000 acres have expired since 2005, while another 236,000 acres are set to expire September 2009, and nearly 1.7 million acres are set to expire by 2012. Crowing counts indicated a 25 percent drop in the index from last year, and North Dakota's roadside pheasant survey conducted in late July and August revealed the lowest bird count in more than five years. Total pheasants were down 50 percent statewide from last year, brood observations were down 46 percent, and average brood size was down 13 percent. Overall, a season similar to 2002's 500,000 rooster harvest is expected. Though numbers are down about 40 percent from last year, the southwest part of the state will still likely have the best pheasant numbers. Season Dates: Youth season is Oct. 3-4 Statewide is Oct. 10 thru Jan. 3, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 3/12 Contact: http://www.gf.nd.gov
Nebraska A mild winter followed by favorable nesting conditions has Nebraska poised for a big pheasant hunting season. Results from the Rural Mail Carrier Survey indicated an 8 percent bird increase statewide. Pheasant numbers should be strongest in the southwest portion of the state (up 19 percent), with the northeast (up 5 percent) and the panhandle (up 10 percent). Southwest Dundy, Hayes, Red Willow, Perkins and Hitchcock counties will be dynamite, but the entire 13-county southwest corner of the state will be excellent. The central region of Nebraska doesn't have the same numbers, but the survey indicated an increase of 56 percent there. CRP-MAP availability has changed, so hunters are reminded to scout to make sure areas available last year are still huntable. Nebraska is looking for more CRP SAFE acres, as the state has nearly met enrollment with nearly 22,000 acres in the Nebraska Upland Birds SAFE and the Nebraska Tallgrass SAFE, both of which benefit pheasants, quail, and other upland species. Season Dates: Oct. 31 thru Jan. 31, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 3/12 Contact: http://www.ngpc.state.ne.us
New York New York's pheasant population remains at an all-time low, and the salt on that wound is that pheasant production was hindered by wet and cold spring weather. Still, pheasant hunting remains a strong pastime in the Empire State, with over 52,000 hunters harvesting over 110,000 pheasants last year. Those heading afield this fall will want to look to the Lake Plains in western New York. Though much of the state is forested or reverting to forest land, this 13-county area extending from Syracuse to Buffalo below Lake Ontario is still highly agricultural and holds the last vestiges of good pheasant habitat. Season Dates: multiple - consult regulations Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 2/none statewide; consult regulations for Long Island Contact: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/hunting
Ohio Thanks to CRP, the pheasant population has remained relatively stable in Ohio in recent years, and this year's pheasant hunting season should be on par - right around a harvest of 160,000. Areas with high concentrations of CRP acres - Williams County in the northwest, and Marion, Logan, Union and Wyandot Counties in central Ohio have - consistently have produced the strongest pheasant numbers and provided the best hunting opportunities. But without a new CRP general signup, Ohio could see dramatic declines in its pheasant population in 5 to 7 years. On the bright side, there are good reports of birds to the south in Ross County, where over 17,000 acres are enrolled in the Scioto Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, and the Ohio Grassland and Wetland Complexes SAFE project could enroll up to 11,600 acres in CRP - currently enrollment is at 1,415 acres. Season Dates: Nov. 6 thru Jan. 10, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession: 2/NA Contact: http://www.ohiodnr.com
Oklahoma Northern Oklahoma is the place to be this year, along the Kansas border where near-record numbers of pheasants are available. Panhandle areas are still recovering from drought conditions a couple years ago. Public hunting opportunities can be challenging, so do your pre-hunt homework to secure the best spots. The state average hunter harvest is around 70,000 roosters, and gunners will be hard-pressed to reach that number this autumn. Season Dates: Dec. 1 thru Jan. 31, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 3/9 Contact: http://www.wildlifedepartment.com
Oregon Oregon's roadside survey showed an increase in pheasant numbers of 50 percent from last year, when 9,700 hunters harvested over 33,700 roosters. The staples of Oregon's pheasant hunting are the Columbia Basin and Northern Malheur County, as these two areas accounted for nearly 80 percent of the pheasant harvest last year. There is also growing excitement about efforts to improve upland game bird habitat on private land in Oregon (Pheasants Forever was an initial cooperator), which sprang in Morrow County, and has expanded into the Columbia Basin. For mixed bag bird hunting few states compare to Oregon, which offers 10 species of upland game birds. Season Dates: Oct. 10 thru Dec. 31 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 2/8 Contact: http://www.dfw.state.or.us
Pennsylvania The biggest news about pheasant hunting in the Keystone State doesn't have anything to do with hunting just yet. With the help of Pheasants Forever, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is working to restore self-sustaining and huntable pheasant populations in suitable habitat by establishing Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas (WPRAs). So far, the Pike Run, Somerset and Central Susquehanna WPRAs have been showing signs of success. The goal is to achieve a density of 10 hen pheasants per square mile in these areas. Hunting is prohibited, but they can provide good spots to hear and see wild birds, and let gun dogs work (dog training is prohibited in these WPRAs from the end of small game season in early Feb. through July 31 each year). Season Dates: multiple - consult regulations Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 2/4 Contact: http://www.pgc.state.pa.us
South Dakota No question South Dakota will retain its title of "Pheasant Capital" this autumn, but the good news is mixed equally with the bad. First, the good: Last season, 176,000 hunters spent $219.6 million and took home more than 1.9 million birds, and this year's brood survey indicated the fourth highest statewide count in the past 45 years. But the 2009 survey reveals a 26 percent decrease from 2008, mainly attributed to the loss of 24 percent of the CRP land in South Dakota over the past three years. Northeast South Dakota had the biggest loss CRP, at 18 percent or 220,000 acres since 2007. Positive habitat news is that South Dakota leads the nation in CRP SAFE enrollment - nearly 50,000 acres - which includes the South Dakota Pheasants SAFE practice. Excellent pheasant hunting opportunities still abound in the state, though. Top spots will again be around the Chamberlin, Winner, Pierre, Mobridge, Aberdeen, Huron and Mitchell. Of note, West River showed a 96 percent increase in birds per mile, from 1.96 in 2008 to 3.84 this year. Season Dates: Statewide youth season is Oct. 3 thru Oct. 7 Resident-only season on public land is Oct. 10 thru Oct. 12 Regular season is Oct. 17 thru Jan. 3, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 3/15 Contact: http://www.sdgfp.info
Texas The 37-county Panhandle area is the best bet for ringnecks in the Lone Star State. This is grain country, and with a good mix of CRP, it's most conducive to pheasant reproduction and hunting. The Dalhart area is a traditional hot spot, and should be among the best in Texas this autumn. Season Dates: Chambers, Jefferson, Liberty Counties is Oct. 31 thru Feb. 28, 2010 Panhandle (37 counties) is Dec. 5, thru Jan. 3, 2010 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 3/6 Contact: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/
Utah Good spring weather, including adequate precipitation, has created a better outlook for pheasant hunters in Utah this year, and the state could top its harvest of 34,000 birds last year. The northern half of Utah holds the best hunting areas, and hunters should not overlook state wildlife management areas. Utah is a treasure for upland bird hunters, offering stunning scenery, a six-month season and more than a dozen upland bird species to hunt. Season Dates: Nov. 7 thru Nov. 22 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 2/4 Contact: http://www.wildlife.utah.gov/
Washington Warm spring rains provided good plant growing and favorable hatching conditions this year in Washington. In fact, pilot brood surveys ran in the core of the pheasant focus area averaged 7 chicks per hen. This pheasant focus area in the eastern portion of the state consistently produces more pheasants than any other region. Whitman County is the core of this focus area and a top producing county in the state, followed by the northern agricultural portions of Columbia, Garfield, and Walla Walla Counties. Grant County in the Columbia Basin is also among the top for production, and Franklin County may be the hidden gem this year with good reports of brood numbers and public lands to hunt. Pheasants Forever also helped pass recent legislation that will increase funding for pheasant habitat projects via the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program, as well as funding that can be spent outside this focus area, including habitat enhancements in Grant, Franklin and Adams Counties. Season Dates: Youth Weekend Sept. 26-27 Statewide Oct. 24 thru Jan. 18, 2009 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 3/15 Contact: wdfw.wa.gov/
Wisconsin CRP acres in Wisconsin now total less than 500,000 (down from over 700,000 in the mid 1990s). That habitat loss added to long and snowy winters in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009, along with a wet and cool spring in 2008, have set pheasant numbers back statewide. Spring crowing counts indicated a 36 percent decrease, and the rural mail carrier survey indicated a 35 percent decrease, so expect the statewide harvest to drop below the 323,000 mark of last year. Top areas for the state's 60,000+ pheasant hunters to target include Dodge, Fond du Lac, and Kenosha Counties, which reported the highest harvests last year, and Lafayette, Washington, St. Croix and Polk Counties, which reported the strongest numbers from the mail carrier survey. Wisconsin pheasants would benefit if the state's prairie and grassland CRP SAFE projects could be fully enrolled to the tune of nearly 10,000 acres. Season Dates: Oct. 17 thru Dec. 31 Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 2/4; Opening weekend is 1/2 Contact: http://www.dnr.state.wi.us
Wyoming Goshen and Bighorn Counties will once again provide the best pheasant hunting opportunities in Wyoming. Wyoming is a great state for public access, and this year Wyoming hunters have more than 50,000 new acres of walk-in access to private lands and four new Hunter Management Areas offering upland hunting opportunities. In total, Wyoming's Hunter Management and Walk-In Area programs provide access to more than two million acres of public and private land. Season Dates: Nov. 7 thru Dec. 31 in most areas - consult regulations Daily Bag/Possession Limits: 3/9 in most areas - consult regulations Contact: http://www.gf.state.wy.us/

Fewer pheasants flying this year in several different areas of the country. To find out what's happening in your state, check out our forecast.