“Generally speaking, the 2016-17 pheasant season was good in Colorado” reports Ed Gorman, Small Game Manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). “Bird populations were high, but early in the season conditions were very dry and difficult for hunting. Yet by the end, a harvest of 51,336 pheasants reflected an increase of 15.2% over 2015-16.”
A good hunt was followed by an unremarkable winter. “It was mostly dry with no severe winter storms that had an impact of pheasant populations,” says Gorman.
Regarding the overall outlook on pheasants and pheasant habitat in Colorado, Gorman says, “As of today – it’s good. Our crowing counts were second highest on record, but production and recruitment will ultimately determine fall pheasant population levels. At this point it looks good, but it’s too early to say much beyond that.” By the time Pheasants Forever’s Fall Hunt Forecast rolls around, we’ll know much more.
Recruitment is still a question, and there is a chance for a good hatch, but time will tell. “Until late March Colorado was very dry, which can be concerning because it slows down the development of our most productive nesting habitat, green wheat,” says Gorman. “However, April and May turned extremely wet, resulting in extremely good nesting and early brood cover. June dried out but habitat has not been impacted yet.”
For pheasant hunters in or coming to Colorado, Gorman has a few insights. “Colorado's core pheasant range includes the counties of Sedgwick, Logan, Phillips, Yuma and Kit Carson. Depending on the year, portions of Washington, Morgan and Baca can be sleeper spots that tend to attract fewer hunters than the more traditional areas.”
Colorado has some good habit initiatives on the ground and in the works. “CPW and Pheasants Forever recently completed year 2 of the Corners for Conservation Initiative,” says Gorman, “which combines habitat creation with hunting access. To date, 200 sprinkler corners have been enrolled and seeded with highly diverse wildlife cover. All properties will be published in the 2017 Late Cropland Walk-In Access.”
“Colorado also recently completed its inaugural Upland SAFE Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) signup through the USDA's Conservation Reserve Program,” adds Gorman. “Across the project area, Colorado landowners enrolled over 20,000 acres into the SAFE in roughly 6 days. On many of these enrollments, habitat establishment will begin this winter and next spring."
Tom Carpenter is Digital Content Manager at Pheasants Forever.