Hunting & Heritage  |  09/19/2023

2023 Pheasant Hunting Forecast


Get out and hunt: It's going to be a good pheasant season

Every year I coordinate this 22-state hunting forecast for Pheasants Forever Members, the consistency of the messages never ceases to amaze me.

While each state has its own story to weave, twists to share and regions to look toward, the consistent theming across the core of the ring-necked pheasant range is this:

» Yes, winter was harsh. In many places, pheasant hunters thought all was lost. But pheasants are tough and, when wintering habitat is there, can survive one hell of an onslaught of snow and cold.

» A goodly base of the core pheasant range experienced almost ideal nesting conditions with a relatively dry and warm spring, punctuated by moisture at just the right times in early summer to help nesting habitat growth and vibrancy. Nesting success makes birds for hunting, period.

» Conditions trend from generally dry to downright droughty heading into fall, and that will impact hunting, from the careful approach you might bring to the hunt, to habitat status on the ground (including some emergency mowing, haying and grazing regionally).

For pheasants, and all other manner of upland wildlife, habitat is everything. Likewise for hunters. And it is where communion happens in fall, with a bird dog romping ahead, our hearts glad and faces smiling and a rooster out there somewhere, giving us the good old slip.

Tom Carpenter, Editor – 2023 Pheasant Hunting Forecast

Click on a state to jump to its report

State-by-State Reports - Click to Expand

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: California


By Andy Fondrick

Heavy precipitation over the past year has provided better cover and insect forage in 2023.

A few years of drought conditions have been washed away with near record precipitation levels over the past year in California. Cover and insect forage should be in a much better place than they were a year ago for upland birds … and that should mean more pheasants this fall. While flooding may have impacted pheasants in some areas, things are still in a much better place than during the drought.

Ian Dwight, Matt Meshriy and Katherine Miller, of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), provided input on the state of the 2023 pheasant hunting season in California.


According to the team from CFWD, the winter of 2022-23 brought a series of atmospheric rivers bearing record precipitation and snowfall for California. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada was among the highest on record as temperatures were cool. Plus, there was fortunate spacing between storms that may have provided critical relief for upland birds.

Flooding in many areas of the state likely pushed pheasants toward the periphery of their home ranges, but the above-average precipitation resulted in emergent vegetation that provided additional cover over winter.

It appears the heavy rain events have allowed for habitat to rebound a bit in 2023, helping to compensate for the past few years of drought conditions. Much-needed water created a trickledown effect that may have initially made the nesting and brood-rearing seasons difficult at times, but benefited pheasants, other game, and farmers in the long run.

The CFWD team said that conditions were uncharacteristically wet across the Central Valley during the early nesting season. Record snowpack meant that the spring melt brought generational flooding to low-lying areas of the Valley including the formation of the historic Tulare Lake in Kings County. Thankfully, spring temperatures also registered cooler and attenuated the record snowmelt.

In all, the copious surface water benefited agriculture and water deliveries, and improved conditions for pheasants by producing cover and insect forage where flooding was not a direct impact to birds.

According to Dwight, Meshriy and Miller, record precipitation during the winter and spring provided some relief from the acute effects of drought. Reservoirs were recharged and farmers were much more likely to receive water and plant their fields.

The team also mentioned that clean farming practices continue to put pressure on the connectivity of remaining wild pheasant populations on public and private lands, but the state’s Nesting Bird Habitat Incentive Program offers a new mechanism for encouraging beneficial agricultural practices such as delaying grain harvest, maintaining vegetation on field edges and levees, and planting fall cover crops. Approximately 2,300 acres of private lands were enrolled during the first year of the program.


As conditions shifted from record drought into historic precipitation numbers, pheasant numbers look like they could be on the rise, even if it’s ever so slightly.

The CFWD team was happy to report that upland habitat has increased relative to last year, and the quality of uplands at public hunting areas has improved overall. But there is still some ground to make up to return to higher populations from decades past.

A shift in crop trends has also seemed to have helped California pheasants. According to Dwight, Meshriy and Miller, winter and spring wheat have become more popular as the price of grain, wheat specifically, has increased. These crops can provide nesting cover before it’s harvested in the summer. Although population levels remain low overall, public wildlife areas have reported seeing more pheasant broods this year compared to 2022.

According to the CFWD team, crowing count surveys are used to monitor pheasants at a variety of state wildlife areas. On a regional and statewide scale, Breeding Bird Survey Data can be used to track relative pheasant abundance and distributions annually. The breeding bird survey trends and harvest trends show a sharp decline in pheasant detections and harvest since the early 1990s.


According to Dwight, Meshriy and Miller, Grizzly Island Wildlife Area (Solano County) and Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (Yolo County) are consistently the top spots for pheasant harvest on state lands. These areas are located in the Bay-Delta Region of northern California. Other opportunities include public areas scattered across the Sacramento Valley and in northeastern California at Honey Lake.


Check for additional restrictions on pheasant hunt days for Type A and B Wildlife Areas. Make sure you have steel shot. Follow the nose of your favorite four-legged hunting partner and have them work those edges!

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Colorado


By Ryan Sparks

Three consecutive years of drought have taken a toll on Colorado’s pheasant population. Simply put, Colorado pheasants live and die according to precipitation. Less rainfall means less habitat which means fewer pheasants.

What precipitation Colorado did get was the wrong kind. With winter habitat already suffering from the three-year drought, Colorado’s core pheasant area experienced high snowfall in December of last year. That snow stuck around for over 90 days making conditions even worse for upland game birds.

“Conditions were already awful in 2022,” said Ed Gorman, Small Game Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Then we had a real winter for a change and got 18 inches of snow. That snow quickly froze and crusted over, which worsened the issues pheasants were already experiencing from the drought. As a result, our winter mortality was fairly high.”

However, Colorado’s winter snow might have come with a silver lining. When that snow melted it provided much-needed moisture. Coupled with good spring rainfall, pheasant habitat has greatly improved.

“We had almost record rains in May,” said Gorman. “Our spring conditions were really good for nesting, but the breeding population numbers were really low. Pheasants are in the process of recovering, but that recovery isn’t going to happen overnight. We are in the first stages of recovery. This hunting season should be a little bit better than last year, but not by much.”


“Our core pheasant range is up in the northeast part of the state,” said Michael Peyton, PF’s Colorado State Coordinator. “Towns like Julesburg, Sterling, Holyoke, Akron and Wray are all good jumping-off points for pheasants, but hunters are still going to have to work to find birds. The habitat looks much better than what it has been, but we don’t have the birds for the habitat.”

Gorman suggests hunters shift their focus more to the south in Kit Carson County.

“Kit Carson missed a lot of the snow and probably didn’t have the winter mortality that the core pheasant area further north had. That is the one place I can say should be decent,” Gorman said.


Gorman recommends scouting before hunting season to find areas with the best habitat.

“If you are a pheasant hunter in Colorado, you need to scout,” he said. “The hunters that do well spend a lot of time finding the best habitat. There are pockets of birds. It is up to hunters to find them.”

Gorman recommends locating a few walk-in hunting areas with decent bird numbers and then trying to get permission on the surrounding private ground.

“It is still possible to make relationships and get permission on private land in Colorado’s core pheasant area,” he said.

The eastern plains of Colorado are well over 90 percent privately owned, but Colorado also offers a successful walk-in access program that hunters should not ignore. On a normal year, Kit Carson County has nearly 15,000 acres of walk-in access alone. At the time of this writing, the landowner signup process was not yet complete so exact numbers were not available.


Colorado’s 2023 pheasant hunting season runs from Nov. 11 – Jan. 31, 2023, east of I-25 and Nov. 11 – Jan. 7, 2023, west of I-25. The daily bag limit is 3 roosters, and the possession limit is 9 birds.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Idaho


By Jack Hutson

“Western Idaho’s weather has been good, we had a relatively mild winter; solid spring conditions with good precipitation and warmer temperatures,” said Jeff Knetter, Game Bird Coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDF&G) based in Boise.

Sharing its western border with Washington state, the farm country in the panhandle region collectively known as the Palouse (puh-loos), was once the crown jewel Idaho’s pheasant production. Based in Lewiston, Idaho, Wildlife Biologist Iver Hull, took a few minutes to chat about pheasants. His weather recollection reflected Knetter’s, “The winter up here was relatively mild, with a persistent snowpack in several key areas.”

Hull continued, “No climatic conditions or other events occurred during sensitive nesting and early brood-rearing periods that would lead me to believe that mortality was higher than usual for any upland species.” He added: “Adequate spring moisture extended vegetation’s seasonal growth and created abundant insect densities as we progressed into the summer.”

Indeed, there were no significant late spring rain events, and major pheasant producing regions received much welcomed moisture in early August to bolster vegetation while offering a much-needed break from sweltering summer temperatures.

The highest pheasant harvest typically occurs in the south-central portions of Idaho, collectively referred to as the Magic Valley. In the center of this region is where I caught up with IDF&G Regional Habitat Biologist Brandon Tycz in his Jerome, Idaho office.

Tycz believes the timing of spring precipitation events seemed to “click” with pheasant nesting and brood requirements. Tycz made this observation: “Anecdotally, nesting conditions seem to have been above average. We don’t conduct road surveys any longer, but the broods I have been seeing seem to be larger than normal.”

Further east, Nick Gailey, co-chair of habitat projects with the Upper Snake River Chapter of Pheasants Forever, had a very different winter perspective: “We experienced the hardest, longest, winter in the 23 years I have lived in Idaho. Neighboring ranchers tell me the winter was the worst in over a half-century.”

Even so, the news wasn’t all doom and gloom. “Nesting conditions were good with excellent growth of grasses and good moisture,” Gailey observed.

What does the fall pheasant season look like?

Knetter began: “As you know, the pheasant population has been falling, state-wide, for a number of years.” He continued, “But overall, conditions were good and pheasant populations should experience a general up-tick.”

Hull’s pheasant prognosis? “Although we don’t monitor chick or adult survival specifically, the nesting period and early brood survival should have been average to a little above average.”

Gailey’s report showed unexpected promise: “I expected bird populations to be severely affected (due to past winter conditions) and, much to my surprise, the opposite seems to be the case. It seems, locally, that pheasant – and valley quail - numbers have exploded!”

Hunting Tips

Experts offered their advice to Idaho upland hunters, “Definitely you want to bring well-trained dogs,” encouraged Tyzc. “I would focus on the agricultural/public land interface; pheasants like to scuttle through sparce sagebrush habitat, so attempt to move them toward thicker cover.”

IDF&G and Pheasants Forever have been working with private landowners to increase hunter access and improve habitat statewide. However, they all agree that Idaho pheasant populations tend to be spotty, with the majority of wild birds existing on private lands that are difficult to access by sportsmen and women. Polite door knocking may be your ticket to access private pheasant paydirt.

Hunting access being what it is, IDF&G personnel believe the best opportunity for hunters to carry out a pheasant or two in their vest would be found on one of the Wildlife Management Areas, (WMAs) included in the pheasant release program. Click here to learn more.

Idaho Limits, License, and Fees

Idaho Seasons:

» Idaho is divided into three areas for wild pheasant management

» AREA 1— Resident: October 14 through December 31. Nonresident: October 19 through December 31.

» AREA 2— Resident: October 21 through November 30. Nonresident: October 26 through November 30.

» AREA 3— Resident: October 21 through December 31. Nonresident: October 26 through December 31.

» State-Wide Youth Hunt Season: October 1 through October 7..

Basic (Non-Resident) Cost:

» One-Time Access Fee: $5.00 (Added to Annual Hunting License)

» Hunting (includes three-day fishing license): $185.00

» Small Game Hunting: $141.75

» Three-Day Small Game Hunting: $71.75

» Upland Game Bird Permit (IDF&G stocked birds; 18+ yrs): $56.75 ea

Bag & Possession Limits:

» State-Wide Daily Bag Limit: 3 roosters

» State-Wide Possession Limit: 9 roosters

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Illinois


By Casey Sill

For bird hunters, The Land of Lincoln often lives in the shadow of its bigger, better-looking neighbor to the west. But wild roosters can be had in Illinois for those willing to put in the work. And after a mild winter and spring, bird numbers should be on the rise in 2023.


Winter was dry and warm for most of the state, with no serious cold snaps and little snow cover, according to Wade Louis, the habitat team program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

“We don’t generally get a lot of mortality due to winter conditions in Illinois, like states to the west and north sometimes do,” Louis said. “And this year was mild even by our standards. I anticipated coming into the spring that we had a pretty good winter for birds.”

As winter came in for a soft landing and spring began, conditions continued to lean dry across much of the state.

“The last few years we’ve been fairly wet in the spring, but this spring we had below average precipitation,” Louis said.

The dry weather led to sporadic drought conditions in pockets of the state, while other areas of Illinois made up for the dry spring with a very wet summer.

“It was odd this year,” said Katie Kauzlarich-Stockman, Pheasants Forever’s Illinois state coordinator. “One county would be getting dumped on with six inches of rain, and the county directly south of it would be in drought warnings.”


While the spotty drought conditions weren’t great news for pockets of especially dry habitat, the dry spring did provide some positives for nesting birds in certain areas.

“The dry weather this spring did bode well for birds in low-lying areas and along waterways,” Louis said. “We don’t do brood surveys in Illinois, but just from being out and about we’ve been seeing quite a few broods. So I would anticipate that the milder spring as far as precipitation went actually helped nesting birds.”

More widespread rains in late summer helped pull many of the dry areas out of drought conditions, just as chicks were getting their legs underneath them.

“That’s good for producing insects for chicks and things of that nature,” Louis said. “So overall it’s been a pretty favorable spring and summer.”


The top area for pheasant hunters in Illinois this fall will be the east-central portion of the state, just as it has been for the last 40 to 50 years.

“Counties like Livingston, Ford, LaSalle, McLean and Vermillion generally produce the most birds,” Louis said. “That’s been the strongest area in the state for pheasants for a long time, and continues to hold our best numbers.”

The west-central part of the state is an up-and-coming area for pheasants, and could hold more birds in years to come with advancements in habitat work, according to state coordinator Kauzlarich-Stockman.

“I suspect there are some good populations in that area as well,” she said. “We haven’t had Pheasants Forever staff there historically, but I just put biologists in the area several months ago. So I’m hoping in the future we can throw western Illinois into the mix as a good bird producing area.”


The Illinois pheasant season is split into north and south zones. The northern zone opens on November 4 and runs through January 8. The southern zone also opens November 4, and runs through January 15.

The limit is 2 roosters per day in both zones.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Indiana


By Ryan Sparks

Without recent bird surveys, there is no hard data about Indiana pheasant numbers. But talking with hunters and property managers, 2023 has the potential to be a great year.

Indiana is still searching for a grassland gamebird biologist to fill a position that has been vacant for the last 18 months, and the data from Indiana’s last Small Game Hunter Survey is still being entered. When it is available it should provide a clearer picture of bird numbers throughout the state.

“In the absence of a biologist, we do not have any data on the current population status,” said Adam Phelps, Waterfowl Research Biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Despite the lack of hard data, after speaking with field staff it appears that there are pockets with good pheasant hunting opportunities scattered throughout the state for hunters that are willing to search.

“You aren’t going to find birds everywhere, but if you know where to look there are birds to be had,” said John Kinney, Indiana State Coordinator for Pheasants Forever. “It is nothing like it was 30 years ago, but I think there has been a small uptick in quail, and pheasants should be about the same as last year. Our winter was pretty mild so that should be good for bird numbers.”

Nick Golias, PF’s Regional Representative in Indiana, agreed that conditions were good (warm and dry) this spring and summer for upland game birds.

“It has been a pretty dang good year for pheasant reproduction,” Golias said. “We are seeing a lot of young birds when we are doing maintenance on CRP. You just have to find the right areas.”


“The northern third of the state is where most pheasants are found,” says Kinney. “The western part of the state along the Illinois border is also a good area. Not to say there aren’t pheasants further south, but the northwest part of the state is still the priority area for pheasants.”

Everyone I spoke with said the northwest is the place for pheasants.

“Willow Slough Fish & Wildlife Area is a big property with lots of good habitat in the northwest,” said Golias. “It is connected with other public hunting areas that are also good and you can hunt all of it.”

Mike Schoof, property manager for Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area, had only positive things to say. “Winter wasn’t too terrible, and I’ve seen more pheasant production this year than I have in the last few,” he said. “I’ve been seeing pheasants in areas where I haven’t seen them for 15 to 20 years. It should be a great year around here.”

Golias also highly recommends applying to hunt Indiana’s Game Bird Properties. These properties consist of around 3,500 acres that are managed for wild quail and pheasants. Hunts take place two days a week during the season to keep hunting pressure low. While the chances of being drawn are somewhat low (7 percent last year), those that draw will undoubtedly have a great hunt.

“I got drawn the first year I applied, and we saw over 100 pheasants,” said Golias. “We had our limit in an hour. It was an incredible hunt and is definitely worth applying for.”


Pheasant season runs from Nov. 1 – Dec. 15. The daily bag limit for pheasants is 2 roosters. The possession limit is 4.

Check the Reserved Hunt Information page for details about put-and-take pheasant hunting.

The Indiana DNR Where to Hunt Finder is an interactive maps for hunters to find public land for hunting, fishing, and other activities.

The Indiana Private Lands Access Program provides opportunities for hunters to access privately owned land enrolled in the program. Hunters can apply online during the open application period.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Iowa


By Anthony Hauck

Iowa pheasant hunters can expect pheasant numbers to be as good or better than in 2022 in most regions, with the state’s annual August pheasant population survey showing a 15 percent increase over last year.

And last season was a good one by modern standards in Iowa, with 61,400 hunters bagging 357,000 birds. Todd Bogenschutz, Upland Wildlife Research Biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says if hunters hit the uplands this year like they have over the past few seasons, up to 400,000 roosters will be retrieved.

With a normal winter followed by a dry spring, Bogenschutz expected pheasants to increase in number, but the survey results in some areas exceeded even his expectations.

“The bird counts were better than we thought in northwestern and northeastern Iowa. The population in the northeast is the highest that region has seen in 24 years,” Bogenschutz said.

Iowa’s roadside survey runs on more than 200 30-mile routes across the state, with DNR staff counting pheasants (and bobwhite quail and gray partridge) on more than 6,000 miles of country roads.

Seven of the nine survey regions indicated pheasant increases, and the statewide pheasant index of 22.5 birds/route is up over the 2022 estimate of 19.5 birds/route.

Northwest Iowa took top honors among the state’s nine survey regions, checking in at more than 39 pheasants per route, while northeast Iowa accounted for the biggest regional pheasant increase at 61%. Five (northwest, north-central, northeast, west-central, and central) of the nine survey regions reported pheasant averages of 25+ birds per route, numbers that Bogenschutz says should make for high-quality pheasant hunts. The east-central region is the aberration, with a drop of 29% year-on-year.

“We haven’t had too many years since 2012 that areas were considered excellent, but there are some swaths of counties listed as excellent in northwest and north-central Iowa – and over half of the state is considered fair to excellent,” Bogenschutz said.

Uriah Hansen, a Pheasants Forever supporter and current member of the Iowa Natural Resource Commission, lives near Huxley in central Iowa and drives to north-central Iowa multiple times a week for work. His own observations had him excited before the roadside numbers came out, but the results will put an extra pep in his hunting step. Perhaps best of all, he’s still seeing pheasants at their persistent nesting best.

“The other day, I counted seven broods in a two-mile stretch. And there is such a variety in the hatch, from full-grown birds to baseball-size chicks,” he said. The bulk of the hatch is from early nesting, he says, but he is encouraged to see late-nesting hens still at it, having success, and continuing to add to the population.

While moderate weather has proved favorable, Dan Borchardt, a Farm Bill Biologist with Pheasants Forever, says efforts to keep habitat on the ground in Iowa can’t be overlooked. He covers a trio of counties — Chickasaw, Floyd, and Mitchell — spanning north-central to northeast Iowa. In his work area, private landowners have been eager to enroll their properties in the pollinator and wildlife-specific Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) practices that suit pheasants so well. “And when you have that good cover and dry conditions, it lends itself to good nest success,” Borchardt said.

Bogenschutz reports opportunities to enroll additional land into CRP in Iowa have improved with recent program changes by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including increased incentives. CRP enrollment has been relatively stable in Iowa since 2010 at around 1.7 million acres, and the program accounts for nearly two-thirds of Iowa’s overall pheasant habitat.

If there is a factor to keep an eye on related to the Iowa outlook, it’s that dry weather has taken a turn to drought across much of the state. Extreme drought has gripped a good portion of northeast Iowa, and more than 80 percent of the state is now classified as in moderate drought or worse.

Both Borchardt and Hansen suspect this will lead to an early crop harvest, with many fields combined before the late October season opener. And while this will consolidate birds in grassland cover, Borchardt says cover conditions might even the playing field out. “As we head to fall, the cover seems a little thinner than it usually is, and the grasses aren’t as vigorous as they usually are. I think pheasants are going to be running more.”

Public access is at a premium in Iowa, which is why the Iowa Habitat and Access (IHAP) program, the state’s walk-in hunting effort, plays bigger than its 30,000-plus acres suggest. Hansen says IHAP properties are the premiere upland properties in Iowa, in many instances outclassing even state wildlife management areas in terms of cover quality.

Hansen says what also stokes optimism for the coming season are Iowa’s mixed-bag possibilities. In a bit of a surprise, regional bobwhite quail numbers stagnated or dropped according to the late-summer survey, but south-central and southwest Iowa are still standout regions. Partridge numbers, however, took a substantial leap.

“The partridge population is up significantly, with excellent counts coming from north-central and northwest regions, and decent counts in parts of the east-central region,” Bogenschutz said. Both Borchardt and Hansen have run into Huns on their summer scouts, with Borchardt reporting seeing more partridge to date than pheasants.

Season Dates

» Youth pheasant season is Oct. 21-22

» Pheasant season is Oct. 28-Jan. 10, 2024

» Quail season is Oct. 28-Jan. 31, 2024

» Partridge season is Oct. 14-Jan. 31, 2024

» Shooting hours for these species are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


» Resident hunting/habitat combo license - $35

» Nonresident hunting/habitat (age 18 and over) annual - $144

» Nonresident hunting/habitat (under age 18) annual - $45

Daily Bag & Possession Limits

» Pheasant (Youth) 1 / 2

» Pheasant 3 / 12

» Bobwhite Quail - 8 / 16

» Gray Partridge - 8 / 16

Guides & Maps

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Kansas


By Casey Sill

As Kansas continues to climb out of an extensive drought, effects are still being felt by the state’s upland birds.

In 2022, nearly the entire state was released for emergency use for CRP. There was almost no moisture between mid-summer 2022 and early spring 2023 — and while those conditions have turned around this summer, nesting habitat did not recover in time for the spring hatch.

“Residual nesting cover from last year’s growth is generally what our pheasants are using for this year’s nesting,” said Jeff Prendergast, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks small game specialist. “A lot of that was removed last year, and we didn’t get the conditions to promote growth this year. So nesting conditions for pheasants coming into the year were pretty poor.”

While spring rains arrived too late to improve nesting season, they have provided the broods that are on the ground with some quality habitat to make use of throughout the summer — which means it’s not all bad news heading into fall.


Winter was generally mild in Kansas this year. While the drought continued, snow and cold likely had little effect on bird numbers, according to Prendergast.

“We’re far enough south that we rarely have conditions that would be of concern for survival, and I would not think any of our winter weather was problematic this year,” he said. “We had one system that came through in mid-December, but it wasn’t anything to be worried about as far as pheasants are concerned.”

The spring rains kept up across much of the state throughout summer, leading to an immediate reversal in habitat conditions.

“There are still a few dry areas, particularly I’m thinking of the southern Flint Hills, but for the most part our major pheasant regions have had above average precipitation this summer, and conditions have continued to improve,” Prendergast said. “There’s a lot of cover on the landscape right now.”

Pheasants Forever's Kansas state coordinator Shelly Wiggam said habitat continues to look good in her area.

“In east- central Kansas where I am, we’ve been doing really well,” she said. “I’ve had people reach out regularly saying they’re seeing broods and roosters where they might not have in years past, which is really encouraging from a habitat perspective.”


Prendergast said Wiggam’s comments speak to a long-term trend in Kansas pheasant populations. In dry years, birds fare better on the eastern side of the state, while in wet years the opposite is true, and west is best. Spring and summer rains have helped pull Kansas out of severe drought conditions, but based on long term averages 2023 is still a dry year — meaning better bird numbers to the east.


“We have seen a little bit better response for pheasants in those eastern areas where Shelly is talking about,” Prendergast said. “Even though that’s not what we think of as one of our major pheasant areas.”

The state brood survey was not complete as of this writing, so there’s no hard data to examine just yet, but Prendergast said he expects similar numbers to last year statewide.

“We hope the moisture we’ve gotten this summer is enough to keep our numbers statewide about where we were last year, with the possibility of some slight increases in areas where habitat is particularly strong,” he said. “Without any data yet, I would expect the eastern portions of our range will probably be better.”

Flint Hills

Though not generally seen as the premier pheasant producing area of Kansas, the Flint Hills could see decent numbers this year compared to the western reaches of the state. Drought didn’t hit the eastern portion of the state as severely, according to Prendergast. So an area like the Flint Hills could see some of the localized increases in production he mentioned.

Smokey Hills and South-Central Prairies

Sitting just to the northwest of the Flint Hills, the Smokey Hills could also be an area for hunters to focus on this fall. Far enough east to do well during a dry year, but far enough west to be smack dab in the middle of historically good pheasant territory, this area could also see some localized increases in bird numbers in certain pockets. That trend could continue as you head south from the Smokeys into the South-Central Prairie area, which is also seeing some good habitat conditions.

Western Kansas

Pheasant densities in the west could remain low in western Kansas this fall. Though summer rains have improved conditions in the Northern and Southern High Plains, drought continues to linger in western Kansas. While birds can still most certainly be found, you might have to put a few more miles on your boots than years past to locate good numbers.


The Kansas pheasant season runs November 11, 2023 to January 31, 2024, with the youth season falling on November 4 – 5.

The daily bag limit is 4 roosters, with a possession limit of 16. Pheasants in possession for transportation must retain intact a foot, plumage or some part that determines sex.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Michigan


By Casey Sill

While not known as a stronghold for wild roosters, there are plenty of pheasant hunting opportunities in Michigan.

That could ring especially true this fall, as mild winter weather and good brood-rearing conditions point to healthy populations heading into the season.


“In pheasant country we had a fairly decent winter,” said Adam Bump, an upland game specialist at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “We didn’t have any long-term snow events, so I think we were average to slightly above average for how winter treated pheasants.”

There were a few fairly intense cold snaps throughout the state’s pheasant range, but none were significant enough to impact birds, according to Ben Beaman, Pheasants Forever’s Michigan state coordinator.

“None of the cold snaps brought a ton of snow with them. Overwinter survival seems to have been pretty good,” he said. “I was seeing good numbers of adult birds in my travels around the state in early spring, so I think they all came through in pretty good shape.”


The positive trend in weather continued into spring and early summer across the state’s pheasant range, making for above-average nesting and brood rearing conditions.

“On average it was a fairly decent brood rearing year,” Bump said. “The results for our mail carrier survey aren’t in yet, but my guess is it was pretty solid. We had some periods of drought, but no extended cold periods. So I think production was good this year.”

Early spring was fairly wet and may have delayed nesting for a short time, but Beaman said once things dried off in May, the conditions were ideal.

“Because of the wet spring, cover was looking quite good at the onset of when birds did start to nest,” He said. “The broods I’ve been seeing have been good sized, and the chicks have been big.”

The long-term habitat conditions in Michigan are a mixed bag. Over the last two decades, a focus on implementing grassland habitat on state land has increased upland cover across portions of the state, but habitat loss in more recent years has negated some of that progress.

“We’ve had a lot of expiring CRP in the last few years,” Beaman said. “Where we have continuing habit, our bird numbers are stable, but due to that widespread loss, you are going to find areas where birds have decreased. That being said, I think we will see that trend start to swing back the other way in the next few years. The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) was recently restarted in Michigan, so we’ve got new habitat being established.”


The best pheasant habitat in Michigan always lies in the southeastern portion of the state. Michigan’s “thumb” is another popular destination for bird hunters each year, and this fall should be no different.

“The south-central portion of the state will also be good, down toward the border with Ohio and Indiana,” Bump said. “Generally speaking it’s the southern third of the state where you’ll want to go to find birds. That’s where the most habitat is, as well as where the most agriculturally centric land is. in Michigan.”

Michigan has several public access programs available for anyone who’s not able to hunt private land. The state’s Hunter Access Program (HAP) lands offer private lands leased to provide public access. There are numerous properties in southern Michigan, which can be found on the Department of Natural Resources website. And Michigan’s Adopt A Game Area program is also providing excellent places for the public to hunt roosters.


The Michigan pheasant season runs October 10-31 in zone one (upper peninsula), October 20-November 14 in zones two and three (lower peninsula), and December 1-January 1 in a portion of zone three. More specific information on the boundaries for each zone can be found on page 69 of the 2023 Michigan Hunting Regulations Summary. The daily bag limit in Michigan is 2 roosters, and possession limit is 4.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Minnesota


By Tom Carpenter

Pick a Minnesota pheasant hunter at random, say, last January or February, when the state was in the throes of a monumentally harsh winter, and ask those hunters how they thought the pheasants were doing. Responses would have ranged from “not good” to “maybe wiped out.”

But never count out the ring-necked pheasant. Results of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources annual roadside survey in August indicated a 10 percent increase statewide in 2023 (53.3 birds / 100 miles) compared to 2022 (48.3 birds / 100 miles).

What gives? Pheasants are tough, and they had enough habitat out there to help them make it through the toughest times.

“It’s great that we had as many birds come through as we did, but I don’t know I’d say it was surprising,” says Tim Lyons, Upland Game Research Scientist with the DNR’S Farmland Wildlife Populations and Research Group. “It is human nature to fear the worst for wildlife when winter gets hard, but pheasants are really tough! I fall into the camp that winter survival isn’t as important as it is sometimes made out to be. What happens to the (pheasant) population really comes down to breeding habitat conditions and weather — I tend to focus more on those factors.”

Good thing. Minnesota had a fine season for nesting and brood-rearing. All that snowmelt gave habitat a jump-start, and a warm and dry spring and summer followed – perfect brood-rearing conditions … though dry conditions and drought are beginning to reach concern levels now in many areas of the state.

The roadside count increases were not across-the board by region.

The pheasant index exhibited triple-digit increases in the Southwest region, where the index grew 101 percent over 2022, with a more modest increase in the West Central region (38 percent) versus 2022.

The Southwest (116.8 birds / 100 miles) and West Central (63.2 birds /100 miles) regions had the highest indices, followed by the South Central region (54.5 birds /100 miles). These regions should provide the best hunting opportunities in the state.

Indices in the Central, East Central, and Southeast regions decreased by 39 percent, 63 percent and 50 percent respectively. The rough winter, and a hotter summer, may have impacted birds more in the peripheral parts of the pheasant range.

Some years, weather is blamed for suppressing pheasant count numbers. Not in 2023. “Survey conditions were ideal this year. Cooler and dewy mornings, despite the drought, were ideal,” says Lyons. Believe the survey numbers.

It should be a good year for pheasant hunting in Minnesota. It would almost be hard to pick a bad area to hunt in those core Southwestern West Central and South Central areas. As Lyons said, winter didn’t kill all the birds because pheasants are so tough and, as we all know in our hearts, it is nesting and brood-rearing success that makes or breaks a hunting season.

Habitat is always the answer.


Let’s take our annual tour around Minnesota’s pheasant range and see what folks on the ground are saying.

Southwestern Minnesota / Scott Rall

In the 10 years I have been helping with the DNR roadside pheasant count, this is the highest number of birds I have seen on my 3 routes.

One really cool aside is that I usually see no Hungarian partridge, or very few. Every few years I will see 2 or 3 Huns. This year I saw 27. I haven’t seen that many partridge around in 15 or 20 years. I would not say they are plentiful, but they have enjoyed a substantial increase. I understand they do better the drier conditions are, and we are dry here going into fall.

That dry weather helped the pheasant hatch and provided good brood-rearing conditions. This was the first year in the last 7 or 8 that we didn’t get 10-plus inches of rain between May 10 and July 10.

The habitat down here looks spectacular. I can’t even explain it. It has been very dry. But the farmers got just enough rain at just the right times, and that helped the prairie habitat too. Still, it is dry. Lakes are low. Streams are not flowing. The ground will be crunchy if we don’t get rain. Birds are here, but they will know you are coming, so hunt smart.

Scott Rall is a Pheasants Forever stalwart and chapter leader from Worthington.

Western Minnesota Border Country / Gary Hauck

Usually I am a bit skeptical on what the roadside count numbers say for our area, but this year I can believe it. I am seeing many more birds than last year at this time.

The other day I took the dog out for a walk at a new place, and we saw 15 birds on one short stretch of field road. And those birds were all different sizes – big ones, roosters just starting to color up, and little chicks too. It was great to see. And as I drive around, I see birds on almost every road.

Last winter was harsh, for sure. We lost birds, for sure. But enough got through. And then we had these great hatch conditions. With pheasants, it is all about the hatch. May and June were nice. There were no flooding rain events. It was about perfect for nesting and brood rearing.

It is going to be a very good hunting season out here. But it is dry. I predict that, because of those dry conditions, much of the crop will be in by the opener. That bodes well for hunting.

One caution is this, though. Hunters should know that some WMA habitat has been mowed for hay due to the drought conditions, so be prepared. A drive through eastern South Dakota recently revealed similar results on the landscape there: Many CREP and other lands have been opened to haying.

PF supporter and chapter leader Gary Hauck hails from Laq qui Parle County. He picks off a few roosters most every week of the season.

West-Central Minnesota / Chad Bloom

I believe the roadside counts this year. I think they are right on the money for our neck of the “fields,” and we may even be a little better than “fair” and well into “good” here in Kandiyohi, Meeker, Pope, Stevens and Swift Counties. Southwestern Stearns too.

The biggest thing here is our fantastic habitat. Man, it looks good. You always have a chance here. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s partnership with PF does great things here, and DNR lands are ever improving for habitat. There is plenty of public and public-access land to hunt.

The corn is well along, well ahead of where it was the last few years, and I think we will see substantial harvest of the fields before the opener. It will be a big opening day, and the rest of the season should be good too.

I have been out hiking with the dogs regularly, and moving birds every time out. There aren’t any big, big broods that I have seen, but there are plenty of smaller broods, plus solo roosters. Some birds are small yet, and they will color up later in the season for a new batch of birds to hunt. You will find birds here.

Chad Bloom is a serious uplander and good friend of PF who works for the Ruffed Grouse Society. He lives in the Willmar area and keeps a pulse on the habitat and birds around his region.

Morris Area / Dave Jungst

Things are looking better now compared to what we all thought and worried about, out here in the middle of that crushing winter. Three feet of snow is usual for us but we had a lot more than that, I can’t even tell you how much. But birds made it through … enough so that we have had a good nesting season.

The weather, which has turned especially dry as of late, was ideal – warm and mainly dry -- for hatching and raising broods. All that snowmelt surely helped the habitat get a good head start in spring.

I have been seeing birds in the road ditches, and in the fields, as I travel the area for work here in Stevens, Grant and area counties. It has been very, very dry through August into September, but the conditions haven’t seemed to hinder the birds’ ability to pull off broods.

We are seeing a nice mix of bird sizes even now, on the fringe of fall – roosters coloring up, half-grown birds, and chicks on the small side … which indicates that some re-nesting has happened for birds that lost nests.

I have not seen much emergency haying around here, which is a good thing for the pheasants. I think we have had just enough rain, and at the right times, to hold that off. The habitat looks really good in spots and pockets within the fields.

If this dry pattern keeps up, we should have an early corn harvest, and that will be good for early season hunting. That grain should be dry for the producers too – we hope, a very profitable year.

I have one pretty good tip for a dry year like this. Work toward and around water sources. Creeks. Ditches. Sloughs. Lake sides. You name it. The habitat will be thicker there, and the birds will like that. On warm early season days, it is cooler there too.

I am looking forward to my second season with my little setter Ellie. She had a nice season last year at 6 months of age, and this year, with some experience under her belt, we are excited to get on some more birds. They are out there.

Out in the border country near Morris, one of the birthplaces of Pheasants Forever, Dave Jungst of the DNR’s native prairie unit, as well as a pheasant hunter and PF fan, keeps tabs on the birds for us.

Marshall Area / Troy Dale

I think it is going to be a very good season for hunters in this whole area, from Murray over to Lincoln county and the whole area. We had good conditions for running the roadside routes, and you can see the results in the DNR report.

On one route, I saw 30 to 40 more birds this year than did when running it last year, which was in itself a good year.

Then on Monday September 11 I went out for a walk, and there were broods everywhere – running around, little roosters sounding off.

Yes, last winter was hard. But wildlife, especially pheasants, are so much tougher than we humans give them credit for. Still, if you had asked me in March, I would have said we’d have a fair hunting season at best. But the hatch was good. The young birds had plenty of hoppers to eat too.

There is some emergency mowing and grazing so be aware, but the amount of that activity going on is not as significant as past years. Conditions are still very dry. Be ready to head into cattail basins, which will be dry, and work for birds.

We have already had some combining of corn goibg on, and I think the farmers will finish that off before the beans this year. That is good.

The Marshall area is popular. We are going to have birds, and we always have hunters. Be prepared to share the fields, be courteous. There is room for everybody.

Troy Dale is assistant wildlife manager for the Minnesota DNR in the Marshall area. He stays busy working, and coaching hockey for his boys, but he gets in plenty of hunting so don’t feel too sorry for him.


It is dry down here, and there is some emergency haying going on in CRP, but the habitat on wildlife areas is looking good.

We are seeing good numbers of broods – not as many now, but more at the beginning of summer. So it seems like the first hatch was strong. Nesting conditions were really good.

There are a lot of big roosters running around … winter survival must have been good, even though that winter was bad.

With the emergency haying happening, birds might be more concentrated in marginal habitat, so don’t overlook ditches, tree groves, odd and weedy corners, and the like.

The roadside count seems like it was right on and accurate this year for our neck of the prairie. We always have a swath of “fair” bird numbers here. Pipestone County doesn’t have as much CRP as the surrounding counties, but where there is habitat there will be birds.

Marty Wollin is longtime chapter president of Pipestone County Pheasants Forever.


If you complain about not having a place to hunt in Minnesota, you like to complain. Hundreds of thousands of acres of Minnesota’s 1.3 million acres of wildlife management areas (WMA) lands fall within its pheasant range, as do tens of thousands of acres of the waterfowl production areas (WPA). With its partners, Pheasants Forever plays a key role in securing many of these lands for wildlife, for hunting and for many other styles of outdoor recreation.

And Minnesota’s Walk-in Access (WIA) program continues to provide public hunting opportunities on private lands already enrolled in existing conservation programs or with natural habitat. The program has grown each year since inception and in 2023, and it features more than 250 sites totaling more than 29,000 acres, primarily in the South Central, Southwest, and West Central regions – pheasant country.

To start exploring all these lands, visit the Minnesota DNR’s pheasant hunting page, and spoke out from there.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Missouri


By Ryan Sparks

Last year, Missouri’s pheasant population was both higher than the year before and higher than the long-term average. This year is shaping up to be even better.

“Our winter was pretty good,” said Beth Emmerich, research scientist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “We didn’t have any snow that stuck around too long, and our nesting season has been pretty darn good here in Missouri.”

Andrew White, Missouri state coordinator for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, agreed that winter and spring weather was favorable for upland birds.

“Our winter was fairly mild, and spring nesting season was probably one of the best I’ve seen in the last several years,” he said.

Both Emmerich and White have been getting positive reports from their staff. They have also personally seen an increase in pheasants.

“Our agents just finished the roadside survey for this year, and I’ve been hearing good reports from people who are seeing more and bigger broods than last year,” said Emmerich. “I live in northeastern Missouri in a place where we typically don’t have many pheasants, and I’ve seen a few so far this year. If they are in places they aren’t usually, I consider that a good sign. I’m cautiously optimistic.”

White gave a similar report.

“Any time my staff has been out I’ve been getting significantly positive reports with the amount of birds and broods we are seeing,” he said. “All in all, I would say things are trending upwards for pheasants.”

Emmerich noted that what is good for Missouri pheasants is also good for Missouri quail, and she estimates quail hunters will also see an uptick in coveys.


Pheasant hunters should look to northern Missouri for the highest concentration of birds.

“Our core pheasant area is the top two or three tiers of counties in the state,” said Emmerich. “We have pheasants across the entire northern portion of Missouri, and the northwest is generally known as the best place to find pheasants. There are still pheasants in the northeast, but they are more of a bonus bird when you are hunting quail.”

White suggests homing in on areas with the best habitat to find more pheasants.

“There are pockets of birds scattered across the northern part of the state,” he said. “The closer to the Iowa border you get, the wider expanses of grasslands you encounter and the more pheasants you will find. A lot of people focus on the northwest, which is good, but north-central Missouri also has a good density of birds.”

Hunters should check the Missouri Department of Conservation’s interactive map showing conservation areas and Missouri Recreational Access Program sites (MRAP), where private land is leased for hunter access. Hunters also shouldn’t overlook Missouri’s Quail Restoration Landscapes, (QRL) where habitat work on both public and private land has led to quail densities of up to a bird per acre. Pheasant and quail habitat often overlaps, and you will often find both birds in QRLs.

“Those are all excellent resources for hunters,” said Emmerich. “I like to use it because it shows both the private walk-in and public land areas. If someone is planning a trip, it is a good way to narrow in on some good spots to hunt.”


Missouri’s youth pheasant season is Oct. 28–29. The regular pheasant season is Nov. 1– Jan. 15, 2024. The bag limit is 2 roosters daily, with 4 in possession. A foot or fully-feathered head must be left attached during transportation and storage. Missouri’s quail season matches its pheasant season dates.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Montana


By Jack Hutson

Montana remains one of the premier upland hunting destinations in the country. Pheasants can be found in all seven of Montana’s game regions but, historically, the three regions in our survey (7, 6 & 4) have been among the most productive.

We contacted experts from these regions for their pheasant forecast and to answer the question: “Will Montana’s Big Sky be filled with pheasants this fall?”


Successive years of drought and the harsh winter of 2022-23 have taken a toll on upland bird populations in Region 4.

But Matt Strauch, FW&P regional upland bird and habitat specialist, believes things might be looking up a bit for pheasants. “Habitat conditions are looking up compared to that of 2021 and 2022,” he said. “According to National Weather Service climate data, the winter gave us slightly above average precipitation and slightly below average temperatures around the region.”

Going into the spring with good moisture, the fair weather fortunes continued. “With only a few isolated spring storms and ideal habitat conditions, the outlook on nest success looks promising,” reported Strauch.

Improved nesting cover, along with plentiful hoppers as a good source of protein for young poults, should mean a few more birds, but Strauch remains cautious, “Although the habitat is there, crow count surveys for pheasants varied throughout the region and the overall count shows pheasant numbers remain far short of the historical average.”

Strauch observed, “With increased habitat and counts below long-term averages, birds will likely be widely dispersed throughout the landscape.”

If you’re looking to put a few roosters in the vest this fall and central Montana is your upland bird destination, seek locations with premium cover to reduce boot-mileage. Use apps, such as onX Hunt, to locate publicly accessible property with riparian areas of tall-standing cover near agriculture. Refer to past (and present) weather conditions when selecting locations to begin your successful hunt this season.


Based on snowfall accumulation and temperature, the National Weather Service rated northeast Montana’s winter in the severe to extreme category. “That certainly impacted birds to some degree with a bit higher winter mortality than usual,” reports Ken Plourde, the region’s Upland Bird Specialist for FW&P.

“However, we did avoid any long-term crusty snow or icing over food sources, which is typically what causes much worse impacts to pheasant populations in this area,” Plourde added.

Plourde recalled, “Winter conditions lasted well into April which likely delayed nesting for all species in our region by a week or so.” Partially funded by Pheasants Forever, Stephanie Berry, is a Farm Bill Biologist with the NRC, based in Scobie, MT. Her experience echoed Plourde’s with an added comment: “Once winter released its grip, the spring was a bit on the wet side but warm.”

Berry commented further: “Conditions seem improved, especially compared to last year, and there’s good cover throughout the region for upland birds.”

Plourde agreed, adding: “The above average snowfall and the good precipitation that followed in May created good conditions and led to much better nesting cover than we have seen in several years.”

Both mentioned that good cover and grasshoppers-a-plenty should provide amply for this year’s pheasant recruitment.

“Brood observations across the region seem to indicate pheasant numbers will be relatively similar to last year,” said Plourde.

What can hunters expect this fall in northeastern Montana?

Plourde summed it up: “The western portion of the region has experienced a greater drop in pheasant numbers due to four of the last five years being in drought. They will likely see some improvement in numbers while the eastern areas should be similar to last season.”

Berry was optimistic: “Based on habitat conditions, especially compared to the last couple years, the pheasants (and therefore, those that seek pheasants) should have a good fall.”


Justin Hughes, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FW&P) Upland Bird Specialist for Region 7, said, “Pheasants on the eastern side of the region experienced a long winter that was filled with lots of wind and snow.” But not all the news was bad, he added. “Overall, pheasants appeared to winter fairly well thanks to the snow not crusting over too much and the wind blowing lots of areas open in fields allowing birds to access feed.”

“Spring nesting conditions were good once things got warmed up and we were able to shake the winter,” said Hughes. “There was a week of cold and wet weather at the end of June during our peak hatch period that impacted some nesting/brooding attempts across the region.”

“But as the summer has progressed into August, we began seeing some broods exhibiting the characteristics of a second nest attempt,” he added.

Also based out of Miles City, Natural Resources Conservation Service biologist Martin Ellenburg, had this to say about local habitat conditions: “The excellent spring conditions were a double-edged sword when it came to regional hay fields. With adequate moisture, many farmers were able to add an extra (late) cutting of hay in some areas.” Ellenburg was quick to add, “I’ve seen good signs when it comes to over-wintering adult and young pheasants this summer.”

Hughes sees two sides to the issue of the spring weather, as well. “Due to the amount of spring moisture, there were late plantings in much of the areas of ag where pheasants might be found.” He continued, “That can mean a fair amount of standing cropland through September and into October.” Hughes warns: “The large amounts of vegetation on the landscape are full of grass seeds and awns. I would recommend folks check their medic bag prior to coming and make sure they are properly stocked with first aid items for their dog.”

Both experts also agreed that the habitat and hoppers should bolster bird numbers. Yes, the conditions seem ripe for this fall’s harvest of roosters. What can hunters expect?

“Anticipate that birds will be very spread out on the landscape and may be occupying habitats or areas that you may not typically think to look for pheasants,” Hughes suggests. Ellenburg added: “There is loads of access available, some remain untapped. However, much of the ag land where pheasants congregate will require some door-knocking to gain access.”

Hughes added one last bit of advice. “If hunters are struggling to find birds, I would recommend making a large move to find areas that have produced birds. While boot leather has a strong reputation for putting birds in the bag, sometimes tires can be just as effective.”


Don’t overlook Hungarian (Huns or Grey) partridge possibilities during your hunt! Likewise, sharp-tailed grouse.

Take the time to thank landowners and those responsible for the incredible amount of opportunity they provide for hunting access. Follow the requested rules on permission, and keep evidence of our intrusions as minimal as possible. By being respectful visitors, we can help ensure that these lands are there for many memorable trips to come!

Montana Limits, License, and Fees

» Pheasant Limits: Daily – 3 / Possession – 9

» Huns Limits: Daily – 8 / Possession - 32

» Base Hunting License: $10 for residents, $15 for non-residents. Conservation Fee: $4 for residents ages 12-17 and over 62 / $8 Ages 18-61 years. For nonresidents the cost is $10.

» Season Upland Bird License: Residents (ages 18 – 61) $7.50 / $3.75, ages 12-17* and seniors (62+) or Disabled. Nonresidents (ages 18 and over) $110 / $55, ages 12-17* /. Note: Ages 10 & 11 may be eligible, see regs for complete information.

» 3-day Upland Bird License: $50 for nonresidents. Note: Not valid for pheasants during the opening week of pheasant season.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Nebraska


By Jenny Prenosil

As the days cool, dove season kicks off and prairie grouse hunting begins, it is time to start thinking about pheasant season in Nebraska. We can bet you and your pup are antsy counting down for Nebraska’s pheasant hunting season running October 28, 2023 – January 31, 2024. It’s also time to put a reminder in your phone for the youth season opener on Oct 21, 2023, to encourage the next generation of hunters to share in the passion.


In Nebraska, pheasant numbers respond favorably to acres enrolled in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Although they are readily found in almost any grassy field, taking a look at what is going on with CRP in an area is a good hint of habitat conditions.

According to Byran O’Conner, Upland Bird Program Manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC), March and April were dry, resulting in poor habitat conditions to start. Widespread rains began to pick up during the nesting season. These rains eased the two-year drought much of Nebraska was experiencing, particularly in the central and western parts of the state. This bodes well for habitat going into the fall, as the rains promoted plant growth providing cover.

The additional rains also seemed to have boosted brood-rearing cover. “Brood cover looks great statewide, lots of forbs and insects” states O’Conner. The stress of previous years’ drought allowed for a flush of forbs and wildflowers attracting insects, an important food source for pheasant chicks.

Portions of eastern Nebraska remain in drought conditions, resulting in approved emergency haying or grazing on CRP fields, according to PF Farm Bill Biologist Rob van Leishout located in northeastern Nebraska. Shots of growing season rains allowed for regrowth on many of those sites, resulting in a mosaic of habitat height and structure. Diversity in habitat allows a field to better provide the various covers needed for all the life stages of a pheasant throughout the year.

Although habitat conditions in Nebraska seem to be better overall compared to previous years, emergency haying and grazing was still authorized in many counties due to the early dry conditions. Be sure to scout ahead of opening day to check if your target areas were one of your favorite fields was hayed or grazed this year.


Last winter, Nebraska did see above average snowfall in much of the state. The snowfall did appear to be localized and not widespread, and so its impact on pheasants is probably variable across the landscape. The good news? The summer rains came at a good time for nesting and brood-rearing. Hens should have good success in raising broods.

Pheasant Forever’s Senior Farm Bill Biologist John McClinton, located in southeast Nebraska, echoes O’Conner’s assessment of habitat conditions. “It was a good year for native grass growth,” McClinton says, “and we didn’t have cold wet rains early. This should have been good for pheasant numbers”.

Southwest Nebraska always comes to mind for Nebraska pheasant hunters to hit up at least once per season. O’Conner emphasizes that this part of the state is in a rebounding stage. Drought over the last two years was harsh on habitat, it may take a few seasons for hunters to notice an increase in bird numbers.

According to NGPC’s July Mail Carrier Survey, pheasant age ratios were lower in all regions except the central and southeast. Pheasant abundance this fall will largely depend on summer production. You can read the full mail carrier surveys here:


Nebraska has 346,027 acres enrolled in the Open Fields and Waters Program, in addition to many other public lands available. Be sure to grab the latest copy of the Public Access Atlas prior to heading into the field. There were many updates, including losing some fields but gaining new fields elsewhere.

Nebraska also publishes a Stubble Guide, which shows fields of wheat stubble available for public access. This is a separate publication that comes out after Public Access Atlas. Nebraska’s atlas can also be accessed online here.

“Our access sites are actually looking pretty decent, with a mosaic of habitat structure from late summer regrowth” says Rob van Leishout of northeastern Nebraska.


One very important tip for hunters going into this fall is to get your hunting permit well ahead of opening day. Nebraska Game and Parks updated their website for purchasing permits in January of 2023. If you haven’t checked it out already, it can be a little bit confusing navigating it the first time. As with all changes, it’ll be a no brainer after you’ve been on once or twice.

Rob van Leishout has one more tip for hunters chasing Nebraska roosters: “The larger access blocks historically receive plenty of upland hunter traffic. To mitigate public pressure, your hunting options may be looking to weedy field buffers, unfarmable sloughs, or standing crop stubble.”

Before you head out on your Nebraska adventure, take advantage of all the tools available to you. If you are able, scout ahead of time and converse with locals. At the very least grab the latest Public Access Atlas and consider trying new and overlooked areas. If you decide to target areas with the higher pheasant age ratios such as southeastern parts of the state, be ready to take advantage of a mixed bag. Anywhere there is cover, you can find a bonus covey of quail. Your tired dog at the end of the day will thank you for that!

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: North Dakota


By Anthony Hauck

Preliminary numbers from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual late-summer numbers from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual late-summer roadside pheasant brood counts indicate hunters should see quite an increase in the number of birds afield this fall as compared to 2022. Statewide, numbers from the August count were up 61 percent from last year.

It’s an upward trend, as last year, 51,270 pheasant hunters (up 9 percent) harvested 286,970 roosters (up 10 percent).

Unsurprisingly, the northwestern and southwestern parts of the state will offer the best pheasant hunting opportunities this fall, the same counties that held the highest percentage of pheasants harvested last year. They include Divide and Williams counties in the northwest and Bowman, Hettinger, and Stark in the southwest.

What is pleasantly surprising, according to department officials, is the position the pheasant population is in following the 2022-2023 winter, one that dropped more than 100+ inches of snow across most of the state — not part of the standard recipe for boosting upland bird populations.

The results of the state’s spring crowing count survey showed an uptick in breeding roosters throughout the entire pheasant range. According to Rodney Gross, Upland Game Biologist with North Dakota Game and Fish, the number of roosters heard calling was up anywhere from 10 to 38 percent throughout the state’s best pheasant range.

Gross attributes this carryover in part to last year’s improved production (more birds on the landscape heading into winter), and the shape birds were in heading into winter (thanks to an abundance of food last summer and fall). Then timely thaws helped spell pheasants from winter’s worst.

Once the snowpack melted for good, Gross said that the excess moisture, coupled with timely rains that followed, left grassland habitat lush for those first and best nesting attempts.

Emily Spolyar, Pheasants Forever’s State Coordinator in North Dakota, gets a daily dose of pheasant country from her residence in Regent in the state’s southwest corner. “The habitat looks great,” Spolyar said, “Wetlands are recharged. We’ve gotten consistent rainfall. And the summer weather treated us and the birds pretty well.”


That’s what the summer survey says, too, according to Gross. A big reason why the statewide number jumped is there was simply more nest success. Brood numbers topped last year by 70 percent, buoyed by 91 percent increases in the number of broods in both the northwest and southwest regions.

In the regional breakdown, the northwest leads the way with excellent pheasant numbers across the region. The roadside survey indicated nearly 113 birds/per 100-mile route. The southwest is no slouch, holding good pheasant numbers with the survey showing 86 birds/100 miles. The southeast district has been down the past couple of years, so the 42 percent increase there might not be as quite as dramatic as it reads, but pheasants on the survey checked in at a respectable 48 birds/100 miles.

Tyler Webster recently started the Souris Valley Chapter of Pheasants Forever that covers McHenry, Mountrail and Ward counties across north-central and northwest North Dakota. In his region, bird production has been good. And on top of more broods, the number of chicks in those broods is pushing into double digits across the upland board — for pheasants, gray partridge, and sharp-tailed grouse.

Speaking of mixed bags, the outlook for hunting these other upland birds this year is just as rosy. Sharptail numbers appear to be up. Partridge numbers too.

According to Jesse Kolar, Upland Game Management Supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, partridge reproduction has been above average for the past five years, and the numbers of the covey birds are higher than they’ve been in 20 years. According to Kolar, the statewide average partridge brood size by mid-August was around 11 chicks per brood, and 2.8 chicks per adult.

Many resident and nonresident pheasant hunters rely heavily on North Dakota’s walk-in hunting version, the Private Land Open To Sportsmen (PLOTS) program. Kevin Kading, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s PLOTS Coordinator, reports about 5,000 more acres were enrolled in the program this year, keeping the total over 800,000 acres statewide. Kading adds that these acres open to public access are thanks to upwards of 2,800 private landowners who have entered their lands into the PLOTS program. As a friendly reminder, nonresidents are not allowed to hunt on these PLOTS, or Game and Fish Department wildlife management areas, during the first seven days of the pheasant season, October 7-13 in 2023.


Unlike other states, private lands in North Dakota are open to hunting unless posted. Lands posted as closed to hunting can be marked either with physical signs or electronically on digital map applications (PLOTS maps, onX maps, etc.), or both. Hunters must determine if the land has been physically or electronically posted prior to entering. Because landowner contact information is available when using the online options of the map applications, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department encourages hunters to contact and speak with the landowner before hunting any unposted private lands.

Season Dates

» Ring-necked pheasant: October 7, 2023 – Jan. 7, 2024

» Sharp-tailed Grouse & Gray Partridge: Sept. 9, 2023 – Jan. 7, 2024

» Shooting hours: 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset


» Nonresident Small Game License: (must choose between one 14-consecutive-day or two 7-consecutive-day license periods and may purchase more than one license per year) - $100

» Nonresident Small Game License under age 16: (same period choice as above) - $10

» Resident Small Game License: $10

» Shooting hours: 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset

» The above prices do not include the General Game and Habitat License, which is required - $20

Pheasant Daily Bag & Possession Limits

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Guides & Maps

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Ohio


By Andy Fondrick

After a seemingly average winter and dry but manageable conditions through the spring, habitat in Ohio looks to be in better shape for pheasants this fall than the past few years. While numbers remain low overall, there are still some great opportunities to test the healthy cover and find pheasants in The Buckeye State this fall.


Outside of a few cold snaps, last winter was kind to upland birds in Ohio. Low precipitation levels and dry conditions through most of the spring also should have provided ideal nesting conditions.

“Overall, the 2022-23 winter was fairly mild in Ohio,” says Joseph Lautenbach, wildlife biologist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), “There were very few cold snaps and little snow cover.”

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Ohio State Coordinator, Cody Grasser, mentioned there was really only one significant cold stretch he could remember in December that may have negatively affected winter survival rates.

“Across Ohio’s pheasant range, spring and summer average temperatures were near or slightly above average,” Lautenbach said. “Precipitation, especially during April, May, and June, was below average.”

Grasser agreed with Lautenbach that favorable spring and weather conditions helped nesting and brood-rearing birds this year. “Spring and summer weather in Ohio was relatively mild outside of isolated heavy rainfall events and some dry spells. In fact, much of Ohio was abnormally dry for a while in May and June, and then bounced back a bit later in the summer. This early dry weather could have helped nesting and young brood rearing. Conditions for nesting and brood-rearing were probably better than what we have seen on average over the past few years.”


According to Lautenbach, Upland habitat on public Wildlife Areas with wild pheasant populations looks excellent going into fall. Division of Wildlife staff members have been working to control invasive species, remove woody plants encroaching into grassland habitats, conduct prescribed fires, and increase diversity of grasslands by planting native forbs into warm-season grass fields.

In general, Ohio has seen a decrease in land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). However, Ohio's most successful conservation program, the Scioto River Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), continues to provide excellent pheasant cover in central Ohio. This program provides thousands of acres of grassland habitat in central Ohio. Many of the wild pheasants in Ohio occur within the Scioto River CREP corridor.

Lautenbach added that the state conducts annual roadside crow-count surveys each spring. Preliminary results show that the 2023 spring population index was in line with the past three years. Anecdotal reports from staff and the public suggest that the pheasant hatch was similar to past years as well.

“The amount and quality of upland habitat in Ohio is steadily improving,” says Grasser. “On the private lands front we have seen good enrollment numbers in farm bill programs like CRP and EQIP, and Pheasants Forever and other conservation partners in the state have added to the number of wildlife professionals available to assist landowners in successfully restoring and/or enhancing quality habitat. In the past, year Pheasants Forever entered an agreement with ODNR's Division of Wildlife on a Habitat Share program that aims to enhance upland habitat on public land, to build on existing efforts to improve and increase upland habitat acres available to hunt on public land.”


Lautenbach offered a few key areas to target if you’re looking to chase birds in Ohio this fall.

“Visiting Deer Creek Wildlife Area and nearby Wildlife Production Areas in south-central Ohio (in Madison, Pickaway, Ross and Fayette counties) can be very productive,” he said. “Deer Creek Wildlife Area is managed with crops and grassland interspersed throughout the area, creating excellent pheasant habitat. Hunters can easily visit a few Wildlife Production Areas in a day with a number of them in close proximity and can be very productive, especially after crops are harvested on adjacent private lands.”

Lautenbach also suggests Big Island Wildlife Area (Marion County). Surrounding private lands are popular for many of Ohio’s wild pheasant hunters. “Big Island Wildlife Area provides large blocks of grassland habitat,” he said. “Pheasants may be readily found on many fields of the wildlife area. Many surrounding landowners are enrolled in CRP, providing excellent private land opportunity as well.”

Lake La Su An Wildlife Area (Williams County) and surrounding private lands with suitable cover in Fulton, Williams and Defiance counties are also popular destinations for pheasant hunters in Ohio. The wildlife area provides a mix of cropland and large grasslands and is interspersed with forest and wetlands. Lautenbach mentioned that CRP grasslands on private lands can provide excellent opportunities in this corner of the state.

“For many years the Scioto River watershed, as well as the extreme northwestern corner of the state, have provided the best pheasant hunting opportunities in Ohio,” he said. “There are some good public land hunting opportunities in these areas, along with some walk-in access opportunities through ODNR's OLHAP program, as well as plenty of CRP on private land where you can seek out hunting permission from the landowner.”

Visit the Ohio Division of Wildlife website to find public land hunting opportunities.


When it comes to hunting pheasants and upland birds in Ohio, Grasser had a few recommendations.

“Seek out habitat with some diversity in structure and plant species where birds are likely finding good cover and/or forage, and then thoroughly hunt those areas,” he said. “Make adjustments as the season progresses and food sources and/or habitat needs change, particularly after snowfall. Birds on public land will get jumpy further into the season and may require a change in strategy as well, or more patience.”

Lautenbach also provided a few tips for successful pheasant hunts in The Buckeye State this fall.

“If hunters prefer to hunt public lands, going during the week often results in fewer hunters and can improve the quality of the hunt,” he suggests. “With a little bit of effort, folks can find some of the less visited portions of the wildlife areas, even during the busy weekends. ​Securing permission to hunt on private lands with CRP or CREP in central Ohio is another way to avoid crowds. While there are excellent opportunities on our Wildlife Areas and Wildlife Production Areas, the private lands typically get a lot less pressure.”


Pheasant season in Ohio runs from Nov. 3–Jan. 13. As a reminder, the small game season, including pheasants, no longer closes during the deer gun season (Nov. 27–Dec. 3). However, all hunters must where orange during that timeframe.

Ohio DNR, Division of Wildlife has a relatively new private lands access program. This program provides additional access to pheasant hunting opportunities. More information on the Ohio Landowner/Hunter Access Partnership is available on the Ohio DNR website.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Oklahoma


By Ryan Sparks

The takeaway going into Oklahoma’s 2023 pheasant season: Not much has changed.

“We had a fairly mild winter, which was good for our birds, but heavy spring rain and hail might have offset the easy winter,” said Tell Judkins, upland game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Judkins mentioned that while habitat is looking good in many places, many summer bird surveys are still being collected so the jury is still out regarding exact bird numbers.

“I can’t give specific numbers right now,” he said, “but from what I’ve seen so far our crow counts show pheasant numbers are slightly down.”

Both Judkins and Laura McIver, Pheasants Forever’s Regional Field Representative for Oklahoma, are hopeful that the remaining reports prove otherwise.

“The drought we’ve had the last few years really knocked back our bird numbers,” noted McIver. “It took a while for them to come back, and we are just starting to see that rebound in my opinion.”

McIver mentioned she has been hearing great reports from Oklahoma’s core pheasant area in the northern part of the state. She has also seen a high number of ditch birds while driving to various chapter events throughout the region.

“I’m very optimistic,” she said, “but I won’t count my chickens before they hatch because our weather is so unpredictable.”

“Oklahoma is on the fringe of pheasant country, so we are never going to be the Dakotas,” added Judkins. “It should be fairly similar to what hunters experienced last year, with some location-specific changes based on the weather. The big thing I would say is to get out there, trust your dog, work some ground, and make some memories. You will have a lot better time looking for birds than sitting on the couch thinking about it.”

For more specific pheasant numbers, hunters can consult the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation website in late September for Judkins’ annual 2023 Pheasant Season Outlook.


Hunters should concentrate efforts in the area north of Highway-41, specifically Cimarron, Alfalfa, Grant, Texas, Beaver and Woodward counties.

“Our pheasants are fairly concentrated in Oklahoma,” Judkins said. “Woodward would be a good spot to start looking. That area has a lot of access for both pheasant and quail, and there are birds there.”

Judkins also noted that north-central Oklahoma is reporting good numbers of birds, but public access is limited.

McIver agreed but mentioned that asking for permission to hunt private land can pay off.

“There are some counties that have very little public access, but the landowners in those areas do a fantastic job of keeping areas aside for birds,” she said. “They truly do help take care of our wildlife with some fantastic habitat. Asking permission on those places never hurts. Be sure to thank them if they let you hunt, not just for permission, but for protecting upland bird habitat.”

For those looking for public access, McIver recommends consulting the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation website ( for interactive maps showing WMAs and OLAP (Oklahoma’s walk-in program) sites.


Oklahoma’s pheasant season runs from December 1 to January 31, 2024. The daily limit is 2 roosters. The possession limit is 4 roosters after the first day.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Oregon


By Casey Sill

Upland trips to Oregon almost always center around quail. But while roosters continue to play second fiddle in the Pacific Northwest, wild birds can still be found where quality habitat exists. A wet winter was likely beneficial to the population, and fall 2023 should see stable pheasant numbers across the state.


After several dry years in a row, winter hit hard in parts of Oregon in 2022-23. The eastern portion of the state in particular saw high snowfall totals, which was not necessarily a bad thing for pheasants.

“It was really nice to see some snowpack out in the desert,” said Mikal Cline, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s upland game bird coordinator. “It’s going to take more than that to make up for all of the dry weather we’ve had in the last several years, but it was a nice shot in the arm for us — major improvement I’d say, in terms of winter precipitation.”

Spring came late across Oregon and may have delayed nesting briefly for higher elevation birds, but likely did not affect pheasants.

“For our pheasants it was still kind of a late spring, but I don’t think it had a big impact as far as I could tell,” Cline said. “They’re at low enough elevations that the winter was really beneficial in the long run.”


Long-term pheasant numbers are not overly positive across the state, which isn’t a new development. Cline said limits to habitat have relegated wild birds to what’s left of Oregon’s permanent cover.

“I think we’re limited by our grain production, and how that’s actually farmed,” she said. “Things tend to be pretty clean where they’re putting in wheat and things like that. Our pheasant population is not expanding, but it is fairly steady in places.”

While bird numbers are not in boom or bust, Cline did say 2023 does look more positive than negative for pheasants across Oregon.

“In general, the habitat conditions are good and the brood rearing conditions were good,” she said. “The one particular district I have heard from sounds like they have plenty of chicks on the ground.”


North-central Oregon’s Columbia Basin is traditionally a stronghold for pheasants, and Cline said that continues to be true.

“When we talk about pheasants in Oregon, mostly I’m thinking about the Columbia Basin,” she said. “That’s where you’re going to find birds, and where there is still CRP mixed in, as well as some seasonal and emergent wetlands that birds can use for winter cover. This is all anecdotal because I don’t have the data yet, but it seems like it might be a better year than usual for our pheasants in that area.”

The western reaches of Oregon are not known for pheasant production, but hunting opportunities can still be found there, according to Brandon Dyches, Pheasants Forever’s hunt program coordinator in Oregon.

“Western Oregon’s wild pheasant population is still small and sporadic compared to years past, but a strong fee pheasant program at state wildlife areas provides quality hunting opportunities,” he said. “At Sauvie Island WA, E.E. Wilson WA and Denman WA, hunters on this side of the state enjoy the potential for mixed bag hunts of pheasant, quail and dove at these sites. Many consider the fee pheasant hunts a fantastic early-season warm up for chasing roosters on public land when that season opens in October. There are youth-specific hunts available as well.”


The Oregon pheasant season runs from October 14 to December 31, with a bag limit of 2 roosters per day. For more pheasant and upland game bird regulations, visit the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Upland Gamebirds Page.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: South Dakota


By Andrew Johnson

Thanks to timely rains and strong production, hopes run high that this year’s season could be similar — or perhaps even better — than the 2022 season

By many accounts, South Dakota’s 2022-2023 pheasant season was one of the most successful in recent memory. In fact, harvest surveys conducted by the state’s Game, Fish and Parks Department estimate that hunters bagged north of 1.15 million pheasants last year — the highest total in the last five years.

The real story from last year, however, was that winter came early and stayed late. Starting the week before Christmas, round after round of snow — often in the form of days-long blizzards — coupled with long stretches of sub-zero weather were the norm rather than the exception, reminding pheasants (all wildlife, actually) and pheasant hunters how unrelenting a prairie winter can be.

And while there’s no doubt there was likely above-average pheasant mortality due to the harsh winter weather, recent field reports from around the state all point to the 2023 season being better than anticipated. Taking it a step further, many wildlife officials believe it will rival last year’s season thanks to strong production this spring.


When spring finally did arrive in South Dakota, the added moisture from all the snowmelt gave residual habitat, which is critical for nesting success, a much-needed shot in the arm. To make things even better, timely rains arrived throughout most of the state just in time for peak nesting season.

That surge in spring nesting cover, combined with a stronger-than-expected carryover of adult birds that survived the winter, made for ideal nesting conditions across the pheasant belt, says Matt Gottlob, Pheasants Forever’s state coordinator in South Dakota.

“We had pretty good nesting conditions this spring, with just enough rain this summer to keep things green,” Gottlob says. “Up to this point, we’re seeing a good amount of broods, and the size of the broods has been average to above average.”


According to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor, most of the state is currently out of drought. However, while the state has had more precipitation and the habitat looks better than it did a year ago, dry conditions will still have an impact on how this fall’s hunt plays out.

“Emergency haying and grazing is going to have an impact on habitat, especially in counties in the southeast and also along the eastern half of the state,” Gottlob reports. “But I don’t see any conditions across South Dakota where we couldn’t expect a fall similar to last year, if not a little better in places.”

Even though emergency haying and grazing might mean less acres to hunt this fall, Gottlob says the important thing to remember is that grass was there during nesting and brood-rearing seasons. With that in mind, Gottlob has high hopes for this fall’s hunt.

“Based on conditions up to this point, I would anticipate we would have habitat conditions and bird numbers similar to last fall,” states Gottlob. “As long as we don’t have severe drought over the next month, month and a half, we’re going to be sitting pretty good.”


Aberdeen Area

Spring nesting habitat and summer brood-rearing conditions were ideal in and around Brown County, according to Casey Weismantel, executive director at the Aberdeen Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Weismantel also oversees, the digital outdoor arm of the Aberdeen CVB.

“We had perfect summertime temps and enough rain to produce the habitat needed for nesting and brood rearing,” Weismantel says. “This is also the second year in a row where strong bug numbers were available to produce the food source needed for the chicks. From what I am seeing and the reports we are getting from the guides, lodges and outfitters in the area, our brood numbers are strong. We are getting reports of six to 14 in a brood.”

Like most other places in the state, Weismantel expects haying and grazing to have an impact. He also believes hunters can benefit from the work the Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition has done to open up more public access to hunters.

“The Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition put more than 4,000 acres of habitat on the ground around the Aberdeen area, and it’s all open to the public,” Weismantel explains. “This is CRP acreage that’s designed for nesting habitat. After all, it is about the number of birds raised, not the number of birds harvested. Most of the state public hunting and APC acres circle around Aberdeen like a horseshoe, which means Aberdeen is literally sitting on the hot spot for public hunting access.

“Last fall was the best pheasant hunting we have seen for at least 10 years, and I feel like this year is shaping up to be a close second,” he concludes. “The best advice I can give is for hunters to do their homework, call ahead, visit and then bring your dogs, because we’ll wear them out.”

North Central – Campbell, Walworth and Edmunds Counties

In the north-central part of the state, Senior Farm Bill Biologist Tom Zinter says spring nesting conditions were favorable and that timely rains at the end of June provided a flush of vegetation and insects to sustain pheasant chicks through the above-average temperatures that followed later in summer.

“From what I have seen throughout August, it appears our area had good success from first nesters,” he contends. “A large majority of the broods that I have seen are reaching maturity, and they’re large broods, too, of 10-14 birds. Those signs have me hopeful that we will continue our upward trend in bird numbers that we experienced last year.”

As far as habitat goes, Zinter says it looks good going into the fall season, and he expects hunters to find success in the area again this year.

“Bird numbers are looking to be at a level that should provide ample opportunity,” he says. “I won’t categorize it as easy hunting, but with some effort you can find a lot of birds across the landscape. As always, finding areas with quality habitat is going to be key. There are definitely areas or pockets that have more birds than others. Proper hunt preparation and scouting for undisturbed habitat will help hunters find those areas that hold more birds.”

South Central – Lyman, Tripp and Gregory counties

Farm Bill Biologist Trent Walrod says spring nesting conditions were fair and brood-rearing conditions in the area have been favorable so far this year.

“We have also been quite lucky as of late since we have been able to catch some rains at the end of July and the beginning of August, so the habitat that is still standing is looking great going into fall,” he reports. “I think we can expect a bump in numbers from the long-term average, but I do believe that the numbers will be down from our bumper year we had last year. With the emergency haying declaration, I think we will see birds more grouped up than we have in the past, and with the hatch we’ve had I think those birds have been pushed into whatever standing cover they have around.”

Central – Beadle, Faulk, Hand, Hyde, Jerauld, Miner and Sanborn Counties

“This year was a good year for production,” says Justin Enfield, a PF farm bill biologist who covers Jerauld, Kingsbury, Miner and Sanborn counties. “It wasn’t perfect, by any means, but if you go out and walk you’re pushing birds up and running into broods in the field.”

Michael Hagan, a farm bill biologist who covers Hand, Hyde and Faulk counties, echoes those thoughts, saying spring nesting conditions were favorable for production.

“A lot of our fields of native grasses and forbs sprouted up quickly and provided early cover and nesting habitat,” Hagan says. “I have seen a good number of pheasant nests when walking through fields conducting site evaluations this summer. Personally, I feel really optimistic about gamebirds being abundant this fall due to a successful spring.”

Southeast – Hutchinson, Lake, Lincoln, McCook, Minnehaha and Turner Counties

And here are a few notes direct from your South Dakota pheasant hunting forecast author. Where I live in the southeastern part of the state, it has been abnormally dry. In fact, the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor map 31 shows that southeastern South Dakota is the driest part of the state, alternating between moderate and severe drought.

In this region, habitat conditions vary from poor to average, and a majority of CRP in the region has been cut. That said, the habitat absolutely looks healthier than it did last year, and I have been amazed at how many birds I saw during the spring and throughout the summer.

I did not get out and run my personal brood routes as I have in years past, but in talking with landowners, producers, rural mail carriers and agronomists with local seed companies, all the reports I’ve heard so far are that bird numbers in this area are on par with last year.


Don’t give up on an area if the habitat has been hayed or mowed. In years like this, where plenty of emergency haying has taken place due to lingering drought conditions, I look at it as a glass half-full scenario.

Because I often hunt on my own or in small groups of two or three hunters and a couple dogs, big patches of public ground can sometimes be intimidating. If half of it is cut, that reduces the amount of cover where birds can hide and loaf throughout the day and significantly increases my chances of finding them. On top of that, pheasants are known edge-dwellers, so any type of cut or break that creates edge habitat gives me another option to hunt.

Also, gone are the days where sweeping rain showers blanket large portions of the state. Rather, “popcorn” showers have become much more common, dropping heavy amounts of rain in isolated areas. This means habitat conditions can vary widely from one end of a county to another. So, if you’re not finding areas of quality habitat, take a 20-minute drive and chances are you’ll be in luck and find areas with better habitat and more birds.


South Dakota has a youth-only season that runs Sept. 30 to Oct. 8, and it’s followed by a resident-only season that opens Oct. 14 and closes Oct. 16. During youth season, hunters can hunt on public and private lands, while public lands are the only areas open during the resident-only season. Those two seasons are followed by South Dakota’s traditional pheasant season, which is open October 21 all the way to January 31, 2024.

Regardless of season, shooting hours are from 10 a.m. to sunset, and Central Time is used for opening shooting hours statewide. The daily limit is three rooster pheasants, with a possession limit of 15.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Texas


By Casey Sill

The record might seem like it’s on repeat as you read through some of these reports, with one word surfacing again and again. Drought has been a buzzword across much of the country’s pheasant range for multiple years, and no where is that more true than Texas.

As is the case with many states, good spring conditions have returned some optimism to anyone paying attention to upland birds. But while there are positives to talk about in the Lone Star State, it will take more than one wet season to recover from the last five years.


The Texas Panhandle and South Plains were unseasonably warm and dry last winter. These conditions followed a hot summer and mild fall, which reduced habitat quality across the state. A mid-winter storm dropped nearly ten inches of snow across the region, but outside of that weather system and a few other small pockets of snow, winter remained mild across the state.

“We all remember snowmagadeon in 2021, and compared to that winter, we were definitely mild,” said Thomas Janke, Pheasants Forever’s Texas state coordinator. “We had very few snow events in the state this year and outside of a few spotty examples, there was not a lot of ice or snow compared to previous years.”

Mild winters in Texas are a double-edged sword in terms of upland birds, according to Janke. A lack of ice and snow no doubt helps over winter survival, but the moisture that same weather is often a region’s only way to recover from drought.

“For the high plains area of the Panhandle, it might have been beneficial that they didn’t have a harsh winter to deal with,” he said. “But at the same time, sometimes that’s our only set of moisture.”

Despite a slow start, conditions turned around in early spring. Steady rainfall in April and May provided relief for much of the region, and conditions rapidly improved through June.

"We grew a lot of cover, which benefited our birds this nesting season,” said John McLaughlin, the upland game bird program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Since then we’ve been, much like other states, baking in this extended heat wave. However, it’s likely the cover we grew provided our birds some protection.”


McLaughlin said habitat conditions took a positive turn thanks to the damp spring, but that the long-term impact of drought was still visible throughout nesting and brood-rearing season.

"Conditions turned in our favor this spring, but unfortunately several years of drought have reduced populations, leaving us only so many hens available to nest,” he said. “Broods were spotted throughout the summer in places like Castro, Cochran and Hale Counties, and we believe we had good distribution of nesting birds. Anecdotal sightings were up, which is usually the first indication of an incremental rebound. However, we don’t conduct any formal brood counts, therefore no regional estimates are available.”

The Panhandle stood out in particular as having improved conditions throughout spring and summer, according to McLaughlin, “Much of the Panhandle is looking good,” McLaughlin said. “Overall, conditions north of I-40 are improved and holding steady, while areas south of I-40 present more of a mixed bag in terms of rainfall and habitat conditions.”


Based on spring and summer conditions, the Panhandle will likely provide the best hunting opportunities in Texas this fall.

“We’re tempering our expectations based on the last five or so years. We did grow birds this year and we do expect some hunting opportunity, but numbers and harvest have been down — and there is only so much we can expect from one good nesting season,” McLaughlin said. “Hunting is likely to be below average across our open counties, with better pockets of hunting as you move north into the Panhandle in places like Dallam and Sherman Counties. Our northern and western border counties with a mixture of rangelands, playas, brushy fencerows and cropland will likely provide the best opportunity to harvest a bird.”


The general season for pheasants in Texas runs from Dec. 2-31, 2023. However, only 37 of the state’s 254 counties have a season. Local regulations for each county can be found here. The daily limit is 3 cocks, the possession limit 9.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Utah


By Ryan Sparks

Utah’s past winter was rough, but excellent spring nesting and brooding conditions are keeping many hunters optimistic they will see more pheasants this fall.

“This past winter was extreme,” said Heather Talley, Utah’s upland game program coordinator. “We had multiple storms causing deep powder snow in the northern and central regions of the state. It is likely that the harsh winter decreased populations to some extent.”

Although initially hard on Utah’s pheasants, the harsh winter came with a silver lining. It provided an ample amount of moisture for brood-rearing habitat going into the spring. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources doesn’t conduct spring crow counts or summer brood surveys, so predicting exactly how fall pheasants will be isn’t an exact science. Nonetheless, biologists, hunters, and habitat managers across the state all have good things to say.

“We have noticed an increase of broods for most upland game birds throughout the state, and pheasants should be producing large hatches this year,” added Talley.

Tony Selley, president of the Cache Valley chapter of Pheasants Forever, has been seeing those large broods firsthand on his property near the Bear River.

“It seems like every hen has had a great hatch and the clutch sizes have blown me away,” said Selley. “I’ve seen hens with 10 chicks. I haven’t seen clutches like that in a very long time.”

Selley attributes this year’s large broods to good nesting conditions and an abundance of food.

“Spring was about as perfect as you could hope for nesting,” he said. “Our habitat looks great and we’ve also had the best bug season I can remember. Our grasshoppers are record-breaking. It is as good as I’ve seen in a long time. People in my chapter who live in pheasant country have been saying the same things. I’m very optimistic about our season this year.”

In northeastern Utah’s Uintah County, Charley Holtz, western conservation specialist with Pheasants Forever, is seeing similar things.

“Brooding and nesting season was pretty good. We had good rainfall when it counted and higher brood rearing survival should bring more birds into the fall,” he said.

Wyat Hansen, habitat specialist with Pheasants Forever, had a similar report regarding north-central and northwestern Utah. “I work in Weber, Box Elder and Davis counties and they all have some really good-looking habitat this year,” he said. “Brood sizes have been good and I’ve heard similar things from my colleagues in other places in the state.”

Overall, reports from across Utah’s pheasant country indicate that despite a brutally harsh winter, 2023 could be a good year for both pheasants and pheasant hunters.


The best hunting for wild pheasants in Utah is in the northern part of the state in counties like Box Elder, Cache, Rich and Weber. Parts of eastern Utah, such as in Uintah County along the White and Green rivers, are also good starting points for pheasant hunters.

“The northern section of the state typically holds the best bird numbers,” suggested Charley Holtz. “Uintah and Duchesne counties had a good spring and summer and should have a pretty good population of pheasants.”

Utah has walk-in access properties throughout the state which only require a free WIA Authorization Number to hunt. Using Utah’s Find a Property map, hunters can locate WIA and Waterfowl Management areas across the state. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recently presented an upland game webinar that contains a wealth of information for Utah upland bird hunters.


The Utah pheasant season will run Nov. 4 – Dec. 3, 2023. Youth hunting season will be Oct. 28–Nov. 2, 2023. The daily limit is 2 roosters. The possession limit is 6 roosters. The Goshen Warm Springs WMA in Utah County is closed to all hunting. The Annabella, Pahvan, and Wallsburg WMAs — and part of the Ogden Bay WMA — are closed to the public Nov. 11, 2023, for youth and beginner pheasant hunts.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Washington


By Andy Fondrick

Another mild winter for the Pacific Northwest provided a nice start for pheasants and other upland birds in Washington. A cool but dry spring also made for some ideal nesting conditions so there is reason to be optimistic headed into fall and the upcoming upland hunting season.

Pheasant survival across Washington looks to be in good shape this year, though the dry and warm summer may have impacted forage options as the hunting season approaches.


After a few mild winters in a row for the state of Washington, pheasants should have experienced good survival rates heading into nesting season.

“Washington had a fairly mild winter, though it was slightly colder than normal,” says Sarah Garrison, small game specialist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Overall, pheasant survival should have been good.”

As spring rolled around, there was even more good news for the state’s wild bird populations.

“This spring was cooler than normal, but it was dry so hatching broods should have done well,” says Garrison.

While there have been some unusually dry, warm months through the summer that may have negatively impacted forage options, Garrison adds that areas closer to central Washington are experiencing less severe drought right now than over the past few years. Grant County is typically a top producer for pheasants and most of that county was not in drought status at the time of conducting our forecast reports.


Favorable weather conditions may give some reason for an optimistic look at the upcoming season. While there aren’t any official counts to provide a more concrete outlook for the state of Washington, WDFW is in the second year of a brood and distribution survey for wild turkeys and upland birds to get a better idea of bird numbers in the future.

“Washington implemented a public brood survey for pheasants and other birds in 2022,” says Garrison. “Unfortunately, we haven’t received enough pheasant observations to report on broods at this time, but we encourage people to report their observations in July and August each year so we can use this tool to monitor populations and provide better forecasts.”

You can be part of the WDFW efforts in tabulating upland bird numbers across the state into the future by submitting your reports here.


If you’ve followed along with our Washington Pheasant Forecast in the past, some of Garrison’s recommendations for where to find birds are true again this year.

“Harvest data from 2022 show that Grant, Whitman and Wall Walla counties provided the most pheasant harvest,” she says. Current conditions should make for a favorable season across these counties once again.


“Washington provides many opportunities for private lands hunting through the WDFW’s Private Lands Access Program,” says Garrison. Talking with landowners early to ask for permission, or using the Private Lands Access Program to identify or reserve a spot will help hunters find good access for pheasants.

She adds that local wildlife biologists are finishing up the annual hunting prospects. These will be great resources once again this year for learning about hunting opportunities and conditions in each district.

Click here for locally produced hunting reports for each district within the state.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Wisconsin


By Ryan Sparks

Wisconsin pheasant hunters can expect wild bird numbers to be similar to the 2022 hunting season.

“Our crow counts for this spring were nearly identical to last year,” said Taylor Finger, game bird specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

However, hunting might prove to be better than spring surveys indicate. A mild winter and excellent spring nesting conditions could mean hunters will find an increase in young pheasants on opening day.

“Our winter was pretty mild but lasted a long time,” said Taylor. “Then our spring happened all at once. It was very warm and dry, which is ideal nesting and brooding conditions. The feedback from our staff is that it was an excellent spring and summer for ground-nesting birds.”

Those excellent conditions could mean more and larger wild pheasant broods with better survival rates going into the fall.

“I’m really optimistic,” said Marty Moses, Pheasants Forever’s Wisconsin state coordinator. “Our habitat looks great and crow counts were trending up in the northwestern counties where our primary wild pheasant populations are.”

Moses also noted strong grouse and turkey nesting success, which also gives a good indication that spring conditions were excellent for ground nesting birds like pheasants.

“I’m hopeful we are going to have strong recruitment coming into the fall with our wild birds,” he concluded.


“If folks want to come for a wild pheasant hunt look to our northwest counties,” says Moses. “It won’t be a South Dakota experience, but we have birds for sure.”

The St. Croix River Valley is known to be Wisconsin’s wild pheasant stronghold. St. Croix, Burnett, Barron, Polk, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pepin and Pierce counties are all good bets if you are looking for wild pheasants in Wisconsin.

“That block of counties is our main wild, self-reproducing population of pheasants in Wisconsin,” said Moses. “Over the years wild pheasant numbers have remained fairly strong in that area.”

The southern half of Wisconsin has wild birds, but private ground is the usual name of the hunting game here. Where persistent cover, such as prairie restorations and CRP abound, pheasants can too. Permission to hunt them is sometimes possible in December, after Wisconsin’s main rifle deer season is over and landowners relax from the whitetail trail. Offer to take a landowner out with you and your bird dog, and see what you get for a response!

The Wisconsin the DNR annually releases approximately 75,000 pheasants for hunting opportunities on public land. “No money raised at the chapter or organizational level goes towards stocking,” said Moses. “Study after study has shown that habitat is what matters, not releasing birds. All our money at Pheasants Forever goes to creating habitat.”

Hunters can find wild pheasant habitat in the previously mentioned counties by using resources such as the Wisconsin DNR’s Public Access Lands online map. Another excellent resource for hunters is the Fields & Forests Lands Interactive Gamebird Hunting Tool, which assists bird hunters in finding everything from doves to ruffed grouse.

Additionally, the Wisconsin DNR has partnered with onX Hunt to provide hunting access information through its mobile mapping application.


The 2023 pheasant season runs October 14 (9 a.m.) to January 7, 2024. The daily bag limit is one rooster on opening weekend and 2 roosters for the rest of the season. The possession limit after opening day is 3 times the daily bag limit.

Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2023: Wyoming


By Andy Fondrick

Wyoming’s pheasant population may have finally caught a break with much needed rainfall this summer, but the harsh weather in recent years has taken a toll on wild pheasant populations. Luckily there should be some improved habitat conditions this fall, and the chicks that made it through a tough spring should find themselves with strong cover and forage options.


While there are some bright spots for upland birds the past few months, last year’s drought followed by a long winter put Wyoming’s pheasant populations in a less than ideal spot.

“Winter was severe in Southeast Wyoming this year and upland birds certainly had some mortality due to the lack of cover from drought conditions last summer,” says Keaton Weber who is the Wheatland wildlife biologist with Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

One major change from the last few years though: rain.

“Precipitation totals throughout Southeast Wyoming are currently at or have already exceeded the historic annual average amount of precipitation [10 inches],” says Weber. “Some areas have already received twice the annual average rainfall. This made for exceptional cool season grass growth during May and June that provided ample cover and bug production for brood rearing.”

Weber notes that unfortunately, the timing of these rain events can also create some issues for young birds. “Some of the rain events we saw in May and June brought cool temperatures and hail with them, so we likely experienced some death losses from these cool, wet conditions when chicks were young and vulnerable.”

Luckily, the double-edged sword of heavy rain events also means better cover and food options for the birds who were able to survive the wet, cool spring.

“We expect berry and forb production from the moisture will provide good forage for birds heading into the fall and winter months,” says Weber.


In last year’s forecast Weber pleaded for more moisture to help give the state’s wild pheasant populations a fighting chance. Luckily those pleas have been answered in a big way this summer, but that isn’t the only ingredient needed to help populations rebound.

“Despite this summer's exceptional precipitation and cover, Wyoming still struggles to increase enrollment into CRP and continues to lose upland habitat for pheasants,” said Weber.

“Each spring we conduct crow call counts to assess our wild pheasant production and population,” adds Weber. “The counts are along established routes that have been run since the 1950s. Over time, the average number of crow counts per route has drastically declined. In the ’50s and ‘60s, our average calls per route was as high as 62 calls per route; this year’s average was 4 calls per route with our 5 year average (2019-2023) being 2 calls per route.”

Top Spots

With wild populations of pheasants depleted in Wyoming during recent years, Weber suggests hitting areas where birds have been stocked.

“Hunters should continue to take advantage of our stocked birds on our Wildlife Habitat Management Areas and select Walk-in Areas that are stocked,” Weber says.

Insider Tip

Weber suggests logging on to the Wyoming Game and Fish Website to check out follow the WGFD stocking plans if you’re interested in a few planted birds.