By Tom Carpenter
WEATHER AND CONDITIONS
“Winter and spring were dryer than optimal for both development of pheasant nesting and brood habitat,” reports Ed Gorman, Small Game Manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW)/ “Much of the core pheasant range in eastern Colorado was very dry through May, wetter in June, and dry again in July/August.”
“Several large hail storms occurred in late July and early August,” he adds, “with severe local impacts to cover and local populations of game birds. Condition have remained very dry through September across the core pheasant range.”
“Southeastern Colorado was extremely dry through winter and spring of 2018,” Gorman says, “although some areas did get some precipitation in July and August.”
HATCH AND BROODS
“Colorado does not conduct official brood counts due to the general lack of humidity common to the area,” says Gorman. Birds don’t have to come out to roadsides to dry off and get grit.
“Anecdotally,” Gorman says, “landowners reported smaller-than-normal broods over the summer. It is expected that the population of pheasants will be average for Colorado’s pheasant range, with some areas slightly above average and others somewhat below average.” Bird populations will vary by locality.
“Large hailstorms certainly impacted populations locally within each storm's footprint,” confirms Gorman. “Thus, hunters may find populations to be somewhat spotty and will have to put on some miles – on vehicles and boots – to find birds. But they are there.”
HABITAT AND PROGRAMS
“Colorado has lost large amounts of CRP over the last few years,” says Gorman. “Much of this land has been converted to wheat or corn fields. As of today, habitat still on the ground is showing the impact of a hot, dry summer. Many of our forb-based plantings are really showing the impacts of drought stress.”
On a higher note, “Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Pheasants Forever have completed year three of the Corners for Conservation Initiative,” reports Gorman. “To date the partnership has established habitat on over 300 circle-irrigation field corners. All corners are open to public access beginning on the opening day of pheasant season, through CPW's Walk-In Access Program
“Colorado expects an average season for pheasant hunters in 2018,” says Gorman. “Yuma, Kit Carson, Phillips, Sedgwick and Logan Counties in the Northeast are expected to be the top counties in 2018 for birds.”
“We have pheasants in southeastern Colorado,” Gorman points out. “Baca County is best there, but don’t overlook the surrounding southeastern counties, especially where there’s agriculture.” Quail – both bobwhites and scalies – are a definite bonus possibility in this country. In fact, quail are more numerous than pheasants here, so a hunter might target them and take the occasional bonus rooster that pops up.