Idaho offers abundant upland opportunity including good pheasant counts this fall ... and plenty of places to hunt.
By Tom Carpenter
“Pheasants are an important part of our upland game bird picture in Idaho,” says Jeff Knetter, Upland Game and Waterfowl Staff Biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG). “There’s so much diversity and opportunity here, as far as upland birds go. Public land is abundant and easily accessible too.”
“Idaho is an upland hunter’s paradise, with sharptails; both bobwhite and California quail; ruffed, blue and spruce grouse; and chukars and Huns. Pheasants may take a little more work in Idaho than in some places, but ringnecks make for a great combination hunt. Idaho is a top destination for a multi-species upland hunt, if you can whangle the time and just get there.
Focusing on pheasants: “The summer was hot, hot, hot in Idaho, but I think the pheasant hatch came out okay,” says Knetter. “Our folks are seeing good broods out there. That’s what the anecdotal evidence is saying. The reports I am getting are of decent sized broods.”
The reason? Adequate rainfall produced decent cover and a healthy crop of insects for chicks to eat. “I am seeing tons and tons of insects for those chicks, during field work,” says Knetter.
“We had a mild winter, and survival was good where the birds had wintering habitat for the weather events and cold we did have,” he adds. “We had a good, warm spring too. That all bodes well for reproduction too.”
Knetter was tabulating results of Idaho’s roadside survey as this report went live, but he had some preliminary good news to share. “The Clearwater region looks very good, with routes that were significantly up this year,” says Knetter. “You never know about the reliability on our routes, as we don’t have the dew that they do out in Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas. But more birds is better than fewer!”
“The Lewiston route was up all well,” says Knetter. “The Magic Valley was very stable compared to the past few years.”
“I have seen good broods in the far Southeast of Idaho, as well, as I was doing some crane counts the week of Labor Day,” says Knetter. “Pheasants were flying, and working the roadsides. That was good to see! The Southeast should be alright.”
Of course, none of that is to minimize the upland habitat shifts that Idaho has experienced, like any other state in pheasant country. “Farming practices have changed here, like anywhere, with big fields and fewer odds and ends of habitat for wildlife,” says Knetter.
“I’m encouraged for a good pheasant season overall,” is how Knetter sums it all up. “We should have good bird populations, with the moisture we’ve had.”
Get out to Idaho to experience its upland hunting diversity. And put a few longtails on the bird list.
Idaho Hunting Tip
“The vast majority of our pheasant habitat is on private land,” Knetter points out. “Your best bet for roosters may be to come later in the season, a few weeks after Idaho’s October 14 and October 21 openers, and do some door knocking.” A courteous hunter with a well-behaved dog in the truck, and a kid in tow, can get on some prime land.
Idaho Fish and Game 2017 Upland Forecast
Idaho Public Access Guide
Tom Carpenter is Digital Content Manager for Pheasants Forever.