Idaho Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2018

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Report courtesy of Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Upland bird hunting will be mixed across the state this fall, but Idaho offers a variety of upland game bird hunting opportunities. Here are some notes on pheasnt prospects.

To provide an idea of what's available this hunting season, Fish and Game's wildlife biologists in each region have compiled an update of what they're seeing and hearing on the ground with bird populations.

To find places to hunt upland game, check out Idaho's Hunting Access webpage, which include's Fish and Game's Wildlife Management Areas and Access Yes! properties. 

Here's a look at pheasant hunting in each region:

Clearwater

Twelve, 20-mile upland game brood routes are surveyed annually from mid to late August across the Clearwater Region to index game bird population trends and productivity. These data provide an index of relative abundance and are used to monitor annual changes and long-term trends in regional populations. 

Due to low detection rates, however, these data are imprecise and should be interpreted cautiously. The 2017-18 winter was fairly mild to start but winter conditions returned late with cold temperatures and heavy snow across the Clearwater region. The impacts of these conditions on upland game bird survival are largely unknown, although no abnormally high mortality rates were detected. 

During the spring 2018 nesting and early brood rearing period, weather conditions were cool and abnormally wet through June. Cool and wet weather can provide for excellent summer brood rearing habitat, but can also result in chick mortality, depending on the timing and intensity of precipitation events. No broods were detected this year indicating the cool wet spring likely took its toll on upland game birds. Overall, population trends were mixed, depending on the species.

Trend from 2017: Down

10-Year Trend: Down

Note: The 13 pheasants observed in 2018 represents a 81 percent decrease from the 69 birds tallied in 2017, and is also a 68 percent decrease from the previous 10-year average of 40.6 birds. The 13 birds observed this year represent just 7 percent of the historical high count of 199 pheasants tallied on these routes (in 2005).  The 13 pheasants observed on the 240 miles of routes surveyed in 2018 equates to 0.004 pheasants observed per mile surveyed.  No broods were encountered this year. An average of five broods was tallied on these routes over the past 10 years.  However, the lack of broods counted in 2018 is only the third time in the 28 years of the survey (1995 and 2009).  

Southwest

Good production during 2017 followed by mild winter and average spring 2018 were favorable for upland birds, so  carryover and production should be high. Spring and early summer conditions during 2018 were excellent for production.

Pheasant numbers look excellent this year as larger broods were observed along established brood routes. Upland bird hunting should be good to great across the region this year.

Trend from 2017: Up

10-Year Trend: Stable

Note: Pheasants should have over-wintered well following good production during 2017. Favorable spring precipitation likely contributed to good hatch during 2018. Pheasant hunting should be good around the valley.
 

Magic Valley

Hot and dry weather during spring and summer were generally unfavorable for upland bird nesting and brood rearing. Department personnel are reporting below-average numbers of broods for all upland game species. Generally, bird numbers are slightly less this year compared to the 2017 season and lower than average.  Hunters are encouraged to contact the Magic Valley Regional Office at 208-324-4359 if they would like to learn more about upland game bird status and trends.

Trend from 2017: Stable

10-Year Trend: Down

Note: Pheasant numbers have remained relatively low in the Magic Valley since the mid-1980s because of changes in farming practices and the resultant loss of habitat. Pheasant stocking will continue at Niagara Springs WMA and on several Bureau of Reclamation tracts in Minidoka County. Hunters might also want to obtain a Wildlife Tracts map from the Magic Valley Regional office that shows the locations of 284 tracts of public land with nearly 33,000 acres that provide upland bird hunting opportunity.
 

Southeast


Conditions in the winter were slightly above average in the eastern portion of the region and slightly below average in the western part of the region. The early nesting season received good precipitation resulting in excellent grass and forb growth. The remainder of the summer, however, was extremely dry. Observations have been mixed with some reporting large broods while others are seeing very few young birds and broods. 

Trend from 2017: Stable

10-Year Trend: Stable

Note: There are no surveys conducted for pheasant in the Southeast Region; however, field observations suggest numbers and productivity are relatively stable compared to last year. Pheasant stocking will continue at Sterling WMA in 2017.
 

Upper Snake

Winter conditions in 2017-2018 were mild compared to long term averages. Snow accumulation came late and levels did not last long, likely allowing for good carryover. Spring moisture was good with near average temperatures favoring hatched birds. However, a hot and dry summer in 2018 may have affected brood survival. These factors combined with few severe weather events during the nesting season should equal a fair upland pheasant season in the Upper Snake Region this year. 

Trend from 2017: Stable

10-Year Trend: Stable

Note: There are no surveys conducted for pheasant in the Upper Snake and last year’s harvest data indicates declines in both hunters and harvest. The Upper Snake Region continues to stock approximately 2,500 pheasants per year on Mud Lake WMA, Market Lake WMA, and Cartier WMA. Areas that hold pheasant in the Upper Snake have reported many good sized broods. Pheasant hunting should be consistent with what we have seen the last few years.
 

Salmon


Late spring conditions were cooler and wetter than average. Nest success and chick survival appears to have been good. As a result, game bird population levels should be around average.

Trend from 2017: Up

10-Year Trend: Down

Note: There is little pheasant habitat in the Salmon Region and numbers are very low. Pheasants are occasionally harvested on private lands in the lower Lemhi and Pahsimeroi valleys, and on the Pahsimeroi River Access Area.