Mild winter, ideal nesting and brood-rearing conditions should make for good pheasant numbers in Idaho this fall
By Andrew Johnson
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WEATHER AND CONDITIONS
Pheasant populations across Idaho’s uplands survived winter just fine, according to Jeff Knetter, upland game and migratory bird coordinator for Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Even better, the good news kept on coming once spring arrived, as nesting conditions kicked off with favorable temps and timely precipitation, Knetter says.
“However, temperatures were below average and precipitation was above average during the second and third weeks of June,” he reports. “This could potentially impact hatching success and early brood survival.”
HABITAT AND BROODS
The above-average precipitation produced a bumper crop of bugs, though, and heading into summer Knetter says Idaho’s primary pheasant range had habitat and bug production that were favorable for brood rearing, just like last year.
Since June, most of Idaho has been quite dry, but IDFG brood-survey data from this summer indicates overall population trends remained on the upswing for most upland bird species, with only a few exceptions.
“Available brood counts in our Clearwater Region of the Palouse/Lewistown area were up from last year’s numbers for pheasants, California quail and gray partridge. Chukar was unchanged from last year,” reports Randy Phelan, IDFG coordinating wildlife biologist. “The trend for the 10-year average in the Clearwater region was up for pheasants and quail, but down for partridge.”
While things are looking up for the Clearwater Region, preliminary results from the brood survey in southwest Idaho were down slightly from past years.
“Both the yearly and 10-year average trends were down for pheasants, quail, partridge and chukar in the southwest region,” Phelan says.
The Clearwater, Southeast and Magic Valley regions are Idaho’s primary pheasant hunting destinations, and Knetter says it’s no different this year.
While pheasant hunters usually kill between 35,000-40,000 roosters each fall, Knetter believes multi-species hunts have replaced pheasant-only hunts across much of the state.
“Historically, Idaho was a destination pheasant hunting location,” he says. “Although populations have declined because of changes in farming practices and increased urbanization, there are still opportunities to harvest wild pheasants. Additionally, there are plenty of upland game bird hunting opportunities on millions of acres of public land, as Idaho offers some of the best chukar and gray partridge hunting in the West, not to mention robust populations of California quail.