Good summer brood production should provide hunting opportunity in Missouri’s primary pheasant range
By Andrew Johnson
Pheasant populations, which exist primarily in northwest and north-central Missouri, have held steady over the past 3 years, but remain below the long-term average, reports Dave Hoover, small game coordinator with the Missouri Department of Conservation. Pheasants Forever chapters are working hard in Missouri's pheasant range.
“Weather in north Missouri last winter was very cold with prolonged periods of significant snow cover,” Hoover states. “Spring and early summer nesting conditions in much of north Missouri were extremely wet with near record flooding. Despite this, impacts to nest success and/or brood survival appears to have been limited. Surprisingly, our August roadside survey indicated that pheasant populations did not change from the previous year.”
HABITAT CONDITIONS AND BROODS
“Significant acres of crop fields were not planted due to wet conditions during planting season,” Hoover says. “Many of these fields were left fallow during the peak of brood rearing and provided enhanced brood habitat to apparently compensate for any delayed nesting or early nest losses.”
Hoover says the improvement in CRP plantings and management practices, increased use of cover crops, and acres of preventative plantings this year has improved habitat conditions for pheasants in the short term.
“Missouri’s August roadside survey data this year indicate pheasant populations are unchanged from last year,” he continues. “Anecdotal reports from the field indicate that better-than-expected summer production compensated for unfavorable weather conditions during the early nesting season.”
All things considered, Hoover says hunters should expect a season similar to last year in areas with good habitat.
“Pheasant populations, and other ground-nesting birds such as quail, are tied almost exclusively to areas of quality habitat,” he explains. “Without it, populations are steeply declining or nonexistent.”
Hoover said based on the results from the MDC’s August roadside survey, hunters should target public lands in northwest and north-central Missouri.
“With permission from landowners, hunters can also find good hunting in areas with a good mix of crop land and open, well-managed grasslands such as native CRP plantings,” he advises. “Missouri is over 94 percent private lands, and hunters should take great care in respecting private property rights to preserve the hunting privilege for all.”
IF YOU GO
Missouri’s pheasant season is open November 1 to January 15. The daily limit is 2 roosters, with a possession of 4. A foot or fully feathered head must be left attached during transportation and storage.