Tough spring keeps Missouri pheasant populations down, but good habitat should still hold birds
By Andrew Johnson
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WEATHER AND CONDITIONS
Unlike the winter of 2018-2019, which was very cold with prolonged periods of significant snow cover, this past winter was relatively normal across Missouri’s primary pheasant range, says Dave Hoover, northwest region supervisor for the Department of Conservation.
Although pheasant populations came out of winter in better shape than last year, Hoover says spring nesting conditions were below average and potentially impacted production.
“Spring was wet through May in Missouri’s primary pheasant range, likely delaying or interrupting pheasant nesting,” he reports. “Weather during the brood-rearing season has been good; however, available habitat is highly localized.”
BROODS AND HABITAT
“Based on MDC’s August roadside survey, pheasant production was down approximately 25%,” Hoover states. “That’s likely due to the spring nesting conditions mentioned earlier.”
In an average year, Missouri hunters bag upwards of 15,000 roosters. This year, however, Hoover says the results from the roadside survey indicate it could be a tough hunt in the Show Me State, meaning hunters should target prime areas of habitat such as CRP plantings near crop fields.
“Hunters should expect pheasant numbers to be lower than the 2019-20 season,” he says. “However, in areas of good habitat on a large enough scale quality hunts are still possible.”
Missouri’s northern tier of counties historically provides hunters with the best chance at harvesting a ringneck, and Hoover says this year is no different. He points hunters toward northeastern Missouri — more specifically, the northernmost three-county tier —where roadside survey data indicated pheasant numbers were highest.
“Missouri’s pheasant range is very limited, so look for areas with an abundance of diverse conservation reserve program plantings intermixed with cropland,” Hoover advises. “Be sure to acquire permission from landowners prior to hunting private lands.”
IF YOU GO
Missouri’s pheasant season opens Nov. 1 and closes Jan. 15. The daily limit is two cocks, with a possession limit of four.