Despite some challenges for Oregon’s pheasants, hunters can be optimistic about the 2021 hunting season
By Andy Fondrick
A strong carryover of adult pheasants from last fall may have helped the bird population to ride out the areas of the state that were most affected by this summer’s drought. Decent habitat and a strong grasshopper crop may have provided a safety net for upland birds through the hot, dry summer months.
Weather and Conditions
Back-to-back winters with favorable conditions have given upland game in Oregon the upper hand.
“Winter of 2020-2021 was fairly mild in Oregon,” says to Mikal Cline, upland game bird coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We didn’t have any concerns about the winter survival of our pheasants this year.”
Although there were some episodes of extreme heat and drought conditions in portions of the pheasant range, Cline believes the birds may have made out better than expected through the spring and summer.
“The heat and drought may have resulted in lower breeding effort and success,” Cline says, “but because the habitats used by our pheasants are primarily permanent cover associated with ag land, the impact of the spring and summer drought was less than we expected.”
Cline also mentioned that even thought the drought may have taken its toll in pheasant country, the state experienced a grasshopper boom that, while detrimental to some of the cover, has provided and excellent protein source for Oregon’s pheasant broods.
Habitat, Broods and Counts
Even with some less-than favorable conditions, habitat can still be found across the pheasant range, which has played a critical role in the success of upland birds across the state.
“We are lacking cover due to drought and grasshoppers,” says Cline, “but a lot of the pheasant cover is still in decent shape.”
While nesting birds may have experienced a more challenging spring, Cline still believes that numbers will be decent for this fall.
“I think breeding effort and success is somewhat depressed this year, but we had good carryover in our adult populations,” says Cline.
With Oregon pheasant numbers seemingly holding steady, there are a few regions specifically that Cline would recommend checking out this fall.
The Central Columbia Basin, including Morrow, Gilliam and Wheeler counties., is a great place to start. You will want to hit the Mid-Columbia District, which includes Sherman and Wasco counties as well as the Eastern Columbia Basin, specifically Umatilla and Union counties.
According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife 2021-22 Game Bird Hunting Forecast
, pheasants may be more difficult to find in the western portion of the state.
Water and cover will be key to having success in Oregon this season. In addition to the area’s listed above, Cline also recommends checking out the pheasant hunting opportunities in Oregon’s National Wildlife Refuges which can offer a great combination of habitat and opportunity.
You can also utilize Oregon’s access programs to find pheasants on private land in the Columbia Basin with their online access map