Spring 2018 Pheasant Report

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Pheasants Forever's State-by-State Review of Winter Conditions and Spring Nesting Potential

By Tom Carpenter
 
Spring is the time of year when an uplander’s hopeful eyes turn toward the countryside with wide eyes and wishful thoughts – looking for birds on the ground and pulling for ideal conditions that will make for a productive nesting season that will fill the habitat with birds come fall.
 
That’s what Pheasants Forever’s Spring Report is all about: Taking a comprehensive tour of pheasant country  and updating you on the winter past and the potential to come. 
 
As a hunter-conservationist, you know the bottom line: Habitat transcends all, and provides the buffer gamebirds need when winter is tough or nesting conditions get challenging.
 

Stay with The Habitat Mission, and enjoy this Spring Report.

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CALIFORNIA 

“Both pheasant and quail hunters benefitted from a wet winter and early spring in 2016-2017,” says Matt Meshriy, Environmental Scientist/Upland Game Program with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
 
“Those conditions promoted growth of vegetation crucial to nest and brooding cover, and produced forage material.  As a result, biologists in California anticipated a good pheasant season heading into the fall of 2017-2018,” Meshriy says. “We did not conduct a hunter harvest survey this winter, but we anticipate that the hunting success has been good throughout most of the state.”
 
WINTER SUMMARY
 
“Winter conditions were mild with temperatures above average and rainfall well below normal, particularly in Southern California,” says Meshriy. “However, a series of cold winter storms during the month of March brought much needed rain and snow to the state. The March rains should support good nesting conditions for pheasants in California’s Central Valley and improve the outlook for agricultural water deliveries through the State Water Project.”
 
SPRING UPDATE
 
“It looks as though spring has arrived in California,” reports Meshriy. “The last in a series of March storms was a warm ‘atmospheric river’ but the door for storms appears to have closed with above average temperatures and dry conditions predicted for the first part of April.” 
 
“Overall, winter weather was favorable for pheasant nesting success in California this year,” says Meshriy. “However, the favorable weather is not expected to reverse the-long term trend of declining harvest among the top pheasant counties in the state, which are the result of multiple agricultural and land use changes in the state over the past 30 years.”
 

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COLORADO

Harvest data was not available at publication time for Colorado’s 2017-18 upland gamebird hunting seasons.

WINTER SUMMARY
 
“Across Colorado’s core quail and pheasant range, there have been no significant winter storms that would impact pheasants and quail,” reports Ed Gorman, Small Game Manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). “However, that means that Colorado is extremely dry right now, which is concerning for the approaching nesting and brooding season.”

“It’s difficult to say whether winter is over,’ Gorman continues. “April storms are not uncommon, but generally speaking they are short in duration.  What is concerning for Colorado is if current dry conditions persist habitat conditions could deteriorate rapidly.”

SPRING UPDATE

“Right now, the dry conditions that overlay core upland bird range are concerning,” says Gorman. “If they continue, nesting and brooding hens – both pheasants and quail – could find fairly difficult conditions.”

“At this point, though, we just don't know what will happen in the following months,” he says. “What is certain in Colorado is that precipitation fuels both habitat and upland game populations. What happens in terms of precipitation the next few months will play a huge role in determining what next autumn's gamebird populations will be."
 

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IDAHO

"Winter conditions in Idaho were relatively mild," reports Jeff Knetter, Upland Game and Waterfowl Staff Biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG). "Temperatures were near normal across the state. Precipitation was near normal in southern Idaho and above normal in northern Idaho. We appear to be headed into spring with good moisture levels as long as it does not get too hot too fast."

"Cool, wet weather during the hatch is always a concern," he adds.

"But my early prognosis is that I am cautiously optimistic for this year's pheasant prospects, like I am every spring," says Knetter. "We are coming off a pretty solid fall, with a mild winter. A good nesting and brood-rearing season could spell a better fall for all upland game birds than we have seen in quite some time."
 

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ILLINOIS

“We don’t have data compiled from the Hunter Harvest Report for the 2017-18 season,” reports Stan McTaggart, Agriculture and Grassland Program Manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). 

“This report comes from the Illinois Natural History Survey and they mail postcards to a random group of hunters and then compile the results over the next few months,” McTaggart describes. “Anecdotal evidence from our state Habitat Areas shows mixed results for upland game hunters with some areas doing well and others struggling. In general, areas with active habitat management specific to upland game are doing better than areas with minimal management.”

WINTER SUMMARY

“There was a lot of winter variability across the state this year,” says McTaggart. “Most of the state was very dry throughout the fall and winter, but during February, northern and southern Illinois were wetter than average. Some areas up north had over 20 inches of snow in February. Heavy rains also hit southern Illinois, but much of the central and western parts of the state continued the dry spell.”

“At the end of March, much of the state had been colder and wetter than average for the month,” he adds. 

“Northern and southern parts of the state had the most precipitation in February and early March,” says McTaggart. “The majority of the state got hit with heavy rains at the end of March.”

SPRING UPDATE

“Nesting season could begin a little later than average” says McTaggart, “and it could provide some challenging conditions for early nesters if the above-average precipitation and cool temperatures continue through April.”

“Weather in late April through July will be the most important for nest success for pheasant and quail,” he says. “When the clutches begin to hatch, prolonged or heavy rain events and/or cold snaps can be very tough on chick survival during the first few weeks. I always hope for ‘average’ conditions towards the end of nesting season as chicks appear and are very vulnerable. If we can avoid the weather extremes, we should have much higher nest success and brood survival this spring and summer.”

“Keep your fingers crossed!”
 

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IOWA

WINTER SUMMARY

“Statewide snowfall thru March was about at our long-term average, a little above normal in northwestern Iowa and a little below normal across the southern third of Iowa,” reports Todd Bogenschutz, Upland Wildlife Research Biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). 

“Over winter survival should be about average for pheasants, perhaps a little above average for quail in southern Iowa,” Bogenschutz says. “Some spotty ice accumulation in parts of northern Iowa may have impacted local areas.”

SPRING UPDATE

“Well we can always have a late blizzard in the northern part of the state,” says Bogenchutz, “but April should bring some respite from a winter that’s been pesky in the state’s northern counties.”

As for nesting, “Birds should hold status quo or perhaps we can even see some increases if mother nature cooperates this spring,” says Bogenschutz.
 

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KANSAS

Results from Kansas’ 2017-18 upland bird hunting seasons were not available at publication time (Kansas’s annual hunter survey is in progress), but reports throughout the season were generally fair to good throughout the state, right up through the close of pheasant and quail seasons.

WINTER SUMMARY
 
“Kansas is far enough south that winter weather rarely impacts our pheasant populations, although long-lasting heavy snow/ice has been known to impact quail,” says Jeff Prendergast, Small Game Specialist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “This year, Kansas had a relatively mild winter with almost no measurable snowfall across the state.”

SPRING UPDATE

“Conditions have been extremely dry in Kansas, with little measurable precipitation over the last four to five months,” reports Prendergast. “With little soil moisture available, quality of nesting and brooding habitat will largely depend on precipitation through April, and what kind of grass that moisture can help grow on the landscape.”
 

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MICHIGAN

WINTER SUMMARY

“Winter here in Michigan was a real mix,” reports Al Stewart, Upland Game Bird Specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “We had snow, then 50- and 60-degree temperatures, then now snow, then cold … just lots of fluctuation and variability. It wasn’t severe though, and I would not call this past winter harsh on Michigan pheasants. There were plenty of breaks between the hits we did get.”

SPRING UPDATE

As far as nesting goes, “We should be well positioned with birds on the landscape, after that kind of winter,” says Stewart. “We continue to work to build more prime habitat in Michigan – on public lands and in conjunction with private landowners alike, through our grants program and our work with Pheasants Forever. The Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative is working hard too.”

“Winter is over and spring is in Michigan,” says Stewart. “Given some warm sun and the right amount of precipitation, we should have good conditions for nesting and brood rearing. As always, weather will be the driver. But our birds on the ground seem to have made it through to now. That bodes well for the potential for a good hatch.”


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MINNESOTA

“In general, the 2017-18 pheasant season was a pretty mixed bag in Minnesota,” reports Nicole Davros, Wildlife Research Scientist in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Farmland Wildlife Population Research Group. 

“Hunter pressure was down in most areas,” she says, “and that is supported by our final stamp sales, which ended up being our lowest sales on record. The Minnesota pheasant stamp was first sold in 1983.”

“Wetlands didn’t freeze up until late December,” Davros says, “which meant birds could hide in the cattails but hunters couldn’t get to them without getting their feet wet. Overall, reports of hunter success seemed to be at two opposite ends of the spectrum: Many hunters said they had their worst season in years whereas many others reported one of their best seasons in a few years.”

“I also heard from a few hunters who reported seeing enough birds to be happy … but they just missed too many shots,” she adds. “It just goes to show that every landscape and every patch of grass is different, and it’s hard to generalize from one number taken out of our August roadside survey report. You have to get out there, put some miles on your boots, and find out for yourself!”

WINTER SUMMARY

“Our pheasant range experienced another relatively mild winter by Minnesota’s standards,” says Davros, though an unsettled and cold April brew could change that.

“We started off warm enough that wetlands didn’t freeze over until late December,” Davros says. “Late December and January brought much colder temperatures, with many days well below 0° F, but snow was negligible to non-existent in many areas during this time.”

“By mid- to late-February, temperatures were staying above freezing but heavier snowfall events began occurring and snow started to pile up,” she says. “Winter is holding its grip even into April, but the snow that is coming is melting quickly now.”

“Overall, I don’t see anything too concerning about this past winter,” she says. “We always worry more when we have extreme cold and deep snow at the same time, and that didn’t happen this winter. Notably, areas of west central and central Minnesota had little to no snow on the ground for much of winter.”

But everyone is keeping their eye on April.

SPRING UPDATE

“I’m more concerned about the quality of habitat from this point forward,” says Davros. “We may be looking at a wet start to the spring, and lots of grass has been laid flat from deeper snow in recent weeks. Both of these things could impact or delay the start of our nesting season if things don’t start to dry out.”

“Add to that the loss of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres we’ve suffered over the past 10 years,” she says, “and undisturbed nesting habitat (or lack thereof) continues to be our biggest concern.”
 
“I think that our hens should have made it through winter just fine ,” says Davros, “so we should have good numbers of hens available for nesting. My concern at this point is having a wet start to the spring nesting season or not enough good nesting cover due to those heavier snowfall events in late February and March that have flattened existing grasslands. We’ll just have to wait and see what the next few weeks bring: Hopefully it is drier air and more sun!”
 

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MONTANA

Because Montana is so big and diverse, we divide our reporting into regions.
 

North Central Montana – Region 4

“Hunter harvest data is not yet available for last fall’s pheasant hunting season,” says Jake Doggett, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Upland Game Bird Habitat Specialist for North Central Montana – Region 4. “Dry conditions in late summer and early fall shifted birds to different areas with higher quality habitat. Hunter success likely varied depending on habitat conditions at the local level.”  

WINTER SUMMARY

“Temperatures were below average, and snowfall was above average across most of North Central Montana this past winter,’ reports Doggett, “with the month of January providing some relief.  The weather was pretty cold with several blowing snow and ice events.”

“Total snow depth started becoming a concern in February as many fields and shelterbelts filled in with snow,” says Doggett. “Some local areas, especially in the northern counties, likely experienced lower than average winter pheasant survival as a result.  Dry conditions going into the winter likely didn’t help habitat-wise.” 

“While the second half of March was very pleasant temperature-wise, most counties in the north and east were still covered in snow,” says Doggett. “As prairie grouse and pheasants are gearing up for the breeding season, the remnant snowy habitat conditions may stall early nesting activities in these areas.” 

“Most of the region experienced a similar winter – high snowfall and few warm days amongst the cold weather,” says Doggett. “Areas along the mountains had higher snowfall overall, though areas in the southern part of the region have experienced earlier and faster snow melt.” 

SPRING UPDATE

“Granted the weather continues to get better and any late-late season storms are relatively light or short lived, we should have a normal nesting season (production-wise) for 2018,” says Doggett, “despite the very long winter.”

“Many early nesting attempts may be halted this year,” he says, “especially for prairie grouse, due to remnant snow and cool wet ground conditions. However, by peak breeding season, conditions should be seeming more normal. Due to dry conditions last fall, and also colder-than-average winter conditions, we are expecting to see fewer birds in some areas initiating breeding activities.”

“On the other hand, good soil moisture from snowmelt may equate to better brood-rearing habitat conditions this summer,” says Doggett, “which was a concern in many parts of Montana last year.
 

Northeastern Montana – Region 6

“Anecdotal reports from hunters indicated that pheasant hunting success during the 2017 season was below average,” reports Ken Plourde, Habitat Specialist with the Upland Game Bird Enhancement Program for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks -- Region 6. 

“A few hunters found better luck in select areas of excellent habitat,” Plourde says, “but overall it took more effort than in other recent years to find birds. This was almost certainly due to the extreme drought Montana experienced last year and the resulting low brood success over the summer. In addition, due to those drought conditions many hunters decided not to hunt in Montana at all, and hunter numbers in many popular bird hunting areas in northeastern Montana were down 14 to 44%.” 

WINTER SUMMARY
 
“In northeastern Montana, winter conditions were generally colder and snowier than normal from mid-December through March,” says Plourde. “However, the conditions did not seem severe enough to affect bird survival much more than normal.”

“I expect winter mortality to be average to slightly above average,” says Plourde. “The upside to a lower population last fall is that there was less competition for the higher-quality wintering habitat, so the remaining birds had that advantage despite the slightly more challenging conditions.”

“Unfortunately, winter is not over in much of Montana, especially the northern half of the state,” says Plourde. “Winter conditions have been persistent through March and we are still experiencing winter snow storms into April. While adverse weather always poses dangers to wild pheasant populations, the lingering winter conditions we are experiencing are not expected to pose an abnormally high level of risk to birds.”

“The greatest danger to birds in this area is an icy crust forming over deep snow that prevents access to food sources,” says Plourde. “We have not yet seen conditions like that this winter, and with warmer spring temperatures on the way, we hope, those conditions seem unlikely this year.”

SPRING UPDATE

“It is too early to predict nesting season conditions,” states Plourde. “Although we did get good snow pack this winter, due to the severity of the drought last year the amount of spring moisture we receive will have the greatest influence on nesting season success.”

“The region also had over 100,000 acres of CRP expire last fall,” says Plourde. “The amount of that land that is converted back to crop production will negatively affect nesting as well, especially in some localized areas.”

“Some landowners have indicated that they will be keeping their expiring CRP ground as pasture for hay or grazing, which will reduce the impact of expirations in some places.” Says Plourde. “Overall there is a lot of uncertainty in both weather and habitat conditions, so we must wait and see how things play out before making any guesses about nesting season potential.”
 

Southeastern Montana - Region 7

“The severe drought that spread across the region last summer made for very difficult brood rearing condition for all species of upland game birds in 2017,” reports Justin Hughes, Upland Gamebird Habitat Specialist with Montana FWP Region 7, Southeastern Montana,

“While hunters that were in the field last fall noticed a reduced number of birds of all species, pheasants were hit the hardest by the conditions,” Hughes says. “Hunters were able to find some pheasants where the best habitat existed but even then struggled to fill their game bags.”

“Hunters noted that there were still opportunities to bag Hungarian partridge and sharp-tailed grouse,” he says, “but coveys were spread out on the landscape and hunters were walking many more miles to harvest birds than they had in years past.”

WINTER SUMMARY

“Region 7 experienced many winter storms that dropped large amounts of snow across the area,” Hughes says. “This snow in many areas filled up brushy coulees and creek bottoms that are typical wintering areas for birds. Intermixed with the snow events were also a couple of freezing rain storms that had effect on all species of wildlife wintering in southeastern Montana.”

“While the snow is quickly disappearing across the region and forage/hiding conditions are changing for the birds,” he adds, “it is important to keep in mind that winter conditions in southeast Montana can persist well into April and potentially have an impact on all species of wildlife.”

SPRING UPDATE

“While everyone is pulling for good conditions for nesting and brood rearing, it is still too early to determine how this spring will shake out,” says Hughes. “The wonderful thing about game birds is their amazing ability to bounce back from harsh weather extremes like eastern Montana experiences.”

“When birds are provided with favorable nesting and brood rearing conditions, population growth can be extremely great even if they took a hit the prior year,” says Hughes.
 
“It will be difficult to say what this spring will bring, even though we had moisture this winter most of the region was stricken with such a severe drought that we need stellar spring to pull out of it.”
 

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NEBRASKA

“Our 2017/18 hunter harvest survey just closed, so it will be a while before I can process the data for harvest estimates, but anecdotal information from quail hunters indicated that success was high across the core range for bobwhites in Nebraska,” reports Dr. Jeff Lusk, Upland Game Program Manager with the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission. 

“There was less anecdotal information from pheasant hunters,” adds Lusk, “but one quail hunter did comment that he was happily surprised by the number of pheasants they saw while out hunting in southcentral Nebraska.”

WINTER SUMMARY

“Weather conditions were moderate this winter in Nebraska,” says Lusk. “There were periodic snow events across the state, but none were of sufficient length or severity to have population-level impacts.”

“Early winter temperatures were unseasonably warm,” he continues, “which probably aided gamebird survival.  However, conditions deteriorated mid-winter, with arctic cold settling in for several weeks.  Given the overall shorter ‘cold season’ though, population level impacts are not expected to be significant.”

“But winter is still trying to hang on in parts of Nebraska,” Lusk says. “Some late snow and ice would hurt birds.”

SPRING UPDATE

“Nesting success will depend on spring moisture sufficient to support plant growth for nesting cover, but not so much or so late as to affect nesting or brood-rearing,” says Lusk. ‘So far, so good.”
 

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NORTH DAKOTA

“We haven’t run any numbers yet from the 2017-18 pheasant hunting season,” reports R.J. Gross Jr., Upland Game Management Biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “However, from personal observations and talking to hunters, success will be lower than past years. Less birds produced means less in the bag.”
 
WINTER SUMMARY

“Winter has been favorable for the birds …  so far,” says Gross. “We did not have much snow until March. When the snow came, the temperatures stayed fairly warm, so our birds should come through in good condition for nesting season.”

“The Southwest had more snow right away in the winters,” adds Gross. 

But across the Upper Midwest, early April is acting winter-like.

SPRING UPDATE

“If we get some decent moisture to promote nesting cover growth and insect production, we should be set up nicely for a rebound,” says Gross. A perfect recipe adding sunny, warm weather at the right times will help.

Only time will tell.
 

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OHIO

“Preliminary estimates of harvest suggest Ohio’s pheasant and quail harvest in 2017-18 was similar to recent years,” reports Joseph Lautenbach, Wildlife Biologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“Preliminary harvest survey data suggests that wild pheasant hunters, on average, spent 3.8 days afield, flushed 5.4 birds, and harvested 1.0 wild birds,” he says. “In comparison, preliminary harvest survey data estimates wild quail hunters in Ohio spent 3.0 days afield, flushed 10.2 wild quail, and harvested 1.1 wild quail this season, on average.”

WINTER SUMMARY

“Ohio had some extended snow cover and extreme cold temperature in early January,” says Lautenbach. “We also had several other periods of extended snow cover in January and February. While these types of events are not ideal for pheasants, these conditions have little effect on pheasant survival. On the other hand, extended periods of snow cover can increase quail mortality substantially.” 

“Overall, winter conditions were similar to the long-term average throughout much of the state,” he adds. “Southern Ohio experienced some extended periods of snow cover in January and February.”

“It seems like spring is on its way,” Lautenbach says. “However, late heavy frosts and cold, wet conditions during the nesting season would likely reduce nest survival.”

SPRING UPDATE

“If spring and summer temperatures are warm and Ohio doesn’t experience any extreme weather conditions (e.g., heavy rains, flooding, extreme cold), pheasant and quail should have a productive nesting seasons in Ohio’s pheasant and quail range,” says Lautenbach.
 

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OREGON

“Quail and pheasant populations were down for the 2017-18 hunting season,” reports Kelly Walton, Assistant Game Bird Biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Pheasant harvest was well below the five-year average, and was at a five-year low in 2017-18.  California quail harvest was up in several areas of western and central Oregon, but was down in northeastern and southeastern Oregon where the previous winter had been harsh.”

WINTER SUMMARY

“Winter snow pack was generally below average across the state, although some areas in Northeast Oregon had average snow levels,” says Walton. “The winter was mild in terms of temperature, but winter temperatures and weather did prolong into late March in some areas of eastern Oregon.”

“Still, overall mild conditions should result in good overwinter survival of birds,” Walton adds. “It is hard to predict if a late winter storm may still arrive.  The main risk for upland game birds is a late season snow or rain event during hatching.

SPRING UPDATE

“Overwinter survival of gamebirds should be relatively high, especially compared to last winter,” says Walton. “The downfall to a mild winter with below average precipitation is that drought may be an issue during the upcoming summer. Adequate moisture is needed for forb and grass growth and good insect abundance, which are both beneficial to nesting and brood survival.”
 

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PENNSYLVANIA

“We had our first ever hunting season on our prime Pennsylvania Wild Pheasant Recovery Area in Montour County,” reports Scott R. Klinger, Wildlife Research Biologist and Farmland Wildlife Recovery Team Leader with the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC). “It was limited to a youth hunt, and it was very successful! We plan to have another youth-only hunt in 2018.”

“In 2017, we also implemented a $25 Pheasant Permit for pheasant hunting in Pennsylvania,” says Klinger. “We sold nearly 45,000 permits in 2017-18 and expect that to increase in the future.  Pheasant hunting remains very popular in Pennsylvania.” Much of the hunting is currently for stocked birds.

WINTER SUMMARY

“We had a generally normal winter across much of Pennsylvania, but the Southeast, historically prime pheasant range, was hit by a late March snowstorm,” says Klinger. “A late winter snow storm, especially deep snows, could affect nesting and nest success and hen survival.  This would be bad for our Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas.  We are praying that spring is coming soon!” 

SPRING UPDATE

“We are hopeful that with good spring weather, we should have the potential for good nesting cover and a good nesting season on our primary Wildlife Pheasant Recovery Area in Montour County,” says Klinger.    

HABITAT INITIATIVES

“Our Wild Pheasant Research Program began in 2007 and was completed in 2017,” says Klinger. “We trapped and transferred over 2,300 wild pheasants from South Dakota and Montana between 2007 and 2014.  So far, we have established a wild pheasant population on our Central Susquehanna Wild Pheasant Recovery Area (CSWPRA).  We have not released any birds since 2009 on this WPRA and flushed over 140 birds on four farms this winter.”

“We are continuing to monitor pheasant populations on our other WPRAs in Dauphin, Schuylkill and Franklin Counties,” says Klinger. “These areas remain closed to pheasant hunting. Another Wild Pheasant Youth Hunt is planned for our CSWPRA in 2018.”

“Lacey Williamson, a Penn State Graduate student, completed her Master’s Thesis in 2017 on the Wild Pheasant Recovery Program,” he adds, “and the PGC is working with Penn State and the University of Nebraska on mapping potential pheasant habitat in the state.”

QUAIL NOTES

“Our Northern Bobwhite Quail Recovery Program is moving ahead,” reports Klinger. “We have been working closely with the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) and have selected Letterkenny Army Depot (LEAD) in Franklin County PA, as our first Bobwhite Quail Focus Area (BQFA).”

“A Memo of Understanding between LEAD and the Pennsylvania Game Commission has been signed,” he says. “In addition, the PGC is working closely with Quail Forever on this recovery effort.  A habitat management plan is in place at LEAD and the Army is committed to helping restore bobwhites to Pennsylvania.”

“We hope to be able to have met our habitat goals at LEAD no later than 2020,” concludes Klinger. “A trap and transfer of wild northern bobwhites will be needed to restore wild populations in Pennsylvania.”
 

* * * * *

SOUTH DAKOTA

“Consistent with August roadside survey results, pheasant abundance appeared lower than last year, but good hunting opportunities still existed in areas with good habitat across South Dakota,” reports Travis Runia, Senior Upland Game Biologist with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. “Final pheasant harvest information will be available in May.”
 
WINTER SUMMARY

“Most of the primary pheasant range received within 10 inches of normal snowfall for the time period of November through March 21,” says Runia. “North-central and northeastern portions of the state were below normal while the central, south-central and southeastern regions received above average snowfall.”

“A majority of the snowfall occurred during the second half of the winter, so pheasants benefited from a mostly ‘brown’ winter until mid-February,” adds Runia. “Pheasant survival during winter is generally higher when snow pack is light or absent.  Overall, the winter was normal to slightly favorable for pheasant survival.”

SPRING UPDATE

“There could be lingering impacts of the 2017 drought to pheasant production in 2018,” cautions Runia. “Many CRP fields were partially hayed, and many grazing lands have less than ideal residual cover due to severe drought.  Pheasants select for grasslands with enough cover to conceal a nesting hen and those areas will be less abundant during the early nesting season.”

“We are all hopeful for normal temperature and precipitation patterns, which will be beneficial to pheasant production by improving habitat conditions compared to last year,” concludes Runia.
 

* * * * *

WISCONSIN

“We had successful pheasant season this year, with many reports of people out hunting on public land,” reports Jaqi Christopher, Wildlife Biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “Unfortunately, with Wisconsin’s extensive stocking program, we are unable to determine whether hunters are pursuing wild birds or pen-raised birds.”

Some anecdotal reports were good out of the state’s best wild pheasant range in northwestern Wisconsin, as well as area with good habitat in the East and pockets of the South.

WINTER SUMMARY

“Wisconsin has seen a fairly mild winter for the third year in a row,” says Christopher. “We did see some low temperatures, but little snow accumulation in the southern part of the state. In the northwest, where most of our pheasant population is, we saw more snowfall.”

“Despite that,” Christopher adds, “we saw an increase in production last season and there is an abundance of quality habitat up in the Northwest, so I don’t expect the winter had a severe impact on the pheasant population.” 
 
“Winter weather is holding on, especially in the North where there is still snow cover,” says Christopher, “but spring is peaking its head out. I don’t anticipate any large weather event that could affect the pheasant population at this point.” 
 
“Pheasants in the southeast part of the state enjoyed an especially mild winter,” says Christopher. “Despite the harsher winter weather in the northwest, I expect the quality habitat allowed for good winter survival there.”  

SPRING UPDATE

“With the overall mild winter and with pheasant production being up last year, I expect this to be another good production year,” says Christopher.
 

* * * * *

WYOMING

“Wild bird harvest was down in 2017 compared to the 2016 season in Wyoming,” reports Martin Hicks, Wildlife Biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “Wild birds comprise about 10 perc of Wyoming’s pheasant harvest.”

“Poor brood rearing conditions as a result of a hot, dry summer, along with a major hail event that occurred in early June, most likely had a negative on wild bird production and survival in 2017,” says Hicks.

“Winter throughout southeastern Wyoming was very mild, with below average snowfall,” says Hicks. “This helped increase survival rates for overwintering pheasants.”
 
“But winter is never over in Wyoming until May,’ adds Hicks. “Typically, southeastern Wyoming experiences a heavy, wet snow event in April or early May.”  
 
“Until there is a rejuvenation of CRP in southeastern Wyoming, habitat conditions will remain poor,” says Hicks. “Even when the area received above average precipitation in recent years, production was still well below levels observed in the mid to late 1990’s.”
 

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