By Tom Carpenter, Editor - Pheasants Forever
No matter how you measure summer, it starts to wane somewhere, sometime, in July.
Maybe the weather doesn’t quite say autumn is on the way, but the upland hunter’s mind begins to turn just a bit toward autumn – getting the dog out more, shooting a few rounds, patching up those boots and brush pants, placing that ammo order … and dreaming about splendid roosters erupting into a blue autumn sky.
It’s never too early to dream. Or to start planning autumn’s excursions and adventures. That’s why I surveyed key wildlife managers in the ten of the top pheasant states to see what was going on with the birds right now. While the biologists are careful to hold predictions close to their vests until official roadside surveys and the like are in, it’s also far enough along to take an early look.
Read on. Dream on. Start getting ready. Here's an early look at Kansas.
“Kansas had very little winter precipitation (October to April) and as such, wheat was relatively short and overall nesting conditions were poor at the start of the season,” reports Jeff Prendergast, Small Game Specialist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT).
“Late April precipitation picked up and has been relatively heavy across much of the pheasant range” he adds. “This heavy rainfall events has impacted brood survival in certain areas but has greatly improved nesting cover in late spring / early summer, as well as provided excellent brood cover. Some localized flash flood events across western Kansas will likely affect bird numbers in impacted areas."
“That lack of winter precipitation had nesting conditions looking grim at the start of the nesting season,” says Prendergast, “but heavy precipitation starting in late April greatly improved conditions in later spring.”
“Summer precipitation delayed wheat harvest this year and increased weedy cover providing excellent brood cover across pheasant range,” he adds.
“KDWPT recently more than tripled the amount of money in the statewide private lands habitat program under the new Habitat First program,” says Prendergast. “In combination with this program KDWPT has recently entered into a partnership with Habitat Forever to hire 3 habitat specialists in key locations to complete projects on private lands. These projects are on properties where s KDWPT biologist has developed a management plan and the landowner has the interest but doesn't have the ability to complete the project on their own.”
“While the program is not restricted to Walk-in hunting properties,” he says, “properties enrolled in the program receive priority. The program has been so popular in the first few months that some landowners have been offering to sign multiyear WIHA contracts to increase the priority of their projects.”
“Crow surveys were slightly decreased this year, but remained near average,” says Prendergast. “The decline was expected due to a late snowstorm in western Kansas, impacting production of young last year.”
“Conditions at the beginning of nesting season were concerning,” he concludes, “but have greatly improved, and brood reports have started to trickle in. With current conditions we're optimistic that we should be able to remain similar to last year in bird numbers, with potential to see some areas of improvement. Summer brood surveys will provide more information on realized potential for the upcoming season.”
In other word, fingers crossed and stay tuned, particularly by looking for PF’s Kansas Fall Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2018, in early September.