Texas pheasants are on the rise with adequate rain, and CP33 initiative, teaming up to make good habitat.
By Tom Carpenter
“Texas’s main 13-county pheasant range had average rainfall this summer,” reports Robert Perez, Upland Game Bird Program Leader at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “No drought is a good thing, and it is the number one factor that’s been bringing our birds back.”
“Hurricane Harvey didn’t reach up in to our panhandle pheasant range to effect our birds in any way,” he adds.
“Anecdotal evidence is that we had decent pheasant reproduction this year,” says Perez. “Texas doesn’t perform its upland game bird surveys until late November and early December, so we won’t have hard data until then. We run 44 routes, giving each one only one shot.”
Texas’s pheasant season runs from December 2-31 this year, with 37 counites open. But that 13-county core range that Perez mentions is the epicenter of Lone Star ringneck harvest.
“The trend for pheasants has been good over the past few years,” says Perez. “The drought leading up to 2012 and 2013 was catastrophic to habitat and reproduction. But 2014, 2015 and 2016, with decent rains but not too much moisture, were rebuilding years for panhandle pheasants.”
“We came into 2017 with decent precipitation as well,” he adds. That helped the habitat. “Our pheasants are not yet up to those pre-drought levels, but there are definitely birds.”
Still, that said, “Our pheasant populations haven’t responded to the rain like Texas’s bobwhites have,” Perez points out. But that’s common in recovery situations when pheasants and quail are compared. Pheasants just don’t respond as fast as quail. “But still, there has been a steady increase from those all-time pheasant lows in 2012 and 2013.”
“The western half of the panhandle is our main pheasant range,” says Perez. “Our staff is seeing more birds. The anecdotal evidence is good. And harvest has increased year to year.”
Texas has some fairly strong harvest numbers considering the small area that actually holds birds. From a low of 18,000 or so birds in the worst drought year of 2013,-014, last year’s estimated harvest was about 28,000 pheasants.
“Dallam County, with Dalhart as county seat, is the heart and soul of our pheasant range,” says Perez. “It’s a real bird hunting community up there.”
“Other top tier counties include Hartley, Hansford, Sherman, Ochiltree, Deaf Smith, Moore, Carson and Roberts,” says Perez. “Swisher, Briscoe, Castro, and Parmer counties will be supporting a few birds in localized situations.”
“Particularly exciting for Texas pheasant habitat is the CP33 habitat buffer initiative on the corners of irrigation route circles,” concludes Perez. “We’ve been trying to get those pivot corners enrolled. In 2015 it happened. The more we can get, the better. One corner is okay; four corners together make for a nice chunk of pheasant habitat.”
Texas Rooster Tip
*“Follow this formula to find Texas pheasants,” says Perez. “Go to the western side of the northern panhandle. Look for CRP next to agricultural fields.” Hit those irrigation corners too.
Texas Pheasant Page
Texas Public Hunting Lands Page
Tom Carpenter is Digital Content Manager for Pheasants Forever