Mix of weather conditions makes for difficult predictions on Washington’s pheasant season
By Andy Fondrick
A mild winter and dry spring should have provided ideal conditions as pheasants were nesting. But extreme drought throughout the summer months may have hampered the positive trends the beginning of the year provided. There should still be opportunity to find birds in Washington if you’re looking to chase pheasants in the Pacific Northwest this season.
Weather and Conditions
After another fairly mild winter in Washington, pheasants should have had a fairly high survival rate heading into nesting season.
“Washington had a warm, dry spring in 2021 so hatchlings should have done well,” says Sarah Garrison, small game and furbearer specialist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Unfortunately, the summer drought and heat waves may have impacted forage availability.
“Extreme drought and fire risk have led to closure of all eastern Washington DNR lands and WDFW lands are open only for day-use access until conditions improve,” Garrison says. “These restrictions will most likely lift before the eastern Washington pheasant season opens in October, but make sure to check conditions before going to the field.”
Habitat, Broods and Counts
The ups and downs in weather conditions have made for difficult predictions on pheasant number. There aren’t any official counts to provide a more concrete outlook.
According to Garrison, Washington is participating in a multistate collaborative research project with Iowa State University and Pheasants Forever to improve brood survey methodology. Results from these surveys will be available once the project is completed.
Even through the uncertainty of the drought and the fire risks, there are a few bright spots in the state if you’re looking to chase pheasants this fall.
“Grant and Whitman counties continue to support the highest levels of pheasant harvest,” says Garrison. “Harvest data from the 2020 season showed a 21 percent increase in harvests per day in Benton County, so this may be a promising area in the upcoming season as well.”
“Western Washington doesn’t have naturally sustaining wild pheasant populations,” Garrison adds. “But our pheasant release program will be operating at normal capacity this year to provide opportunity to western Washington hunters.” Click here for more information on the Western Washington Pheasant Release Program
Garrison recommends reaching out to landowners and securing access to private lands. You can also take advantage of the state’s Private Lands Access Program
to find some new areas to hunt in Washington.
As is the case with most states in the Pacific Northwest, be sure to do your homework and check on ever-changing fire and drought conditions before hitting the field this fall.