WEATHER EXTREMES COLOR UPLAND BIRD PROSPECTS
Good spring nesting conditions allow birds to recover from severe winter
PRATT -- For Sunflower State upland bird hunters, the prospects for hunting this fall are a mixed bag, thanks to Kansas’ unpredictable weather.
“Due to one of the most severe winters in recent memory, the number of pheasants going into the nesting season was more than 30 percent lower than in 2006,” reports Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) small game coordinator Jim Pitman. “However, the deep snow that fell across much of Kansas last winter provided much-needed moisture after several years of drought.”
That added moisture created good cover conditions for nesting pheasants, which commonly nest in green wheat. The moderate, wet weather across much of the state this spring and summer delayed wheat harvest, allowing pheasant hens more time to hatch and rear their young. As a result, pheasant production more than compensated for last winter’s loss of birds, creating much better pheasant hunting prospects, especially in southwestern Kansas. Pheasant hunting in most of the other regions of the state will be similar or somewhat improved from last year.
Pheasant season runs Nov. 3 through Jan. 31, with a daily limit of four roosters and a possession limit of 16. Hunters 16 and younger may hunt pheasants and quail during an Oct. 27-28 youth season. Youth hunters must be accompanied by a supervising adult 18 or older, who may not hunt. The daily bag limit for the youth season is half of the normal season bag (4 quail, 2 pheasants).
The prospects for quail hunters this fall aren't as optimistic as for pheasant hunters, especially in two regions of the state that experienced some weather extremes during the past year. In addition to the loss of quail due to snow and ice storms last winter, the heavy rain and flooding that occurred this summer in southeast Kansas coincided with the peak hatching period for bobwhites. Northwest and southeast Kansas were the hardest hit regions. While quail prospects are down in those two regions, quail hunting in other areas of the state is expected to be similar to last year and somewhat improved in certain areas. Quail season opens Nov. 10 and runs through Jan. 20, with a daily bag limit of eight.
Prairie chicken numbers should be similar to last year. Lesser prairie chickens were subjected to a combination of severe drought during the summer of 2006 and severe winter weather across most of their western Kansas range. However, good nesting conditions this summer probably helped offset those weather-related losses, and lesser prairie chicken numbers should have rebounded somewhat.
Spring surveys of greater prairie chicken numbers in northcentral Kansas and the northern Flint Hills showed numbers similar to 2006, while numbers were down slightly in the southern Flint Hills. Nesting conditions for chickens were favorable in the northern Flint Hills and northcentral Kansas but poor in the southern Flint Hills. Greater prairie chicken numbers will likely be down somewhat from last year in the southern Flint Hills but similar to last year or somewhat improved throughout the rest of their range. Early prairie chicken season (east of U. S 281 only) is Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. The regular prairie chicken season in eastern and northwest units (north of I-70 and east of U. S. 281) is Nov. 17 through Jan. 31. The daily bag limit in these units is two, with a possession limit of eight.
The prairie chicken season in the southwest unit (south of I-70 and west of U. S. 281) is Nov. 17 through Dec. 31. The daily bag limit in this unit is one, with a possession limit of four.
For more detailed information on upland bird hunting prospects around the state, type “2007 Kansas Upland Bird Forecast” in the search box of the KDWP website, www.kdwp.ks.us.