posted on September 24, 2004 00:00
Rains returned to most of the parched areas of Kansas this spring and summer. Hunters in most areas will find excellent habitat conditions and increased numbers of birds. Following are hunting forecasts by region:
Region 1 - Northwest and Northcentral Kansas
Region 1 offers plenty of upland bird hunting opportunity in 2004. Numerous excellent public wildlife areas, plus nearly a half-million acres in Walk-In Hunting Areas (WIHA) assures a generous supply of hunting access for the upland bird hunter. Pheasant hunting will be at least as good as 2003 region-wide. The eastern half of the region will hold slightly higher numbers than farther west. Hunters should look for areas that have quality cover coupled with good food sources. Quail hunters should find bird numbers a little higher than last year in most good quail habitats in Region 1. Best quail numbers are always in the eastern part of the region, nearer to the core of bobwhite quail range in Kansas. Prairie chickens have been expanding their range in Region 1 since the Conservation Reserve Program was initiated. Moderate numbers of lesser and greater chickens occur within this region, with best numbers in the eastern and central counties of Region 1. The best hunting opportunities occur where chickens are flying to feed fields in morning and late afternoon.
Region 2 - Northeast Kansas
Region 2 offers some excellent public wildlife area and WIHA opportunities. As elsewhere in the state, habitat conditions have improved over last year. Pheasant numbers are up throughout the northeast, with the exception of a few areas in the western portion of the region. Quail numbers in Region 2 have been below the long-term average for a number of years. It appears that quail numbers in this region will be about the same as last season year, yielding fair hunting opportunity. Prairie chicken numbers will be similar to last year and will yield fair hunting.
Region 3 - Southwest Kansas
Beneficial rains this year have improved habitat considerably over most of the southwest. Habitat in most parts of the region is good to excellent. Although Region 3 has fairly limited public wildlife lands, there is a generous supply of WIHA to provide hunting access. Pheasant numbers in the region look very good this year, with numbers increasing from the west to the east parts of the region. A few areas in the extreme southwest counties may be slightly lower because of summer hail storms, but overall the region will hold good numbers of pheasants. Quail prospects also look good in the southwest. Populations in most areas are slightly better or at least as good as last season, with best potential in the southern two tiers of counties. Cimarron National Grasslands in the extreme southwest corner of the state offers more than 100,000 acres of public hunting with opportunity for both bobwhite and scaled quail. Prairie chicken numbers in the southwest are similar to last year, with scattered areas showing slight population improvements.
Region 4 - Southcentral Kansas
In general, this region fared well in game bird production and survival this year. Timely rains have produced excellent cover conditions although a few areas experienced flooding and may not hold as many birds, especially low-lying areas around large reservoirs. Pheasant numbers in Region 4 are good to excellent this year. Even in areas that are generally marginal pheasant range, there appear to be good numbers of birds. Quail hunting in Region 4 is expected to be slightly improved over last year, due to wet weather limiting the extent of pasture burning during the spring. Counties to the south and west of the Flint Hills are modestly improved, but expect a few patches that suffered continued drought or were hit by hail storms to have fair numbers. Prairie chicken numbers are good this season. Because there is a lot of natural food available in grasslands, it may be expected that chickens will be later in coming into grain fields this fall.
Region 5 - Southeast Kansas
This region is the core of traditional quail range in Kansas although it has experienced a general, long-term downward trend in bird numbers. Generally, habitat conditions in the southeast are excellent, with the exception of some low-lying areas adjoining large reservoirs where flooding has had a negative impact on cover. Pheasant hunting has never been an attraction for this region although ringnecks may occasionally be encountered in northwestern counties of the region. Quail numbers are improved over last year, with the exception of the aforehmentioned low-lying areas around some reservoirs. Prairie chicken numbers are best in the western counties of the region, which border on the Flint Hills where numbers are improved this fall.