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2005 PF Hunting Forcast by state

Overview: The 2005 pheasant season should prove to be a year to remember. Across nearly the entire pheasant range, pheasant numbers are up thanks to quality Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands, Pheasants Forever chapter habitat projects, a series of mild winters, and advantageous spring weather. In fact, South Dakota experts report their pheasant population to be at a 40-year high. For many states, 2003 was the high-water mark for pheasant populations in the post-Soil Bank era. Cold spring rains hurt nesting and brooding success last year and resulted in a drop for 2004. However, this year’s forecast shows nearly every pheasant range state to be up and 2005 should challenge 2003 for total pheasant harvest numbers across the range. The following six states are considered to be the top tier of pheasant states based on annual average harvests of 400,000 or more birds a season.


The Top Tier of Pheasant States (In Alphabetical Order)

Iowa: There was a 30% drop in harvested birds to a total of 750,000 in 2004. Nevertheless, Iowa remains the second biggest pheasant state and this year should reinforce that position. This year’s roadside survey showed a 19% increase from 2004. The central part of the state showed the largest gain from 2004 with a 45% jump, while the northeast and northcentral rebounded from 2004’s drenching rains to show double digit increases. Surveys indicate the northwest to hold the highest overall bird densities. Season: Oct. 29 – Jan. 10

Kansas: Bird numbers were up last year with hunters harvesting 685,000 birds in 2004 compared to 646,000 in 2003. That trend should continue this year as April rains greened up the wheat to conceal nesting hens. Nesting success and chick survival should also have been high with the weather drying out in May and June. Expect the biggest improvements in western Kansas. Season: Nov. 12 – Jan. 31

Minnesota: The 2003 pheasant season was MN’s best in over a decade with hunters harvesting over 500,000 roosters. Like Iowa, bird numbers dropped significantly in ‘04, but Minnesotans still managed to bag over 420,000 birds last year. This year, that harvest number should climb back over half a million with roadside counts showing a whopping 75% increase over last year. That dramatic increase is attributed to more habitat on the ground than any time in the last 15 years, four consecutive mild winters, and warm spring weather. The southwest and southcentral regions showed the best bird densities. Season: Oct. 15 – Jan. 1

Nebraska: The biggest gainer last year with hunters harvesting over 406,000 birds, up from 368,000 in 2003. A cold and wet early June hurt early nesting success, but improved weather after June 10th helped late nesters and re-nesters. Roadside counts show the state’s western half making gains, while the eastern half’s numbers declined or held steady. Overall, there was a 9% increase in birds determined by the August roadside survey. The southwest had the state’s highest average counts. Season: Oct. 29 – Jan. 31

North Dakota: Cold May rains were likely rough on early nesters, but landowners are reporting good numbers throughout the state thanks to summer rains greening up brooding cover. Hunters should expect a modest increase from 2004 when 587,600 birds were harvested. The southeast had the best spring nesting weather and will be the best region of the state again this year. South of Interstate 94 across N.D. is considered to be the state’s best range. Season: Oct. 8 – Jan. 8.

South Dakota: S.D. Department of Game, Fish, and Parks reported that their annual brood survey was higher in 2005 than any time in the last 40 years. Almost every area of the state showed at least 10 year highs with a 21% increase from 2004. South Dakota’s CRP, combined with mild winters and a favorable spring equals big pheasant numbers. Hunters may bag as many as 2 million S.D. roosters in 2005. There is no doubt that South Dakota will earn its title as the Pheasant Capital in 2005. Season: Oct. 16 – Jan. 2

The Second Tier of Pheasant States (In Alphabetical Order)

Overview: While these states don’t harvest as many birds as the top six pheasant states, they do offer excellent localized pheasant opportunities. Many have long traditions of pheasant hunting and at one time some even boasted harvest numbers of half a million birds or more. The Pheasants Forever chapters in these states are working hard to create the habitat necessary to bring back the good old days of the Soil Bank era, fence rows, and fields filled with pheasants. The Conservation Reserve Program’s CREP component, which focuses on protecting targeted watersheds, has been especially beneficial to wildlife populations in many of these states.


California: Brood counts were good this year thanks to spring rains that greened things up for nesting. The Sacramento Valley is the state’s best pheasant range. Season: Nov. 12 – Dec. 25

Colorado: Overall, birds will be up this year due to a mild winter and excellent late spring nesting conditions. Early nesting was hurt by a lack of early rain to green up the wheat for nesting cover. Yuma County will remain the top pheasant county despite poor spring weather there. The best pheasant range is the triangular area from Sterling to Holyoke to Burlington. Colorado hunters harvested 53,000 birds last year. Multiple Seasons

Idaho: With a mild winter and rain at the right times this spring, Idaho expects to improve slightly over last year’s 70,000 bird harvest. The Lewiston area and the southern region of the state from Boise to Pocatello hold the most birds. Multiple Seasons

Illinois: As recently as the early 1970s, hunters harvested one million roosters in Illinois. CRP helped recover some of those losses in the late ‘80s into the mid ‘90s; however, the conversion of CRP lands to agricultural fields has dropped average harvests to below 200,000. Pheasant numbers could be down by as much as 25% this fall. The Illinois pheasant range went through a significant drought this summer, which likely reduced nest success primarily through increased nest abandonment and lower than normal chick survival. This is unfortunate since the pheasant harvest topped 200,000 birds last year for the first time since 1997. Season: Nov. 5 – Jan. 8 (North)/Jan. 15 (South)

Indiana: With a milder than normal winter and ideal spring nesting conditions, Indiana will see an increase in pheasants this year. Unfortunately, major losses of habitat have this state’s pheasant population at historic lows with an average harvest of 30,000 birds. Biologists are excited about the state’s new CREP for creating more pheasant habitat. The northwest part of the state between Lafayette and Merrillville provide the best opportunities with strong PF chapters in the area working to create habitat to help Indiana’s roosters. Season: Nov. 4 – Dec. 18

Michigan: A mild winter and good spring nesting conditions should improve populations. Annually, Michiganders harvest nearly 120,000 roosters a year with the two main areas being in the Lower Peninsula’s thumb region and southern Michigan from Lansing to the Ohio/Indiana border. Michigan’s CREP has done a tremendous job for creating pheasant habitat and those with access to these CREP lands will enjoy exceptional hunting. Multiple Seasons

Missouri: Like Iowa to the north, bird numbers are up in the “Show Me State.” The northern one-third of the state is the pheasant range with the northeast and northwest corners holding the most CRP acres and consequently the most birds. Season: Nov. 1 – Jan. 15

Montana: A mild winter and excellent spring cover for nesting has Montana’s bird numbers up slightly overall, but significant increases are expected in the northcentral and northeastern portions of the state. This is welcome news for bird hunters after the severe winter of 2003-2004 reduced pheasant populations to about 30 percent below average. Sheridan, Roosevelt, Richland, and Dawson counties provide good bird numbers, as do areas along the Milk River, Mission Valley, and Yellowstone Valley. Season: Oct. 8 – Jan. 1

New York: With a mild winter and ideal spring conditions, New Yorkers are expecting the best year in a long time for wild roosters. The Lakes-Plains region of the state between Buffalo and Syracuse provide the best bird numbers. Multiple Seasons

Ohio: Ohio’s 105,000 pheasant hunters generally harvest over 200,000 birds a season. The Lake Erie and Scioto CREP programs are having positive habitat impacts in northwestern and central Ohio. Overall, expect slightly improved bird numbers in 2005 with stable numbers in northern and central Ohio. Season: Nov. 4 – Jan. 2

Oklahoma: Like Texas, things are greener than normal in OK. In fact, Oklahomans in the northcentral part of the state are so optimistic they are afraid the word is going to spread about their little-known, but big results pheasant state. Season: Dec. 1 – Jan. 31

Oregon: The home of pheasants in the U.S. will see a slight increase with the eastern half of the state boasting the most birds. Last year, 13,000 hunters harvested 50,000 birds. The Columbia Basin between Pendleton and The Dalles provides the best bird numbers. However, don’t overlook the nostalgia of visiting Lynn County, where pheasants were first introduced to the U.S. Season: Oct. 15 – Dec. 11

Pennsylvania: A dry spring kept the insect numbers down, so that probably hindered brood-rearing. Overall, wild bird numbers should be similar to last year. CREP lands are also helping to fight the rampant habitat loss here too. The state’s pheasant range is from York in the southeast up to the southcentral part of the state. Multiple Seasons

Texas: In the panhandle region of Texas is where you find pheasants and this year hunters should find a lot more than normal. A hot and dry early spring gave way to a wetter summer and things are greener than normal this year. Survey results are not complete, but sources report “gagillions” of chicks this year around CRP fields located near wheat, milo, and/or corn fields. Multiple Seasons

Utah: Pheasant populations are very low compared to historic levels. However, in suitable habitats, hunters should find increased bird numbers from 2004. Spring rains stimulated an abundance of good nesting and brood-rearing cover throughout the state. Best pheasant hunting can be found in Box Elder, Cache, Duchesne, Millard, Sevier, and Utah counties. Multiple Seasons

Washington: Good spring rains greened up cover and spurred insect growth leading biologists to be optimistic about a good year. Washington hunters harvest nearly 100,000 birds a year with Whitman, Grant, and Yakima counties leading the way. Multiple Seasons

Wisconsin: Surveys show a 2% increase from ‘04, but there is reason to be optimistic for bigger numbers with this year’s ideal spring nesting conditions. Overall, Wisconsin’s bird numbers will show at least a 22% increase above the long term mean since 1972. Wisconsin hunters generally harvest just over 200,000 birds. The state’s best areas are between Madison and Green Bay, as well as in the counties of Polk and St. Croix near the Minnesota border. Season: Oct. 15 – Dec. 31

Wyoming: Pheasant numbers have been low the last 4-5 years due to drought and this year appears to follow the same trend. Sharp-tailed grouse lek counts are also down this year. Sage grouse numbers increased as they responded well to summer moisture. Although pheasant numbers are low, birds can still be found near many of the irrigation districts and in agricultural areas of eastern Wyoming. Multiple Seasons

Canada: Hunters don’t automatically think Canada when talking pheasants, eh. However, southern Alberta does offer some excellent upland opportunities. This year, spring counts were up 35% for pheasants from 2004. Unfortunately, a cold and wet June will prevent Canada from gaining big ground on last year. Nevertheless, pheasant numbers will be up, as will sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge.


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