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Pheasant hunt begins November 1

SALT LAKE CITY — Hunters taking to the field for pheasants in Utah this season should find bird numbers that will be similar to last year. Those heading afield for Gambel's quail along Utah's southern border, however, should enjoy improved hunting.

Utah's 2003 pheasant and quail seasons open Nov. 1. Dean Mitchell, upland game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, provides the following preview for the upcoming hunts:

Ring-necked Pheasant

Despite the fact that Utah pheasant populations have declined drastically, many Utah hunters will be afield this year for the wily ringneck!

Hunters should not expect any highly noticeable improvement in pheasant populations this year over last. Five years of drought and countless years of habitat loss have taken their toll on Utah's pheasant populations.

Hunters should concentrate their efforts in those areas with remaining suitable habitat. Most of Utah's pheasant hunters participate during the opening weekend only. Those with persistence and who hunt during weekdays are successful in harvesting a few birds.

Utah pheasant hunting will be poor to fair at best throughout the state. Predictions for hunter success by DWR region are as follows:

Northern Region: Reports of large pheasant broods have been common this year. A slightly improved hunt is expected.

Central Region: Habitat conditions in agricultural areas where pheasants are found are fair. In spite of the continuing drought, a few well-timed spring showers stimulated improved nesting and brooding habitat conditions. Continued urban and industrial development throughout the region make it difficult for hunters to find pheasants. Those with access to private agricultural lands will have the best success. Overall, hunting is expected to be slow.

Northeastern Region: Poor to fair hunting expected.

Southeastern Region: Poor to fair hunting expected.

Southern Region: Poor to fair hunting expected.

The 2003 pheasant hunt will not compare with the heyday of pheasant hunting in Utah, which happened in the 1950s and 1960s. Too much habitat has been lost or degraded. Division of Wildlife Resources biologists are anxious to work with landowners who desire to improve and enhance pheasant habitat on private property. Funds are available through the DWR Habitat Fund for habitat project cost-share payments to landowners who are interested. Please contact the DWR Regional Habitat Manager in your area for more details.

Pheasant hunting strategies in Utah are fairly different than in the past. Most of the best habitat for pheasants is still found on private lands throughout the state. However, hunters can no longer expect to go afield and have access to private lands on opening morning without talking with the landowner. Hunters need to invest some time ahead of the pheasant season opener to secure permission on private lands they desire to hunt. Hunters on lands that are "cultivated" or that have been "properly posted" as "No Trespassing" are required to have written permission from the landowner or person in charge to be there. This applies to family members as well who are not the actual landowner or person in charge of the land.

To determine who owns a parcel of private land you desire to hunt, you should visit the county recorder or assessor office for the county you desire to hunt in. Ask to review the "Plat maps" for the area you're interested in hunting. Plat maps provide information on who owns a particular parcel of land. Some county offices will provide telephone numbers or mailing addresses for landowners. This information can be used to contact the landowner to attempt to secure permission to hunt. In some cases, the hunter may have to use the local telephone directory to determine landowner contact information.

Hunters are encouraged to complete and have the landowner sign the landowner permission card located on the DWR Internet Web page at

Most landowners are more than happy to allow pheasant hunters onto their land. They simply want to know who's out there. A simple telephone call or personal introduction goes a very long way in securing permission to hunt on private land. Please take the time to do so! One trespasser is all it takes to close private property to hunters.

Pheasant and other upland game hunters are strongly encouraged to pick up all spent shotgun shell hulls in an effort to be respectful of private and public lands that may be hunted. Old decaying shotgun shell hulls left afield are unsightly and litter Utah's landscape. Please do your part and pick up and pack out any shotgun shell hulls that you may expend while afield. Also, please pick up and pack out any expended shotgun shell hulls left by others. We all need to do our part as ethical and responsible hunters. An uncluttered landscape left by hunters goes a long way toward getting invited back to private lands.

While in the field for pheasants, hunters are encouraged to pay close attention to their shot zones. Annually, DWR conservation officers respond to complaints from landowners concerned about buildings, livestock and farm equipment being "peppered" by shotgun pellets. All it takes is one event like this to close private property to hunting for good! As more and more of Utah's pheasant habitat is replaced by urban and industrial development, it's essential to pay attention to your shot zone! Although not required by law, it's also an excellent idea to wear hunter orange clothing and caps while afield for pheasants.

Information about specific DWR Upland Game and Waterfowl Management Areas open to hunting is contained in a brochure titled, "Your DWR Lands." This brochure is available on the DWR upland game Web page at

A more comprehensive compilation of DWR lands is found in a booklet titled, "Access to Wildlife Lands in Utah." This booklet can be purchased at any DWR office. The brochure and booklet can also help pheasant hunters who desire to hunt the 30-day season in select counties as outlined in the Upland Game Proclamation.

Upland Game and Waterfowl Cooperative Wildlife Management Units (CWMUs), renamed from Posted Hunting Units during the 1997 legislative session, have been in existence in Utah for more than 50 years. As pheasant numbers have declined, so have the number of CWMUs. CWMUs are areas in which landowners form associations and open their private property to upland game and waterfowl hunting for a fee. A list of CWMUs that provides information about permit sales, dates, times and CWMU operator information is available from all DWR offices.

California and Gambel's Quail

California quail populations are sporadically scattered throughout Utah. Main concentrations are found within urban areas along the Wasatch Front, east into the Uintah Basin and southeast into the Carbon and Emery county areas. If hunting adjacent to urban areas, hunters should contact local authorities to determine regulations governing the discharge of firearms.

California quail populations appear to be the same as last year. Recent and ongoing transplants of California quail from the Wasatch Front to suitable habitats in outlying areas are responsible for quail being seen by hunters in new areas. Duchesne, Uintah and parts of Sevier and Emery counties are traditionally the best areas to hunt.

Predictions for hunter success by DWR region are as follows:

Northern Region: urban populations.

Central Region: Most of the quail habitat in the Central Region is along the Wasatch Front where hunting is very limited, if not restricted altogether. Caution should be used when hunting in the foothills above housing areas, taking note where city limit boundaries are to avoid illegal shooting. The quail population is similar to last year.

Northeastern Region: Fair hunting is expected in Duchesne County. The extended opportunity to hunt quail in the Uintah Basin through December has provided some good recreational opportunity for hunters.

Southeastern Region: Fair to good hunting expected. Limited distribution.

Southern Region: Fair to good hunting expected. Very limited distribution.

Gambel's quail are found in the Mohave Desert habitat of Washington County (in the very southwestern corner of the state) and sporadically scattered along Utah's southern border.

Gambel's quail populations are up significantly over last year. Both brood size and the number of birds observed were greatly improved on long-period waterhole counts this summer. Hunters should concentrate their efforts along dry washes. Calling can be an effective technique for locating coveys of birds.

Please enjoy your fall hunting experience! Don't forget to pick up and read a copy of the Upland Game Proclamation.

Good hunting!

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