Gone Hunting: Outlook for hunting season encouraging for many states
September 7, 2017
Hunters, start your engines.
The bird seasons are upon us. Sept. 1 signaled the opening for some species of upland birds in some states.
Doves, grouse and partridge may be hunted now if you are willing to travel a bit. The Dakotas, Nebraska and Colorado have grouse and partridge seasons that open in September. I have always viewed September as a tune up for the upcoming pheasant and quail season in October.
Colorado and Kansas pheasant season does not open until November.
This fall promises to be a banner year for some of these birds.
Nebraska is boasting quail numbers that are better than we may have ever seen; and that is really special since Nebraska generally only boasts about their football.
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Nebraska also touts easy access to public hunting land and a very long season from Oct. 28 through Jan. 31. Plan a trip to southern Nebraska. Last year's pheasant harvest in Nebraska was up over the previous year by three percent with nine percent more hunters taking the field.
Jeff Lusk, Nebraska Game and Parks, tells us that this season looks to be as promising. As always, weather and habitat are the determining factors, and Lusk says that both had been favorable through early summer.
Ed Gorman with Colorado Parks and Wildlife tells us that last season was a good one for Colorado hunters.
Pheasants were harvested at a 15.2 percent increase over the previous year. I wonder if that figure reflects the two I killed in the Greeley area? No one ever asked me.
Gorman said that the overall outlook for this season "is good. Our crowing counts were the second highest on record."
Colorado's core pheasant counties continue to be Sedgwick, Logan, Phillips, Yuma and Kit Carson.
Depending on the year, portions of Washington, Morgan and Baca counties can be sleeper counties and attract fewer hunters.
Upland hunters harvested about 422,000 rosters last season in Kansas. Jeff Prendergast, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism informs us that hunter success was relatively high with below average hunter numbers. You could have fooled me there: I thought Kansas was overrun with hunters last season. Compared to 2011 through 2015, the drought years, I am sure that it was.
Kansas had some heavy spring rains and a May snow storm that may have impacted pheasant and quail reproduction, however, spring crowing counts returned to above pre-drought averages.
For those of you that want to rack up some miles, I suggest you head north to Montana, North and South Dakota. Ken Plourde, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, reports that eastern Montana bird numbers have been good the past several years and came through winter in good shape.
I hate to contradict Plourde, but the grouse numbers are not the same as they were pre-2010. Pheasants have been steady with a slight gain in the Hungarian partridge numbers. I would suggest the Fort Peck to Plentywood area.
North Dakota has been really good the past couple of seasons, but heavy snows and a frigid winter coupled with a drought-like summer may have put a serious dent in some of our best hunting.
Rodney Gross, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, had some of the most discouraging news for upland hunters: Crowing counts were down 14 percent during the late spring and early summer counts.
This has not dampened my enthusiasm for a trip north. This fall I am going to counter low bird numbers by including some walleye fishing on Lake Sakakawea out of Newtown, North Dakota. Four Bears Lodge and Casino along with world class walleye fishing should make up for the 14 percent drop in bird numbers.
I saved the best doughnut in the box for last.
How does 1,170,000 roosters killed sound to you? That is almost 23 times what Colorado hunters killed and about three times what Kansas hunters killed.
Travis Runia, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, did not want to speculate on numbers for this fall, but he did say that last winter pheasants were not negatively impacted except in the north central part of the state.
I do not hunt in South Dakota simply because I have viewed it as a pay to play state. I have visited with hunters who report that they have paid anywhere from $300 to $500 per day per gun to hunt.
I am a retired educator. I could barely afford the new Browning A-5 Sweet Sixteen gauge shotgun I just bought.
Keep your nose into the wind and have a wonderful fall hunt.
Jim Vanek is a longtime hunter who lives in Greeley with his family. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.