Winter, spring conditions favorable for pheasant nesting success

Mild winters followed by favorable spring conditions led to favorable pheasant nesting conditions in many regions of the country, including Washington.

That is the assessment from Pheasants Forever.

Hunters will have a better idea of what to expect in the field this fall once data from brood surveys in July and this month is reviewed.

“But in areas with available habitat, overall conditions appear more promising than last season in many states,” the conservation group’s report said.

Pheasant hunters in Washington have reason to optimistic about nesting success, thanks to adequate April moisture leaving cover looking lush, Joey McCanna, upland game bird specialist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in the report.

That is a good sign because Washington hunters killed 36,752 pheasants last season, down 27 percent from the 2012 season and down 41 percent from the 2008-12 average.

Here what the said about other states in the West:

Oregon: Last year, hunters here harvested the lowest number of pheasants in the past two decades at just 19,930 birds. But there is reason to expect a slight rebound. Winter and spring precipitation, while still below average, was better than in 2013, according to Dave Budeau, upland game bird coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. He said production is expected to improve over last year.

Idaho: The experience here is similar to many states in the West, with a mild winter and spring rains. That had upland habitat in excellent shape for nesting upland birds, according to Jeff Knetter, gamebird biologist with the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

Montana: Pheasants here came through winter thanks to mild weather, and nesting conditions were promising during the prime production period. In fact, last year’s favorable weather generated some of the best habitat conditions in Montana in a long time.

In the heart of the nation’s pheasant hunting states, the news is mixed.

South Dakota: Weather conditions were favorable for pheasant production from late April through June, said Travis Runia, South Dakota Game, Fish and Park’s lead pheasant biologist. In addition, below-normal snowfall likely resulted in above average overwinter survival of pheasants, Runia said. “With more hens available for nesting, the potential for an increase in population exists, given favorable nesting conditions,” he said in the report.

Kansas: The 2014 pheasant crowing survey showed a 7 percent decrease statewide, according to Jeff Prendergast, small-game biologist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Drought led to poor upland habitat conditions early in the spring, but rain in May helped improving nesting and brood-rearing conditions.