First the bad news.
Pheasant and quail hunting probably won't be too good in the Wichita area this fall.
Harvey, Marion, Reno and Sedgwick counties had below-average production on both birds this year.
Now for the great news.
Much of Kansas should produce great pheasant and quail hunting when the seasons open Nov. 13, according to the upland bird forecast released by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
Jim Pitman, Wildlife and Parks small-game coordinator, said the report is based on surveys involving rural mail carriers and agency employees — the state's standard for decades.
"We could have some areas that could have their best pheasant hunting in about 20 years or so," said Jim Pitman. "Northwest Kansas should be our best, but about everywhere in western Kansas should be improved over last year."
And last year was no slouch for Kansas pheasant hunters.
Pitman said last season hunters shot about 746,000 pheasants. That's up from the previous year.
The hunter's average of 6.62 birds per season was the best in the state since 1982.
Pitman said conditions were ideal for nesting and raising chicks across most of western Kansas.
Last winter was relatively mild, meaning a high carry-over of healthy hens.
Spring and summer rains made for good nesting conditions and provided hens safe places to take broods to feed on insects.
There were some areas, though, where storms may have destroyed nests or killed a high percentage of chicks.
Pitman said much of central Kansas north of U.S. 24 probably saw losses to rains and hail.
Parts of northwest Kansas near the Nebraska border, as well as Wichita-area counties did, too.
"It seems like you can always have those localized areas where the birds get hit hard," Pitman said. "Overall, though, I think our pheasant season should be outstanding."
This fall's stretch of warm and dry weather could also contribute greatly to the overall hunter success.
The last two opening weekends have seen a lot of Kansas' milo crops still in the field because of wet autumns.
Many farmers don't like hunters walking their fields until the crops are cut.
Thousands of acres of uncut milo also give pheasants many more places to hide.
This year most of the milo and corn are cut across Kansas' major upland bird range.
"That means we should have a lot more birds available opening weekend," Pitman said. "Anytime you get the crops out it opens a lot of areas where hunters can have good access to the birds."
Quail populations closely mirror pheasants.
Numbers appear up over most of western Kansas and down in areas with heavy summer storms.
Southeast Kansas shows improved quail numbers but didn't have much of a population to start with.
Pitman expects the best quail hunting to be from about Great Bend westward, and south of U.S. 24.
He's hopeful hunters will shoot more bobwhites than last year's harvest of about 485,000 birds.
Still, that's far from the record of about 3.1 million shot during the 1982 season.