June 9, 2012

Pheasant populations down in the spring

A lot can change between now and the Nov. 10 opening of pheasant season, but as of now things don’t look promising.

A lot can change between now and the Nov. 10 opening of pheasant season, but as of now things don’t look promising.

As of mid-May, populations were down about 40 to 70 percent across Kansas’ main pheasant range compared to last year.

Populations are down an average of about 50 percent statewide, according to the recently completed annual spring counts by Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism staff.

“The counts show last year’s reproduction was dismal,” said Dave Dahlgren, Wildlife and Parks small-game specialist.

Since 1997, the department has run 66 rural routes, all 20 miles long, with 11 stops. The number of cackling roosters are counted and logged.

Dahlgren cautioned that the comparison is made to 2011 levels, which were the highest since the counts began.

“That’s a 52-percent decrease coming from a very, very high place,” he said. “In 2011, we had the potential for an awesome hatch, but we just didn’t have the weather.”

Many hens lacked adequate cover for nesting or raising chicks because of a drought. Extreme heat killed adult and young birds.

Conditions aren’t much better so far this spring, either. The early wheat harvest will surely hurt production significantly.

“You just never know,” Dalhgren said, “the good thing about pheasants is they’re persistent nesters. If something goes wrong with their first nest, they’ll try again.”

Dahlgren said southwest Kansas had the biggest decrease, at about 70 percent. Northwest Kansas, the best region in 2011, is down about 48 percent.

Numbers were down about 41 percent in south-central Kansas. North-central Kansas posted a 39-percent decline.

Free beginning shooter’s clinic — Everything from guns and ammo, hearing protection to hamburgers will be furnished at a free beginner’s shooting clinic at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Ark Valley Gun Club, 4500 E. 117th Street North in Valley Center.

Though primarily intended for youth, anyone with no or little shooting experience is invited, said Mike Christensen, Pass It On coordinator.

This is the event’s fourth year. Christensen said the first year Pheasants Forever and Pass It On co-sponsored the event and had about 40 participants. Last year’s attendance was about 200 and they are hoping for a significant increase Monday.

There’s certainly been a significant increase of what’s offered.

“In the past we’ve just had shotguns but this year we’re (also) going to include archery, air rifles and BB guns,” Christensen said. “People can just wander from station to station and try what they want.”

Qualified instructors will be at every station, with extra care given to those who’ve never shot.

Participants may not bring their own guns, bows or ammo. RSVPs are requested. Call 316-290-8883 or e-mail mchristensen@outdoormentors.org.

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