Michael Pearce

This will be a hunting season to remember

Two hunters call it a day, and will soon be calling it a season. The hunting for pheasant and quail has been good.
Two hunters call it a day, and will soon be calling it a season. The hunting for pheasant and quail has been good. The Wichita Eagle

One word for pheasant and quail hunters: Go.

We’re down to three weeks of one of the best overall seasons for years across central and western Kansas. Don’t let the seasons that end Jan. 31 slip away.

Some quail hunters say they haven’t seen birds like this in 30 years, maybe longer. Pheasant numbers are solid most places.

I’ve seen some things I’ll remember, and probably miss, decades down the road. There was the time 15 rooster pheasants came from a snow-covered patch of tumbleweeds smaller than most living rooms. A few days ago a dozen pheasants flushed from tall grass and two were shot. While fetching the second, my dog turned into the wind and flushed a big covey of quail.

Last weekend we had two dogs pointing 50 yards apart in southwest Kansas on two coveys of quail. We moved 13 coveys that day, eleven in the afternoon.

Yes, those hunts were on private lands, but public lands have served some well, too. I corresponded with a Michigan hunter working walk-in-hunting-areas midseason in southwest Kansas. Using a variety of tools online, he found the ones near grain fields. He shot limits of pheasants the first four days. After that he did well on bobwhite and scaled quail.

Last weekend, a friend hunted two hours on a public area in central Kansas and found four coveys.

Of course, there have still been slow hunts. I’ve been on two short hunts and not fired a shot. But this is the kind of season where we know the next step could explode a covey of quail or a cluster flush of pheasants.

We’ve got it good now because a number of variables came together. The drought several years ago encouraged weed growth and discouraged burning. Timely rains delayed the wheat harvest enough to give nesting hens and chicks a chance escape machinery and lead to ideal habitat.

But as quickly as Mother Nature gives us great bird populations she can take them away. We’re never more than a few hot, and dry months, or a wide band of chick-drowing downpours, away from starting over. But it’s good now.


Michael Pearce: 316-268-6382, @PearceOutdoors

Related stories from Wichita Eagle