Michael Pearce

Pheasant, quail forecasts call for improved hunting

Two years after the worst pheasant season in recorded history, the long-tailed birds continue a population rebound.

Jeff Prendergast, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism pheasant biologist, said current summer populations appear to be about 51 percent better than last year. Those 2014 figures were also about 70 percent better than the 2013 population, which was the lowest in at least 50 years because of several years of drought. The biologist does, however, caution hunters that the state’s pheasant population is still below what it was in 2010 when numbers were better than they’d been since the 1980s.

Quail numbers have improved nicely over much of Kansas, too, thanks to this spring and summer’s nearly ideal nesting and brood-rearing conditions.

Check Sunday’s Outdoors page in The Eagle or at kansas.com/outdoors for more details, including specifics on where pheasant and quail populations should be best for Kansas hunters this fall and winter.

More updates

Driving around several parts of rural south-central Kansas the past 24 hours I saw more doves than I’ve seen in several months. Most were in sizable flocks which seems to indicate some birds have migrated down from further north, possibly trying to get ahead of the rain and colder weather that is in our forecast. This evening would be a good one to try a hunt, if you have the time.

As well as pheasants and quail, I’m getting really impressive reports from people seeing a lot of young rabbits and squirrels this year. Some landowners say it is the most cottontails they’ve seen in about 30 years. Maybe with a little snow this winter people will again get out and hunt what used to be the most popular game animal in America.

I’ve gotten several reports of kids who have shot deer during the youth season that opened on Saturday. I’ve gotten a photo via text of a real giant non-typical shot up around Dickinson County. It’s surely a great non-typical, but since I can’t verify anything I won’t post the photo.

People are hoping tomorrow’s cold front brings some more teal down for Saturday’s opening of the special early teal season. It certainly could, and some people are seeing a fair number of bluewing flocks already.

Upcoming coverage

Sunday’s Outdoors page should have a feature on all of the attention Derek Klingenberg is getting for catching a four-inch bluegill. Rather than a fishing rod, though, he used a drone to get his fishing line out over the water and to get the airborne fish back to shore. So far around 1.5 million people have watched his accomplishment on YouTube. Some of Marion County farmer’s other videos have had more than 8 million hits.

As already mentioned, the Outdoors page will have more details about the recently released fall upland game bird forecast. The news is good, but biologists are warning not to expect things like they were five or six years ago. Quail hunters will like how things look in the Flint Hills. Some south-central Kansas counties could be good for pheasants, too.

Down the road, I’m working on an article about a new breed of invasive grasses that has ranchers and biologists agreeing its spread needs to be stopped right away. Information is still being gathered on the 30th anniversary of the Conservation Reserve Program and the 50th anniversary of the first modern deer season in Kansas.

Michael’s world

It’s been quite the week. Sunday Jerrod, Cade and I headed to near Dodge City for some dove hunting. The temperature was about 98 degrees outside when the air conditioner quit blowing cool air in my Honda. The worrisome part was trying to keep Cade, a black Lab, cool as we traveled. Later that night an indicator showed I also had a low tire. It turns out that tire was ruined and I also had to buy another one to match the tread wear.

I still have no clue what’s wrong with the air conditioner because I haven’t had the time to get the car in to my mechanic. One reason I haven’t had the car to the shop is because on the way home from western Kansas on Monday we got a call that a 92-year-old friend was having some health issues and needed assistance, immediately. That lead to much of the next three days being spent with my friend and his wife in the emergency room or the hospital.

But, on the positive side, my friend is now home and feeling better than he has in two weeks and the weather is cool enough that the loss of my air conditioner isn’t such a big deal. Jerrod and I experienced some of the best dove hunting we’ve shared in several years, as per this blog.

I won’t make the opening of teal season on Saturday. Kathy and I will be in Topeka where The Eagle’s “...Taste of the Kansas Outdoors Cookbook” will be getting recognized by the state as one of the 15 Notable Books of Kansas for this year at the annual Kansas Book Festival.

On Sunday I’ll be helping with some wildlife habitat projects at our farm north of Lawrence. It will be a fun weekend, as long as I can keep my car from falling apart and having any friends end up in the hospital. I’m looking forward to working on several articles and making it out a time or two for doves and teal next week, too.


Michael Pearce