Fall Upland Bird Hunting May be Mixed Bag

Pheasant outlook is good; quail and prairie chickens, average.

For Sunflower State upland bird hunters, the prospects for hunting this fall are a mixed bag, thanks to Kansas' unpredictable weather.

"Due to one of the most severe winters in recent memory, the number of pheasants going into the nesting season was more than 30% lower than in 2006," reports KDWP small game coordinator Jim Pitman. "However, the deep snow that fell across much of Kansas last winter provided much-needed moisture after several years of drought."

That added moisture created good green wheat cover conditions for nesting pheasants. A late wheat harvest gave pheasant hens more time to hatch and rear their young. As a result, pheasant production more than compensated for last winter's loss of birds, creating much better pheasant hunting prospects, especially in southwestern Kansas. Pheasant hunting in most of the other regions of the state will be similar or somewhat improved from last year.

Pheasant season runs Nov. 3 through Jan. 31, with a daily limit of four roosters. Again this year, hunters 16 and younger may hunt pheasants and quail during an Oct. 27-28 youth season. Youth hunters must be accompanied by a supervising adult 18 or older, who may not hunt. The bag limit for the youth season is half of the normal season bag (4 quail; 2 pheasants).

The prospects for quail hunters this fall aren't as optimistic. In addition to the loss of quail due to snow and ice storms last winter, the heavy rain and flooding that occurred this summer in southeast Kansas coincided with the peak hatching period for bobwhites.

Northwest and southeast Kansas were the hardest hit regions. While quail prospects are down in those two regions, quail hunting in other areas of the state is expected to be similar to last year and somewhat improved in certain areas. Quail season opens Nov. 10 and runs through Jan. 20, with a daily bag limit of eight.

Spring surveys of greater prairie chicken numbers in northcentral Kansas and the northern Flint Hills showed numbers similar to 2006, while numbers were down slightly in the southern Flint Hills. Nesting conditions for chickens were favorable in the northern Flint Hills and northcentral Kansas but poor in the southern Flint Hills. Greater prairie chicken numbers will likely be down somewhat from last year in the southern Flint Hills but similar to last year or somewhat improved throughout the rest of their range.

Early prairie chicken season (east of U. S 281 only) is Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. The regular prairie chicken season in eastern and northwest units (north of I-70 and east of U. S. 281) is Nov. 17 through Jan. 31; the season in the southwest unit (south of I-70 and west of U. S. 281) is Nov. 17 through Dec. 31.

For more detailed information on upland bird hunting prospects around the state, consult the "2007 Kansas Upland Bird Forecast."

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