Hot, dry weather reduced the number of pheasant and quail chicks that hatched in much of Utah this year.
Mix in development along the Wasatch Front, and farming practices across Utah that are different from the hey-day of pheasant hunting in the state, and it looks like this season will be fair at best.
But that's not expected to keep almost 16,000 hunters from participating in one of Utah's most popular upland game hunts. And for those who find areas with good habitat, the thrill of ring-necked rooster pheasants exploding out of the brush under their feet is something they'll still experience this fall.
A good place to look for ring-necked pheasants is northern Utah. More than 50,000 acres of private land in northern Utah is now open to sportsmen through the Division of Wildlife Resource's Walk-In Access program.
For more information about the program, please visit www.wildlife.utah.gov/walkinaccess.
The following are pheasant hunting prospects for each of the DWR's five regions.
In Cache and Rich counties pheasant populations appear stable and very similar to last year. In Box Elder county the dry spring resulted in reduced pheasant production, but healthy, isolated pockets of pheasants are still found throughout the county.
DWR personnel at the Farmington Bay, Ogden Bay and Salt Creek waterfowl management areas report pheasant brood sizes and the number of broods are down from 2006. Upland habitat conditions across most of these areas are stressed because of the dry summer. The marsh vegetation is in good condition, however. Pheasant hunters should expect to find success similar to what they found last year, but not as good as the success found in 2004 and 2005.
In the central region pheasant populations are similar to last year in the southern part of the region. Agricultural lands and marsh areas around Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake harbor some birds. Please remember that written permission is required to hunt agricultural lands. Limited public hunting is available on the Utah Lake Wetland Preserve and the Powell Slough Wildlife Management Area.
In the West Desert, pheasant hunting is marginal at best. Agricultural lands in the area do harbor some birds. There is also limited public hunting on the Walt Fitzgerald and Carr Fork wildlife management areas.
In the northeast pheasant populations remain low and spotty throughout the region's agricultural areas.
In the southeastern region of the state populations are significantly lower than past years. Small grain production is almost non-existent in the region, and the farming practices don't favor pheasant populations. Hunting will be poor.
In the sourthern region a fair number of pheasants are available on the DWR's wildlife management areas. Several broods were seen near Clear Lake and Redmond this summer. A few pheasant broods were also seen in the Millard and Sevier county areas.
If one is looking for quail hunting here is the lowdown on that kind of sport.
In the central region most of the quail habitat is along the Wasatch Front where hunting is very limited, if not restricted all together. Caution should be used when hunting in the foothills above the housing areas.Please take note where city limit boundaries are to avoid illegal shooting. The quail populations are stable, and hunters should find as many birds as last year.
In the northeastern region although limited in distribution, California quail populations are in good shape throughout the brushy areas associated with agricultural fields.
In the southeastern region small populations can be found along riparian (streamside) areas in Emery and Carbon counties. Hunting will be slow.
In the southern region several quail broods have been observed in areas in Millard County, but not as many as in past years. Some birds have also been observed on DWR wildlife management areas in Sevier County. Quail populations on the Beaver Dam Slope in southwestern Utah have had poor to no recruitment. Some adults have been observed, but populations appear to be down significantly in the area. This can be attributed to a combination of fires in 2006 and a dry spring.
For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR's Salt Lake City office at (801) 538-4700.