Hunters taking to the field for pheasants in Utah this season should find bird numbers that will be similar to last year.
Those heading afield for Gambel's quail along Utah's southern border however, should enjoy improved hunting.
Utah's 2003 pheasant and quail seasons open Nov. 1. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources upland game coordinator, Dean Mitchell provides the following preview for the upcoming hunts.
Ring-necked pheasant. Despite the fact that Utah pheasant populations have declined drastically, many Utah hunters will be afield this year for the wily ringneck.
Hunters should not expect any highly noticeable improvement in pheasant populations this year over last. Five years of very littler precipitation and years of habitat loss have taken their toll on Utah's pheasant populations. Hunters should concentrate their efforts in those areas with remaining suitable habitat.
Most of Utah's pheasant hunters participate during the opening weekend only. Those with persistence and who hunt during weekdays are successful in harvesting a few birds.
Utah pheasant hunting will be poor to fair at best throughout the state. Predictions for hunter success by region are as follows:
Northern region. Reports of large pheasant broods have been common this year. A slightly improved hunt is expected.
Central region. Habitat conditions in agricultural areas where traditionally pheasants are found are fair. In spite of the continuing drought, a few well-timed spring showers stimulated improved nesting and brooding habitat conditions.
Continued urban and industrial development throughout the region make it difficult for hunters to find pheasants. Those with access to private agricultural lands will have the best success.
Overall, hunting this season is expected to be quite slow.
Northeastern region. Poor to fair hunting is expected.
Southeastern region. Poor to fair hunting is expected.
Southern region. Poor to fair hunting expected.
The 2003 hunt will not compare with the heyday of pheasant hunting in the state, which happened in the 1950s and 1960s. Too much habitat has been lost or degraded. Wildlife biologists are anxious to work with Utah landowners who desire to improve and enhance pheasant habitat on private property.
Funds are available through the DWR Habitat Fund for habitat project cost-share payments to landowners who are interested. Please contact the DWR regional habitat manager in the local area for more details.
Pheasant hunting strategies in Utah are fairly different than in the past. Most of the best habitat for pheasants is still found on private lands throughout the state. However, hunters can no longer expect to go afield and have access to private lands on opening morning without talking with the landowner.
Hunters need to invest some time ahead of the pheasant season opener to secure permission on private lands they desire to hunt.
Hunters on lands that are "cultivated" or that have been "properly posted" as no trespassing are required to have written permission from the landowner or person in charge to be there. This applies to family members as well who are not the actual landowner or person in charge of the land.
To determine who owns a parcel of private land hunters desire to hunt, they should visit the county recorder or assessor office for the county they desire to hunt in.
Hunters are encouraged to complete and have the landowner sign the landowner permission card located on the DWR Internet web page at wildlife.utah.gov/law/permissioncard.html. Most landowners are more than happy to allow pheasant hunters onto their land. They simply want to know who's out there.
A simple telephone call or personal introduction goes a very long way in securing permission to hunt on private land. Please take the time to do so. One trespasser is all it takes to close private property to hunters.
Pheasant and other upland game hunters are strongly encouraged to pick up all spent shotgun shell hulls in an effort to be respectful of private and public lands that may be hunted. Old decaying shotgun shell hulls left afield are unsightly and litter Utah's landscape. Hunters should do their part and pick up and pack out any shotgun shell hulls that are expend while afield.
Also, please pick up and pack out any expended shotgun shell hulls left by others. Everyone needs to do their part as ethical and responsible hunters. An uncluttered landscape left by hunters goes a long way toward getting invited back to private lands.
While in the field for pheasants, hunters are encouraged to pay close attention to their shot zones. Annually, wildlife conservation officers respond to complaints from landowners concerned about buildings, livestock and farm equipment being "peppered" by shotgun pellets. All it takes is one event like this to close private property to hunting for good.
As more and more of Utah's pheasant habitat is replaced by urban and industrial development, it's essential to pay attention to the shot zone.
Although not required by law, it's also an excellent idea to wear hunter orange clothing and caps while afield for pheasants.
Information about specific DWR upland game and waterfowl management areas open to hunting is contained in a brochure titled, DWR lands. This brochure is available on the wildlife division's upland game web compilation of the brochure is found in a booklet that can be purchased at any DWR
California and Gambel's quail. California quail populations are sporadically scattered throughout Utah. Main concentrations are found within urban areas along the Wasatch Front, east into the Uintah Basin and southeast into the Carbon and Emery county areas.
If hunting adjacent to urban areas, hunters should contact local authorities to determine regulations governing the discharge of firearms. California quail populations appear to be the same as last year.
Recent and ongoing transplants of California quail from the Wasatch Front to suitable habitats in outlying areas are responsible for quail being seen by hunters in new areas. Duchesne, Uintah and parts of Sevier and Emery counties are traditionally the best areas to hunt.
Predictions for success by region are as follows:
Northern region. Urban populations.
Central region. Most of the quail habitat in the central region i along the Wasatch Front where hunting is very limited, if not restricted altogether.
Caution should be used when hunting in the foothills above housing areas, taking note where city limit boundaries are to avoid illegal shooting
The quail population is similar to last season.
Northeastern region. Fair hunting is expected in Duchesne County. The extended opportunity to hunt quail in the Uintah Basin through December has provided some good recreational opportunity for hunters.
Southeastern region. Fair to good hunting expected. Limited distribution.
Southern region. Fair to good hunting expected. Very limited distribution.
Gambel's quail are found in the Mohave Desert habitat of Washington County (in the very southwestern corner of the state) and sporadically scattered along Utah's southern border.
Gambel's quail populations are up significantly over last year. Both brood size and the number of birds observed were greatly improved on long-period waterhole counts this summer. Hunters should concentrate their efforts along dry washes.
Calling can be an effective technique for locating coveys of birds.
Please enjoy the fall hunting experience. Don't forget to pick up and read a copy of the upland game proclamation.