Michael Pearce

The Eagle's outdoor reporter highlights the latest hunting, fishing and wildlife news.

Michael Pearce

Kansas pheasant, quail hunting forecast improved for this season

By Michael Pearce

mpearce@wichitaeagle.com

September 08, 2016 01:54 PM

It looks like southwest Kansas will be the place to be when pheasant season Nov. 12 and runs through Jan. 31. Some parts of northwest Kansas could be good, too. The two regions are predicted to be the best in Kansas this season.

Thursday morning Jeff Prendergast, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism pheasant biologist discussed his recently completed upland bird forecast for the 2016-17 hunting season. He made the forecast based largely off the department’s annual summer brood surveys.

Prendergast said the data helped him predict hunting better than last year over most of the southwest Kansas. Northwest is largely improved, too, though there will be some areas where populations are smaller because of weather-related events.

Survey conditions this summer were especially challenging because of dense cover, and some established routes were impassable because of muddy conditions. North-central and south-central Kansas populations should be improved from last year though the state is still well below what it was six years ago when Kansas had one of the best pheasant harvests in about 30 seasons.

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Prendergast said last season didn’t see as many pheasant hunters as he’d hoped afield, but the average number of birds taken per day was improved and better than previous seasons.

Kansas’ quail population continues to improve, as it has for three years. Prendergast credits the drought several years ago for allowing weeds to get a better start than grasses in many areas. Most of Kansas is up from last year on quail numbers, which produced the highest average number of birds per day, per hunter this century.

The prairie regions of south-central Kansas, from Wichita to Greensburg, and south, could have the best numbers in the state as will areas to the north of that. Prendergast said that region has the best numbers of quail because it has the best habitat. Other areas should have good hunting where there is good habitat.

Quail hunters in north-central Kansas should find the birds to be more wide-spread than in recent years. The Flint Hills’ population is down slightly from last year, probably because of more burning this spring, but Prendergast was confident hunters would still be happy with the overall quail population in the region.

More updates

So far most reports are rating the dove season that began last Thursday as one of the worst in many years. Hunting over waterholes and ponds has been generally poor because there is so much water standing on roads and in fields because of recent rains. Harvested crop fields also aren’t as numerous as during many years because the rains have fields too muddy to harvest.

Still, there have been some good hunts reported. Most have come from sunflower fields in central or isolated water sources in western Kansas.

Mostly I’ve heard frustrations as per the on-going youth deer season which ends on Sunday. Again, the rains have made cover so thick deer can hide in many places. An exceptional crop of acorns also has deer hanging in the woods in eastern and central Kansas.

I do know of one buck the a young girl from West Virginia shot in central Kansas that unofficially grosses 204 inches of antler. It has around 18 scorable points.

Upcoming coverage

Within the next few days we should publish an article on the problems monarch butterflies are currently facing. This year’s fall population could be 60-percent lower than last fall, which was down significantly from the year before.

Some scientist fear the popular butterfly could be headed towards extinction over much of their range. Herbicides wiping out the milkweeds on which they lay eggs is a huge part of that problem, as is loss of good habitat to things like roads, houses and other developments. One expert predicts 20 million acres of butterfly habitat needs to be created to help the species to survive at good numbers.

Sunday’s Outdoors page will have more details about the forecast for this fall’s pheasant, quail and wild turkey populations.

A bit down the road will be a story on what Eagle Scouts have done to improve access and enjoyment to the Kansas outdoors. It’s really pretty impressive. I had no idea 647 projects were complete last year, many of which were at state parks, along hiking trails or in city and county parks. Some impressive young people when it comes to the planning, funding, supervising and building of the projects.

I’m also working on an article looking at the Red Hills of Barber County six months after the infamous Anderson Creek fire torched slightly under 400,000 acres.

Michael’s world

I’ve always wanted to spend a Labor Day weekend in western Kansas, visiting with hunting buddies and hunting doves at a different place every afternoon. Last weekend I got that chance.

Friday evening I had a very nice hunt east of Hoxie with Jim Millensifer. The hunt was at a windmill and was used for Sunday’s Outdoors page feature. Cade, my young Lab, did well and liked being able to wait in a tank filled with cold ground water as Jim and I shot birds.

We had a slow hunt near Oakley with some veteran’s Jim was hosting on Saturday. Sunday I did fair with some friends by a roost and pond in Ness County. Of course in the last 10 minutes of legal shooting light I figured out where I should have been waiting.

Mid-morning on Monday Cade and I sat a waterhole by a friend’s place west of Dodge and did well. I quit shooting at ten mourning doves so I could still take five later that evening with Tom Turner in the sandhills between Kinsley and Pratt. The numbers of birds that flew past that waterhole was impressive. During the last 15 or so minutes of legal shooting time, after we were limited, Tom figured we had at least 25 doves per minute coming through within shotgun range.

That’s always been a very special area of quail, lesser prairie chickens and doves.

We’re still a pretty happy family with all that’s going on . Jerrod and Carilyn have less than a month until their first child, and our first grandchild, is born.

There’s still a lot of excitement over Lindsey getting engaged last week. I’m a romantic, but I’m impressed with Lance’s proposal at the top of California’s Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states.

Well, I need to get to some other deadlines.

Bests,

Michael Pearce

mpearce@wichitaeagle.com