Awesome Guy! Were you at a hunting lodge or public property? Are those all native birds? We had a good hunt for 4 days in central Montana in October, but I always hesitate to go there in December because of weather (although we had highs of 15 when we were there for the opening October 8!) Rick
Thanks, Rick. It was a lodge with several thousands of acres planted in CRP and food plots. All wild birds. Driving from location to location, there are lots of wild birds throughout the countryside. They have a private land access program, and not a lot of public land, but in the end its the habitat enhancements, in my view largely the food plots, that make it work. It could work here, the crops and land types are right, but the legislature prefers this put and take thing. Maybe somebody oughta take them hunting.
And yeah, we got really lucky regarding December weather, hardly any wind, lows in the teens and single digits for the most part.
I have hunted for many years in E WA and it is very sad to see the decline of almost all types of upland birds. I think as far as pheasants are concerned, the advent of center pivot irrigation had a major hand in the decline. When it was primarily gravity fed, much of the steeper land and draws were left alone-now they can farm them. All the irrigation ditches are no longer there and fields are farmed border to border. Food plots would help a lot, as well as improved nesting and shelter cover. I have read that there are trace elements in the soil that are present across the midwest including eastern Montana, and the Dakotas that are low in E WA. Even with superb habitat, we never get the hordes of pheasants we see over there. Where we have leased land in the area north of Great Falls, we always see a lot of pheasants even though habitat isn't great and there are no food plots. CRP grass fields are a big plus however. The decline in quail and chukar populations is due to winter/spring weather as much as anything, and most upland birds around here do much better if we are dry during the hatch. Driving to Montana is a PITA but it is great to get limits every day (with some huns and sharpies mixed in. Plus the fishing is GREAT on the Missouri when the dogs need a rest day.
Congrats on a great trip. Your group's choice in dogs is also outstanding, three even have the correct coloring...
I've written the F&W regarding the decline in upland bird habitat as well as the decline in public hunting opportunities. too. I cc the governor, not that she ever reads any of it. Having grown up in Yakima in the 60's, I well remember quality wild pheasant hunting with lots of public access.
Several things happened about the time the sugar beets no longer had a refinery in eastern WA. The hedge rows disappeared and farmers became more conscios of water usage, good for fish, bad for game birds! The State sharply reduced plantings of new birds to bolster existing stocks. Then St. Helens blew her top! The resulting ash had a very undesirable effect in several areas.
There has been a push to rebuild habitat is some areas and there is some encouraging things happening. But what it was like in the 60's and earlier no way. But even with all of that there are still some places where a gunner can have good days chasing China bird. Those places certainly aren't like hunting cut corn with tons of birds but they are available with a bit of work.
The major decline in Washington Pheasant population was due to U&I Sugar moving out of Washington State. Now why did they do that? Taxes? Anyway Sugar beets gave birds a complete life cycle. They nest, hatched and grew up with Sugar beets being the canopy of life. That crop was replaced a lot of this crop was the "killer" crop Alfalfa! It is cut every 29-32 days, about the egg hatching time table and giving the chick enough time to reach the desired height to have their little head mowed off. Clean farming of orchards and vineyards haven't helped either.
If the game department would plant some Sugar beets plats or pay to have them planted in different areas the pheasant would benefit greatly.
Hi Jerry-I started hunting in the late 70's-after the sugar beets were gone except an occasional field that they shipped to SLC to process. We still had great hunting and lots of birds, but there were lots of ditch rows, corners and irrigation ditches. In Montana where I hunt every year, no corn, no sugar beets, mostly wheat and hay, and TONS of pheasants. Even without sugar beets, if we had nesting habitat, the birds would do a lot better. I do agree that alfalfa is a killer! Rick
ND and SD are not corn or sugar states that is except for the far East side of ND and their are no pheasants over there. The Dakotas for the most part are wheat producers but that doesnt matter either. When CRP became widespread the pheasant numbers exploded. CRP land is the key...cover, nesting, food all year long.