Utah bulking up pheasant hunting opportunities
For those looking to hunt ring-necked pheasants in Utah this season, things are looking up: The number of wild birds is up this fall, more than 10,000 pen-reared pheasants will be released on public hunting areas, and the hunt on private land will be longer than last year.
The state’s 2017 general pheasant hunt runs Nov. 4 – Dec. 3 on both private and public land.
Starting this season, the pheasant hunt on both private and public land will run for 30 days. In the past, the hunt on private land ran for 14 days.
Jason Robinson, upland game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, said the longer season on private lands will not have a negative effect on the state’s pheasant population and it will provide more opportunities to hunt. He says in the 1970s – during the heyday of pheasant hunting in Utah – close to 100,000 hunters went afield. Most of them hunted on private agricultural land.
“Biologists were concerned about the pressure the state’s hunters might put on the pheasant population,” he said. “Since then, the amount of farm land has decreased, but so has the number of pheasant hunters. Today, about 20,000 people hunt pheasants. Because there are far fewer pheasant hunters than there once was, we’re comfortable allowing a longer season on private land.”
More wild birds
Deep snow and cold temperatures in parts of northern and northeastern Utah killed some pheasants this last winter, but an abundance of chicks born this spring more than made up for the birds that were lost.
“Chick production was likely above average this spring,” Robinson said. “Heavy snowfall followed by a wet spring provided the chicks with lots of vegetation. They had plenty of cover to hide in and plenty of insects to eat.”
More than 10,000 pen-raised birds
In addition to more wild birds in the state, more than 10,000 pen-reared pheasants will be released on 54 public hunting areas during the hunt.
Pheasants will be released before each weekend of the hunt. The one exception is the week of Thanksgiving. That week, birds will be released early in the week so plenty of pheasants will be available to pursue over the Thanksgiving holiday.
The DWR and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife bought the birds from two private bird growers. The birds will be released in areas that have good pheasant habitat and good access for public hunters.
“Birds will be placed on wildlife management areas, waterfowl management areas and Walk-In Access areas,” Robinson said.
You can see where the birds will be released, and how to get to those areas, by looking at an interactive, online map. The map is available in the Upland game releases section at www.wildlife.utah.gov/uplandgame.
On at least 11 of the areas – 10 waterfowl management areas and the Utah Lake Wetland Preserve – you must use nontoxic shot (steel shot, for example) when hunting. Lead shot may not be used.
More information about Utah’s Walk-in Access areas is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/walkinaccess. If you have questions about hunting pheasants in Utah, visit the DWR’s “Common questions about hunting pheasant in Utah” web page. The page is available in the Upland game hunting section at www.wildlife.utah.gov/uplandgame.
— Utah Division of Wildlife Resources