A wet winter improved habitat, and helped California pheasants weather a summer heat wave.
By Tom Carpenter
Along with habitat, weather drives pheasant production and populations. “A strong and lasting high-pressure ridge along the west coast of California was responsible for consistently above-average day and nighttime temperatures across the state during the summer of 2017,” reports Matt Meshriy, Environmental Scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Upland Game Program.
“Several extended heat waves affecting the interior of the state likely stressed hens and chicks and may have decreased available insect forage for hungry broods,” he adds.
But California pheasants are resilient. “Overall, conditions remain good for pheasants,” he says. “Residual vegetation and surface water are much improved over recent years, thanks to a wet winter.”
Where to find birds? “Pheasant population levels remain on the low side in the Great California Valley,” says Meshriy, “but the end of prolonged drought should produce a bump in pheasant numbers elsewhere, particularly in the Sacramento Valley.”
“The best hunting in the northern part of the state can be found in Siskiyou County,” Meshriy says. “In the central portion of the state, Colusa and Solano Counties have offered some of the most consistent opportunity in recent years. In the southern region, Imperial County will be the top pheasant producer.”
“The general hunting season for pheasant opens November 11 this year, and runs through December 24,” says Meshriy. “While hunters are always likely to find birds near water, localized flooding events during winter and spring may have pushed pheasants out of some traditional ‘hot spots,’” advises Meshriy.
California Hunting Tip
“Hunt early or late in the day to catch birds foraging in open cover,” offers Meshriy. “If you don’t have a good bird dog, team up with a friend who does in order to minimize crippling losses and maximize chances for a successful hunt this year.”
California Pheasant Page
Tom Carpenter is Digital Content Manager for Pheasants Forever.