Timely weather provides an optimistic outlook for California longtails this season
By Andy Fondrick, Digital Marketing Specialist at Pheasants Forever
Even with above-average precipitation across much of the state, the timing of heavier storms may have worked in favor of nesting pheasants. With good cover, strong habitat and abundant food sources for young chicks, there is plenty of reason to look forward to California’s 2019 pheasant hunting season.
Weather and Conditions
According to Matt Meshriy, environmental scientist for the Upland Game Program with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, winter 2018-19 brought above-average rainfall to all areas of the state except for extreme northwestern California. “February was extremely wet statewide,” says Meshriy, “but temperatures were mild, and flooding was not a major factor for pheasants in the Central Valley.”
Even with a wet winter, followed by a wet spring, timing may have worked out in favor of upland birds. “Consistent storm activity in March through May was well-spaced.” Meshriy says, “This led to an exceptional spring green-up and good nesting conditions where habitat is available for pheasants.”
Habitat, Broods and Counts
In an area where weather may have had some impact on pheasants in 2019, farming changes to the landscape played a larger role in reducing habitat and affect bird numbers.
“While conditions are good locally,” Meshriy explains, “pheasant habitat in the Central Valley continues to shrink overall as nut trees and grapes replace row-crops and grains. Clean farming practices remain the greatest threat to California pheasants.”
California does conduct road counts for pheasant, but Meshriy believes nesting may have begun early this spring. “Although May storms may have impacted some early broods, the rainfall produced lots of forbs and bugs for foraging chicks, indicating a good hatch year,” Meshriy says.
After dodging weather early in the year, Meshriy is positive about the potential for the upcoming season. “Some of the best opportunities to hunt wild pheasants occur on the National Wildlife Refuges in the Sacramento and northern San Joaquin Valleys,” he says. Be sure to check out the Sacramento River NWR Upland Game Hunting Page
or the Kern NWR Hunting Page
to learn about required licenses and season restrictions on these refuges.
There are also opportunities to target planted birds throughout the state, including through apprentice hunts
offered by the California Fish and Wildlife Department.
Meshriy’s tip is to take a very stealthy approach in chasing longtails to help get into higher percentage shooting opportunities.
“Move slowly and be aware of the wind direction,” suggests Meshriy. “A trained hunting dog is the single biggest factor adding to the pheasant hunter’s success, but even if you’re not relying on a dog to catch the scent of a bird, hunting into the wind can help disguise your footfalls let you close the distance before flushing a bird.”