Idaho pheasants suffer from hot, dry conditions
By Greg Breining
When the 2021 forecast went to press, so to speak, Jeff Knetter, the upland game and migratory bird coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, still awaited the results of the summer roadside counts of pheasants and broods.
But he’s not expecting great news. Word is, people in the field aren’t seeing much. “That is not surprising to me,” he says. “I think that nesting conditions were probably pretty OK, but, boy, the country has really dried out since then.”
Cover has shriveled and birds don’t have the moisture they need in their diet. “Our grass cover—there’s not much of it!” he says. “I think cover was pretty limiting for the birds that tried to make it through that brooding period.”
Knetter has two tips for pheasant hunters.
First, hunt the parts of the state that have traditionally had good pheasant populations. Those areas include the Southwest Region (around Boise), the Magic Valley region in the south-central part of the state around Twin Falls, or Clearwater Region around Lewiston. “Those would be our top-three producing regions in the state.”
Second, he says, look for moisture. Best of all will be private land with water.
“If you’re willing to knock on doors and wear through some boot leather, you can find birds, especially in riparian habitat. Flood-irrigated land could be good, if they were able to irrigate or if it’s in close proximity to a creek that would maintain some additional moisture,” he says. “You can come out and hunt birds without having to knock on doors but admittedly pheasants are probably our most ‘private-land bird’ in the state.”
If you’re not lucky enough to score private land, what types of land are best to hunt?
Knetter recommends scouting the Access Yes! web pages to find private lands that have been leased for hunter access. “Folks just have to spend some time mucking around on that website to look at maps to figure out where to give a try. I’d look for places that are close to water or have springs, that kind of thing.”
Idaho has a lot of grassland managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. Look for areas with moisture and cover adjacent to crop land.
“Something that I think makes Idaho attractive, at least to someone who’s wanting to travel, is that it’s not just pheasants,” says Knetter. “We’ve got a wide variety of game birds, a lot of different types of hunting that you can do for quail, gray partridge, chukars, three species of forest grouse, sharp-tailed grouse. You can even shoot a fall turkey. It think it takes you to 10 birds that you can harvest. It’s a diversity thing here in Idaho.”
The department stocks pheasants at two dozen locations around the state, including state, private, and federal land. Find details on the Idaho Department of Fish and Game website.
If You Go
In Area 1, in northern Idaho, residents can hunt October 9 – December 31. There’s a five-day delay for nonresidents — October 14 to December 31.
In Area 2, in southeastern Idaho, residents can hunt October 16–November 30; nonresidents, October 21– November 30.
In Area 3, which includes Magic Valley and southwestern Idaho, residents can hunt October 16 – December 31; nonresidents, October 21 – December 31.
The limit is 3 roosters a day (on non-stocked properties) and 9 in possession.