Missouri pheasants may be more numerous than spring surveys suggest, and hardworking hunters will find birds
By Greg Breining
Summer roadside surveys predict a tough season ahead for Missouri pheasant hunters. Across the state, pheasant numbers fell 74 percent, according to the surveys.
Pheasant numbers seemed to hold up best in the Northern Riverbreaks in north-central Missouri, though even there the numbers of pheasant counted during roadside surveys were only a third of the number counted last year. The Northeastern Riverbreaks suffered an even more precipitous drop, to less than 20 percent the previous year. In the Northwestern Prairie, no birds were spotted at all, either this year or last.
“Disappointing for sure,” says Beth Emmerich, research scientist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “I’m guessing the prolonged snow cover over most of the pheasant range had a negative effect on winter survival.”
Despite the lack of birds turned up by the survey, “conditions for nesting have been good, and I’ve heard positive reports of folks seeing pheasant broods in the northwestern part of the state,” she says.
Best pheasant hunting under these tough conditions should be in the northern third of the state. That’s especially true for hunters without access to private land.
“My big suggestion is always northwest Missouri because that tends to be where we have the biggest pheasant population,” says Emmerich. “We have a fair bit of public land areas. We have them all over the state, but there’s a good number of them in northwest Missouri.”
Hunters should check the Department of Conservation’s interactive map of public land, especially state conservation areas and Missouri Recreational Access Program (MRAP) sites, where private land is leased for hunter access. These MRAP sites are open to various activities. Hunters need to be aware that not all areas are open to all kinds of hunting.
“As is always the case, in Missouri, pheasants are limited by quality habitat. Where there is habitat, there are birds,” says Emmerich.
If You Go
Missouri’s youth pheasant season occurs October 30-31. The regular pheasant season follows November 1 to January 15 2022. Limit is 2 roosters daily, with 4 in possession.
Missouri’s quail season is identical to the pheasant season. Hunters looking to chase quail as well should check the department website for information about state Quail Restoration Landscapes, where habitat work on both public and private land has led to “some pretty decent success stories” with quail densities of up to a bird per acre, says Emmerich. “That’s very good. That’s probably as good as we can get with the kind of landscape we have in Missouri.”