Forecast: Despite a loss of CRP acreage across the northern tier of the state, hunters should expect a good—not great—season this year, says John Vore, the game management bureau chief for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Region 6 in the northeast provides much of Montana’s best pheasant habitat. There, says Ryan Williamson, region 6 upland game bird biologist, “pheasant crow count numbers have declined by about 11 percent from the 2014 survey period.” But the reality of the season may be better than that lackluster assessment. “Although we did see a slight decrease in 2015 from 2014, pheasants across the region are still 14 percent above the 10-year average. We have been hearing positive reports about the number of broods observed this year on the roads as well as in the wheat fields being harvested,” says Williamson.
“The areas that generally hold the most pheasants and provide the best opportunity are the northeast corner around Plentywood and Froid and the river bottoms along the Missouri and Milk rivers. Areas with more agriculture and the river bottoms will be the better areas for pheasant hunting,” Williamson says.
Crowing counts suggest pheasant numbers in central Montana, such as the Conrad and Lewistown areas, should be average. Regions 5, 3 and 7 should be average or better than last year. Numbers in the Flathead Valley are much like last year. In northwestern Montana, brood survival appears to be good on the Ninepipe Wildlife Management Area, but drought has impacted habitat so hunting conditions could be tough.
Season Dates: October 10, 2015 through January 1, 2016
Youth Season Dates: September 26 & 27 (ages 12–17; daily bag limit 3, possession limit 9)
Daily Bag Limit: 3
Possession Limit: 9
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