Pheasant hunters should see more birds in the field when the regular season opens Oct. 24 in Eastern Washington. The rebound in population is being credited to the mild winter and good spring weather conditions.
Wildlife biologists with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife are predicting hunters will find and shoot more pheasants than they did last year. Surveys in portions of Whitman, Garfield, Columbia and Walla Walla counties “suggest the population is about the same or a little above previous years,” Sean Q. Dougherty, acting small game section manager, said in a news release from Pheasants Forever.
“Based on field observations, there was likely increased survivorship of pheasant broods due to a mild spring and abundant insects being available throughout the spring and summer,” he said in the release.
Last falls’ harvest total of 41,407 birds was up 13 percent compared with 2013, but that is the season the state’s hunters shot an all-time low number of pheasants. Overall, the statewide harvest and population count is below the 10-year average.
Some of the best hunting last year took place in the Snake River Basin. Counties with large increases in harvest include Benton, Columbia and Whitman.
7,796 Grant County had the highest pheasant harvest statewide in 2014.
While weather conditions will help this year’s numbers, Dougherty said dwindling habitat is an obstacle to any sustained growth.
“The numbers being down have a lot to do with the change in farming practices starting in the 1980s, which has led to habitat reduction and reduced habitat quality. Basically everyone is farming every inch of ground they can.”
Season dates: Eastern Washington — Oct. 24-Jan. 18; Western Washington — through Nov. 30.
Daily bag limit: Eastern — three roosters only; Western — two of either sex.
Possession limit: Eastern — 15 roosters only; Western — 15 of either sex.
Of note: During the past four years, the state has enrolled about 100,000 acres of private land in public hunting access agreements in southeast Washington. As part of these agreements, landowners commit to enhancing habitat on their property. Much of this acreage is available through the department’s online reservation system. Hunters must make a reservation in advance to use these areas.
Information: Learn more about the season, including license requirements, at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
DUCK HUNTING SEASON
After an early season, the state’s duck hunting season opens in earnest Oct. 24. The season will run through Jan. 31. Hunters will be allowed a daily limit of seven ducks, to include not more than two hen mallards, two pintails, three scaups, two canvasbacks and two redheads statewide. The limit for hunters in Western Washington may include not more than one harlequin, two scoters, two long-tailed duck and two goldeneyes. For details, go to wdfw.wa.gov/hunting.