Hunters will be hoping to bag their limits when pheasant and quail season opens Saturday, but it could be slim pickings for pheasant after another summer of extreme heat and drought conditions.
Mike Miller, chief of information production with the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Department, said pheasant numbers aren’t looking too good this year.
“This is the second year of extreme drought in most of the state and extreme summer temperatures,” he said. “The drought doesn’t allow weeds and bird habitats to grow.”
Adding to that, Miller said, it was also an early wheat harvest, which affected pheasants because these birds next in winter wheat.
“Most of the time (pheasants) hatch before harvest, but this year farmers were cutting wheat in May before the peak of hatching time,” he said.
Pheasants are a short-lived species, Miller said.
“When there isn’t production, the pheasant population begins to fall,” he said.
The good news is that pheasants are prolific when conditions are right and they can produce a lot of young, Miller said.
“The bird population can rebuild quickly when things are good.”
Unlike the pheasant numbers being down, there’s a bright spot regarding quail populations.
“Quail live in a little bit different habitat and can generally be found living in native grasses or a more permanent cover, rather than farm ground,” he said.
Quail are less affected by heat and drought, Miller added, because of the timing of their nesting and breeding periods.
“We have a decent number of quail this year,” he said.
The daily limit on pheasants is four and hunters are only allowed to shoot the males or roosters.
“The most pheasants a hunter can have in their possession is 16, based on bagging the limit of four each day for four days” he said.
However, if some of the pheasants are eaten, then the hunter can continue to shoot more as long as he stays within the possession limits.
The daily limit on quail is 8 per day and after 4 days is maximum of 32. There are also no restrictions on killing males or females.
“It is hard to tell the difference,” Miller said.
Most hunters will primarily be using a shotgun for birds.
“I know people who have tried using bow and arrow to hunt pheasant and quail, but it’s difficult to shoot them in flight,” he said.
Miller said anyone 16 and over up to age 64 are required to have a hunting license.
The only exception is if someone owns the land they plan to hunt on.
“All non-residents need a hunting license in Kansas regardless of their age, unless it’s their own land,” he said.
Anyone under 16 can hunt as long as they have adult supervision.
Regarding hunter education classes, Miller explained that anyone born on or after July 1, 1957, needs to take the course.
“We do have deferral licenses for adults who have never hunted before, known as apprentice licenses,” he said.
It is a one-time deferral, but the person must be with a licensed adult at all times.
The hunting season for shooting quail and pheasant with firearms continues through the end of January 2013.
“We are also coming up on two of the biggest weeks for archery deer hunting,” Miller said.
The first two or three weeks in November is what hunters call “the rut,” when deer breeding season is underway and the bucks are on the move.
“There is a lot more deer movement,” he said, “and it’s a critical time for bow hunters to be out hunting.”
The next big time for hunters using firearms is deer season, which begins Nov. 28 and ends Dec. 9.
Kansas is a private land state with 98 percent of the land in private ownership leaving only about 1.5 million acres in the state open to public hunting, Miller said.
The public land includes state-owned areas around Marion Reservoir, which the Corps of Engineers leases to KDWPT to manage for public hunting, he said.
“We also have a Walk-in Hunting Access Program, also known as WIHA.
“We actually lease land from private landowners and it is open during the hunting season for public hunting,” he said. “There is one million acres enrolled in WIHA.”
For hunters interested in knowing where public hunting is available, Miller said his office produces an atlas every year of all public lands.
“It has area maps of the entire state and shows state, federal and walk-in hunting areas.”
When it comes to hunting, Miller said KDWPT wants to emphasize that in Kansas any hunter must have permission to hunt on private land, whether it’s posted or not.
“A landowner doesn’t have to put up no trespassing or no hunting signs because anyone hunting needs his permission to gon on the land,” he said.
Miller said most Kansas landowners have been fairly generous about letting people hunt on private land.
“Hunters still need to make the effort to contact landowners, locate them and visit with them about getting permission,” he said.