Expectations high for opening of upland bird seasons

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Look this Saturday for the annual migration to Kansas of upland game hunters as this year’s pheasant and quail season opens.

The youth season opened this past weekend, but the general season for pheasant and quail starts this weekend and runs through Jan. 31.

According to Marvin Peterson, natural resource officer with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, this season may be a memorable one.

“With pheasants, there are some really good numbers out there,” Peterson said. “The birds are going to be localized and there will be pockets of them. But where you find them, you’ll really find them.”

Peterson said the KDWP’s preliminary estimates suggest a banner year.

“Our counts are up this year, and I think it’s going to be a significantly better season this year than the past three years have been,” he said. “The weather this spring provided good hatches, all the rain we’ve had provided a great amount of good habitat, and the fall crop fields are overflowing.”

Numerous hunting opportunities exist in Marion County, Peterson said.

“The Walk In Hunting program is still active, but we actually don’t have quite as many acres enrolled in Marion County this year as we have had-but there’s still some out there,” he said.

“We’re having a tough time competing with private leases because we just can’t pay as much as some people want.”

Peterson said WIHA maps are available at all KDWP offices.

“Most of our WIHA acres are in the northern part of the county,” he said. “But there are still ample areas for hunters to do their thing.”

Peterson said WIHA acres and private land aren’t the only option for hunters.

“The public area at Marion (Reservoir) should be a really good place to hunt this year,” Peterson said. “There’s good habitat out there and I’ve been seeing good numbers of pheasants and some quail.

“The cover is incredible, so it sure wouldn’t hurt if the hunters used dogs out there.”

Peterson said no major changes in the laws occurred since last fall, but advised hunters to be aware of existing regulations.

“I would advise all hunters to get a hold of one of our regulation manuals that are available wherever hunting licenses are available,” he said. “It’s a hunting and fur harvesting booklet, and it might be a good idea to carry it with you.”

Bag limits remain the same as last season: eight quail and four cock pheasants per hunter.

“When you shoot a rooster, you have to leave an identifier on the bird,” Peterson said. “Most people leave a leg, but a wing or the head will also do.”

Peterson said hunting licenses are available at the KDWP offices, the Marion County Courthouse, Canada Bait ‘N Tackle, Markley’s in Marion, the Marion County Lake office. In Hillsboro, licenses can be acquired at Alco.

Peterson said hunting without authorization is the No. 1 problem for hunters.

“The most trouble people get into is trespassing and not getting proper permission to hunt on ground from landowners,” he said. “Anything that is painted purple means hunting by written permission only, and it can also be signed that way.”

All citations issued by Peterson and other authorized personnel are directed to the district courts.

Opening weekend will bring out more than just hunters, Peterson said.

“I cover approximately a county and a half, and I share Morris County with an officer out of Chase County-so most of us are spread pretty thin,” he said. “But we will have several additional people out on opening weekend, primarily to patrol the WIHA areas.

“They’ll be checking for licenses and also be conducting surveys about hunting areas and asking some basic questions.”

As always, Peterson said the primary goal for hunters should be to have fun and take all the necessary safety precautions.

“For me, the ideal opening weekend would be to have no hunting violations, but the No. 1 thing from my standpoint would be that we have no hunting accidents.

“Safety is paramount,” he added. “I hope everyone goes out and has a good time, abides by the laws and asks permission and stays safe.”

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