Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks upland game bird manager, John McCarthy says upland game bird hunters are likely to find that the hunting has declined some compared to the past couple of years.
"Montana's drought over the last few years translated into a lack of cover for birds during nesting, a time when the birds seek taller grasses and forbs for nesting cover and raising of their young," McCarthy said."To make matters worse drought relief in some parts of the state came as snow and rain around the peak of the hatch for most species."
The FWP regional forecasts for bird populations for 2001 are down or similar to last year for most species. Biologists and game managers contribute to this outlook based on their observations of the different upland bird species populations and conversations with people in the field. McCarthy compiles the outlook.
"While it is subjective, it gives us a thumb nail sketch of what appears to be happening out there," he says. On a scale of one to ten, ten being very good, most biologists say the bird populations they're seeing are about a four, five or six. The scale also indicates whether biologists believe the populations are trending up, down or remain roughly the same as the year before.
For example, blue grouse in Region 1 (at 6+) are slightly above average and stable when compared to the number of blue grouse in 2000. In Region 2 blue grouse (at 4+) are below average, but increasing as compared to last year.
The FWP 2001 Upland Game Bird Outlook table below is a"dip stick" approach for a hunter eager to anticipate what they might find in the field."Because these are general trends that were seen in the field this summer, and because of different weather patterns that occur across the state, these trends may not hold for specific hunting spots," McCarthy says."As always, the best bet is to enjoy the day and check it out for yourself."