Pheasant hunting opportunities will vary this year across the state Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials say. The general season is Oct. 11—Jan. 1, 2009.
"Statewide pheasant numbers are expected to range from below to above average" said Rick Northrup, FWP game bird coordinator. Northrup said he is hearing reports of small and young broods in many parts of the state, particularly in areas affected by this spring’s cool wet weather.
FWP reminds hunters to be cautious of shooting young roosters with limited coloration, particularly during the early part of the general season.
Most of Montana was affected by a series of moist cold fronts that moved through the state in late May through mid June. This weather likely caused poor chick survival among early pheasant hatches and late renesting attempts by hens that were still laying or incubating. Grass cover is excellent across most areas of the state with the exception of portions of extreme northeastern Montana.
Northrup reminded bird hunters to arrange for hunting access to private lands well in advance of their hunt, and if possible to bring along a well-trained hunting dog.
Here is a brief overview of pheasant hunting opportunities around the state.
FWP Region 7—Southeastern Montana
Generally good reports coming out of this part of the state in terms of bird abundance and brood observations. Excellent cover means the birds may be broadly distributed.
FWP Region 6—Northeastern Montana
Generally pheasant populations are above average in the eastern portion of FWP Region 6. Many young broods of varying sizes suggest late hatches. Eastern portions of Sheridan, Richland, and Roosevelt Counties were droughty this summer but pheasant abundance is expected to be better than average, particularly outside the driest portions of these counties. Pheasant numbers in the western portion of Region 6 are expected to be closer to average with a mix of brood sizes and ages.
FWP Region 5—South Central Montana
Cover for birds this year was generally good. Pheasant abundance appears to be better than last year with average or better abundance along the Yellowstone River and its tributaries.
FWP Region 4—North Central Montana
Pheasant-hunting opportunities are expected to be below average. The Lewistown area experienced multiple cold weather events with substantial moisture during the first half of June resulting in excellent grass growth but poor pheasant production. The northern part of the region appears to have faired slightly better in some areas but pheasant numbers in the Conrad area are expected to be down from last year.
FWP Region 3—Southwestern Montana
Pheasant numbers appear to be slightly improved over last year. Again, reports of mixed ages and sizes of broods. Access to good pheasant hunting sites is challenging in this part of the state. Canyon Ferry remains a small, but popular area for pheasant hunting. Pheasant numbers on the Canyon Ferry Wildlife Management Area appear slightly higher than last year.
FWP Region 2—Western Montana
The spring hatch appeared to be affected by cold moist weather. Anticipate pheasant numbers comparable to last year. The best pheasant habitat in western Montana is often on private lands where access may be limited. Hunters are encouraged to secure permission from landowners before heading out to pheasant hunt.
FWP Region 1—Northwestern Montana
Kalispell, and the surrounding area, has experienced generally lower than average pheasant numbers in the past few years, including slightly smaller brood sizes being observed at the Ninepipe Wildlife Management area compared to last year.