Favorable spring conditions could mean more pheasants on the ground when the hunting season opens Sept. 27 in most areas of the state.
Weather for nesting and brood rearing was better than last year. In some areas, abundant insect populations also will contribute to chick survival, according to Brian Calkins, state Department of Fish and Wildlife small game manager.
“Based on winter and spring weather conditions, we are optimistic that our pheasant harvest will rebound from last year which was one of the lowest on record,” Calkins said in a Pheasants Forever. “Adding to our habitat base, several thousand acres of permanent cover were seeded with forbs (broad-leafed plants) in southeast Washington this year specifically to improve brood rearing habitat for pheasants.”
Last year, Washington pheasant hunters had a tough season. They harvested 36,752 pheasants, which was down 27 percent from the 2012 season and down 41 percent from the four-year average.
In addition to the wild birds, the department plans to release about 40,000 pheasants at sites across southwestern Washington. That is an increase of 2,000 birds over 2013.
Here is the pheasant hunting outlook for each district in the state, according to department wildlife biologists:
Ferry, Pend Oreille and Stevens countiesThere is only a small population of wild pheasants in the district. Most of the hunting opportunity is at the Sherman Creek release site in Ferry County on the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area.
Lincoln, Spokane and Whitman counties
Spring and summer weather was good, which should lead to decent numbers of young birds. Overall, the pheasant population may see some growth in the short term, but is experiencing long-term declines.
Asotin, Columbia, Garfield and Walla Walla counties
Hunting opportunities in the district are associated with the Eastern Washington pheasant enhancement program. There are nine such sites in the district. Releases occur sporadically throughout the pheasant hunting season.
Benton and Franklin counties
This year’s growing season was preceded by a very mild, dry winter and early spring, followed by above-average rainfall in May and June. Temperatures have remained warm, so there should be adequate cover and insects. The best pheasant habitat in the district is in north Franklin County on and surrounding the department’s Windmill Ranch and Mesa Lake wildlife areas, and the Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch. Other good areas are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hanford Reach National Monument (Ringold and East Wahluke units) and Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge near Paterson.
Adams and Grant counties
Grant County was the top pheasant producing county in the state last year. The largest populations of wild pheasants on agency lands in the district are likely within the desert unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Complex between Potholes Reservoir and George. Mixed bags of wild and released birds are also likely to be had in lower Crab Creek, Gloyd Seeps, Quincy and Dry Falls units. Pheasant numbersin the irrigated area of the district should be better than average, while totals in the dryland areas is likely to be slightly below average.
Wildfires this summer burned about 270,000 acres in the western portion of District 6, so hunters will need to check the availability of their favorite spots before heading into the field. Pheasants occur at low densities and in a patchy distribution throughout the Okanogan watershed portion of the district, with most wild pheasants coming from private land.
Chelan and Douglas counties
The district is not thought of as a pheasant hunting destination, but local hunters have harvested from 1,500-3,000 birds each year since 2001.
Kittitas and Yakima counties
There are very few wild pheasant in the district outside of the Yakima Valley on the Yakama Nation Reservation. The trend on the reservation has been for declining populations due to conversion from idle land to crops. Released pheasants are becoming a significant source of recreation for many hunters. About 2,000 roosters will be released in the district.
Clark, Klickitat and Skamania counties
The district has very little wild production of pheasants compared to other areas of Eastern Washington. The only hunting opportunity is for pen-raised birds at release sites in Klickitat and Clark counties.
Cowlitz, Lewis and Wahkiakum counties
No realistic hunting opportunities.
Pierce and Thurston counties
About 1,900 pheasants will be released at the Skookumchuck Wildlife Area this season, with 50-75 birds released each Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday running through Thanksgiving morning. Another 3,900 pheasants birds will be released at Scatter Creek Wildlife Area, with 60-70 birds released each Saturday, Sunday and Wednesdays. About 5,200 pheasants will be released on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Hunters must register to hunt on the base through NW Adventure Center (253-967-8282 or 253-967-7744). Extended season will take place at Skookumchuck and Scatter Creek wildlife areas Dec. 1-15.
Game-farm produced pheasants will be let go this fall at release sites.
Island and Snohomish counties
In Snohomish County, public hunting is available on the Ebey Island unit of the Snoqualmie Wildlife Area and on Leque Island in the Skagit Wildlife Area. In Island County, release sites on Whidbey Island will include Bayview, Arnold Farm, Naval Outlying Field Coupeville and the Sea Plane Base. Access to the Sea Plane Base release sites is open to all hunters, but hunters (military and civilian) must purchase the installation hunting permit ($13).
Skagit and Whatcom counties
In Skagit County, pheasants will be released at the Bow Hill site. In Whatcom County, birds will be released at the Lake Terrell Wildlife Area, Intalco and British Petroleum sites.
Jefferson (East), Kitsap and Mason counties
There are no viable populations of wild pheasants in the district. Hunter Farms, Belfair and Sgt. Mak are the release sites.
Clallam and Jefferson (West) counties
The district does not have viable populations of wild birds, and there are no release sites.
Grays Harbor and Pacific counties
The district has no viable wild pheasant populations. The Chinook release site is in Pacific County and the Chehalis River site is in Grays Harbor County.