Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Numbers Pointing Up ; Upland Bird Populations on Rise in Kansas after Heavy Rainfalls

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Numbers Pointing Up ; Upland Bird Populations on Rise in Kansas after Heavy Rainfalls

Article excerpt

The upland bird season is one cherished by many Kansans and nonresidents alike.

The second Saturday of November is a day marked on many calendars, and a chance for friends and families to share the great outdoors. Kansas typically ranks among the top few states in pheasant and quail harvest in most years. And despite continuing that distinction the last few years, upland bird hunters have been largely disappointed with overall success and bird numbers.

Prolonged drought is to blame for low upland bird numbers. However, much-needed rains came to parts of Kansas in 2014 and 2015. As a result, pheasant and quail populations, as well as lesser and greater prairie chicken populations, have rebounded nicely, and the 2015-16 season looks much more promising than previous seasons, providing reason for optimism.


Rains created excellent nesting conditions this spring. Birds carried over from 2014 were productive and resulted in a statewide 51-percent increase in summer brood counts conducted by biologists. Areas where hunters found birds in 2014 should be even better this year. Additional years of good production will be required for pheasant numbers to rebound to pre-modern day low numbers. However, Kansas will still harvest more birds than most other states in the country this season.

The best area for pheasant numbers this year will likely be in the Northern High Plains (northwest Kansas, Cheyenne, Rawlins, Decatur, Norton, Sherman, Thomas, Sheridan, Graham, Wallace, Logan, Gove, Greeley, Wichita, Scott and Lane counties) which saw a 130 percent increase in the pheasant roadside densities seen compared to 2014 figures. This was the greatest improvement seen in any area, but still well-below average. This area also claimed the highest regional pheasant index on the brood survey this year. Highest densities should be found in the northern half of this region.

The Smoky Hills (north central Kansas, Phillips, Smith, Jewell, Republic, Washington, Marshall, Rooks, Osborne, Mitchell, Cloud, Trego, Ellis, Russell, Lincoln, Ottawa, Ness, Rush, Pawnee, Barton, Ellsworth, Rice, and McPherson counties) region also showed promise for pheasants. Highest densities were found in the northeast portion and southern tier of counties in the region, with good densities found sporadically through the rest of the region.


Quail benefitted more from precipitation as a result of a later nesting cycle than did pheasants. Add this to the fact that quail are persistent renesters and last winter was fairly mild, which all resulted in a better breeding population heading into 2015. The statewide breeding population index for quail increased 41 percent from last year's figure. Conditions were good for production, although heavy rainfall in some areas in eastern regions likely limited production. …

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