A few more pheasants should be available to hunt in Central and Northern Utah this fall, and good numbers of quail should be available to hunt in various parts of the state.
Utah’s pheasant and quail hunts start Saturday.
Jason Robinson, upland game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, said the agency doesn’t conduct formal pheasant surveys. But DWR biologists in Northern Utah report seeing good broods of young pheasants as they’ve conducted their field work this year.
“Mild conditions allowed more adult pheasants to make it through this past winter,” Robinson said. “Also, because pheasants live in agricultural areas that are watered regularly, they’re not affected by drought as much as some upland game species are.”
To find pheasants, look in wetland areas and agricultural areas that have thick cover, such as crops, grass, shrubs or cattails.
If you don’t mind hunting with a lot of other hunters, Utah’s wildlife management areas can be good places to hunt.
“The WMAs are really popular places,” Robinson says. “If you hunt on one of the WMAs, you won’t be hunting alone.”
To provide extra pheasants on the WMAs, birds the DWR has purchased from private bird growers will be released on many of the WMAs before the Saturday opener.
You can see which WMAs will receive pheasants at http://go.usa.gov/YRZz. In Northern Utah, those include Bud Phelps, Ogden Bay, Public Shooting Grounds, and Richmond.
In addition to the birds the DWR will release, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, a Utah-based conservation group, has provided additional funding to buy birds for release on WMAs in Millard, Sevier and Juab counties.
Lynn Zubeck, a DWR biologist who manages the WMAs in the three counties, has done extensive work to make the habitat better for pheasants.
In addition to the state’s WMAs, private properties enrolled in Utah’s Walk-In Access program should also be good places to hunt. You can learn more about the WIA properties at www.wildlife.utah.gov/walkinaccess.
The wetlands along the eastern shore of Great Salt Lake, and wetlands near Utah Lake, are also good places to hunt.
If you decide to get written permission from landowners to hunt on private land, some of Utah’s best pheasant habitat is found in Cache County, near Tremonton in Box Elder County, and in farm fields along the Wasatch Front.
In addition to Utah’s pheasant hunt, the state’s quail hunt also opens Saturday. Two species of quail live in Utah: California quail and Gambel’s quail.
California quail are found mostly in urban areas and private land along the Wasatch Front and in the Uinta Basin. Gambel’s quail, on the other hand, are found almost entirely on public land in the Mohave Desert in Washington County.
Every year, DWR biologists count the number of Gambel’s quail that visit water sources in the desert. This year, the number of quail biologists counted was down. And Robinson thinks he knows why.
“Southern Utah received a lot of rain this summer and fall,” Robinson said. “During the time we conducted our surveys, the quail had plenty of water sources to drink from. I think that’s why the number of quail we counted was down this year — the quail were there, they just weren’t coming in the same numbers to the water holes we survey.”
Robinson said he visited the Mohave desert last spring and saw lots of Gambel’s quail.
“I think plenty of quail will be available to hunters this fall,” he said.
If you pursue Gambel’s quail, focus your efforts in dry washes that have desert shrubs and Joshua trees in or near them.
A lightweight shotgun is the firearm of choice.
“Not only is a lightweight shotgun easier to carry,” Robinson said, “it’s easier to swing a light barrel on a bird that moves as fast as quail do.”