In just a matter of days, ink will be drying on freshly-printed copies of Kansas’ 2018 Upland Bird Hunting Forecast, but if you can’t wait any longer, there’s an electronic version to tide you over. Bird hunters can download a PDF version of this year’s forecast at ksoutdoors.com.
How To Download the “2018 Upland Bird Forecast”
- Visit ksoutdoors.com
- Click “Hunting”
- Click “Upland Birds” (found under “What To Hunt”)
- Click “Upland Bird Forecast”
The annual forecast summarizes data from spring and summer surveys and predicts what pheasant, quail and prairie chicken hunters may experience across Kansas this fall. The verdict? Kansas should have “good” upland bird hunting opportunities this fall.
Biologists create the forecast using surveys of breeding populations and reproductive success of pheasants, quail, and prairie chickens. Breeding population data are gathered with spring whistle count surveys for quail, crow count surveys for pheasants and lek count surveys for greater prairie chickens.
Kansas reported the second highest pheasant harvest among states in 2017, and Kansas will still have one of the best pheasant populations in the country this fall. Pheasant hunting in Kansas should be “fair to locally good” this year.
Pheasant densities had been slowly recovering from 2013 to 2016 with a few areas reaching relatively high densities. A late 2017 spring blizzard in western Kansas reduced nesting success and resulted in a decline in the 2018 pheasant crow survey. Winter precipitation was limited this year, resulting in short wheat and concern for nesting prospects. Heavy spring and summer showers greatly improved vegetative cover for nesting, but also limited nest success. Conditions shifted peak pheasant hatch later into June and July. While wheat harvest was delayed, which typically benefits pheasant production, the short wheat limited its usefulness for nesting. Roadside counts indicate a below-average pheasant population this year. The combination of heavy cover and a later peak hatch may have reduced the number of detectable birds on the counts, but generally survey conditions were ideal.
The best areas will likely be in the northern half of the Kansas pheasant range with areas of high densities also found in central and far southwestern regions.
Last fall’s Kansas bobwhite quail harvest was the highest recorded in the country, finishing just above Texas, and while hunting isn’t expected to be quite as good in 2018, Kansas will still have one of the best quail populations in the country.
Precipitation patterns observed over the past five years altered vegetation, increasing both the quality and quantity of habitat, allowing for a modern quail boom. While total harvest has remained well below average due to lower hunter participation, the average daily bag has remained at the best levels observed in 20 years. The bobwhite whistle survey in 2018 showed only a slight decline compared to the 2017’s highest values ever recorded from this survey, which began in 1997. Dry weather in the east and wet weather in the west provided optimism for high production and another banner year. Early reports indicated lots of birds along roadsides and throughout wheat fields during harvest. However, observations on the statewide roadside survey were significantly down this year, with only the Osage Cuestas showing improvement. Densities in the eastern-most regions are not as high, but all regional indices remain near or above their respective long-term averages.
The best opportunities will again be found in the central regions, extending east into the northern Flint Hills.
Kansas is home to greater and lesser prairie chickens. Greater prairie chickens are found primarily in the tallgrass and mixed-grass prairies that occur in the eastern third and northern half of the state. The Southwest Prairie Chicken Unit, where lesser prairie chickens are found, will remain closed to hunting this year.
Greater prairie chicken hunting opportunities will be best in the Northern High Plains and Smoky Hills Regions this fall, where populations have been increasing or stable.
All prairie chicken hunters are required to purchase a $2.50 Prairie Chicken Permit in addition to their hunting license. This permit allows hunter activity and harvest to be measured and will improve management activities and inform policy decisions.
For more detailed information and regional breakdowns for all three species, consult the 2018 Upland Bird Hunting Forecast at www.ksoutdoors.com or pick one up at any Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Office. The full forecast will also be featured in the 2018 November/December issue of Kansas Wildlife & Parks Magazine, available for purchase