It’s a Kansas tradition to open the pheasant and quail seasons on the second Saturday in November. If you’re a bird hunter, you’re already losing sleep thinking about opening day. The Kansas pheasant and quail season opens this Saturday November 10th and runs through January 31, 2019.
It’s a big deal, both to hunters and to the state’s economy. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, hunting pumps more than $400 million into the Kansas economy each year, and while hunters find a myriad of game species to pursue in Kansas, pheasant and quail are high on the list. Year in, year out, Kansas will rank among the top three states in the nation for harvest of pheasant and bobwhite quail.
More than 80,000 hunters will hunt pheasants in Kansas this year, and while there is some overlap, more than 62,000 will hunt quail. Approximately 40,000 of those hunters will be nonresidents. If you don’t believe it, try to reserve a motel room in any small town in western Kansas on Saturday. Conservatively, nonresident bird hunters will spend more than $150 per day on lodging, fuel, food and supplies while hunting in Kansas, adding much-needed dollars into the small communities that dot prime Kansas hunting regions.
Pre-season reports predict good hunting in many areas of the state for both pheasants and quail.
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.
In addition to long seasons, Kansas also offers generous bag and possession limits for pheasants and quail – four rooster pheasants per day and 16 in possession and eight quail per day and 32 in possession. Much of central and southwest Kansas provides excellent pheasant and quail combination hunting opportunities.
November is a great month to be in Kansas if you’re a hunter because in addition to pheasant and quail, other seasons open include greater prairie chicken, ducks, geese, sandhill cranes, deer, and wild turkey. The only downside is that November is only 30 days long.