By Marc Murrell
Biologists with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism — with help from other entities — monitor upland bird populations by looking at breeding populations and reproductive success via roadside surveys, crow and whistling counts and lek observations. The overall news is good and pointed back in a positive direction. However, due to a limited breeding population in most areas resulting from the extended drought, harvest figures will likely be below average. Here’s a detailed look at what the 2014 Upland Bird Forecast revealed for Kansas.
Pheasant breeding populations have shown a decline for the last three years because of drought but stabilized this spring in all areas except the Northern High Plains. Rains last summer helped conditions in many areas but lacked in the fall and winter, resulting in poor winter wheat production heading into the nesting season this spring. Spring rains came and habitat conditions improved by stimulating the growth of weeds, insect emergence and better brood-rearing conditions. Rains also delayed the wheat harvest in many areas. All of these factors had a positive impact on production and resulted in a 70-percent, statewide increase compared to 2013 figures.
Improved hunting opportunities should be the norm, but given that the pheasant population was at an all-time low last year it might take another year or two for numbers to rebound to pre-drought levels. Kansas will have a below average harvest again for 2014, but will still have one of the highest harvest figure in the country as Kansas typically ranks among the best. The areas with the most significant increase should be the Smoky Hills Region.
For a more detailed look and regional breakdown of the 2014 Upland Bird Hunting Forecast, check out http://kdwpt.state.ks.us/Hunting/Upland-Birds/Upland-Bird-Forecast.