by Dave Smith
The Southern High Plains could be the sleeper region for pheasants, where, like Kansas, Colorado and Oklahoma appear poised for a post-drought rebound. Colorado's pheasant population declined by 66 percent from 2011 to 2014, but the eastern plains received good moisture this spring and summer, according to Ed Gorman, Colorado Parks and Wildlife. However, Gorman noted the drought was so severe it will have a long-lasting impact on the quality of CRP cover, as it shifted habitat from beneficial warm-season grasses and forbs to cool-season species such as smooth brome. In Oklahoma, pheasant production was expected to be good due to excellent habitat conditions this spring and summer, according to Scott Cox, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
South Dakota and North Dakota also look markedly better than last year, when they were hit with cool and wet spring conditions. According to Travis Runia, South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, weather conditions were favorable for pheasant production over most of South Dakota's primary pheasant range from late April through June. Runia expects reproductive success to be good in areas where large blocks of nesting habitat remain. Stan Kohn, North Dakota Game & Fish Department, reports a similar trend in North Dakota with warmer temperatures than last spring and good moisture coming on the heels of a mild winter. Pheasant crowing surveys were up six percent statewide from 2013 counts. Kohn's main concern was the two to six inches of rain that hammered southwestern North Dakota in June while chicks were hatching to 10 days old.