2018 Pheasant & Quail Forecast
Pheasant Hunting Conditions
In comparison to last year, Colorado’s forecast for the 2018 pheasant hunting season is going to be right around the average mark. Conditions for nesting and brood-rearing weren’t optimal this year, but the conditions weren’t bad either. Last winter was dry, which means that there wasn’t a lot of soil moisture early this year. So green wheat and early brood-rearing habitat didn’t get an early start. Wet weather did arrive in May, which was good, and then June dried out, with warmer than normal temperatures for several days. In late July and early August, a series of pretty significant hailstorms came through the core pheasant region. And those storms definitely had an impact on habitat, as well as birds with some being killed by hailstones.
Quail Hunting Conditions
Quail hunting conditions should be pretty similar to pheasants for both bobwhite or scaled quail. The southeast was extremely dry for a long period, starting last fall and continuing through July of this past summer, which had an impact on quail nest success and brood-rearing. Quail numbers are not expected to be as good as they’ve been in the last few years in the southeast. In the northeast, it’s difficult to assess quail populations. Most of the quail are located along the South Platte River, an area where it’s difficult to assess population for a number of reasons. For the most part, populations are okay, but expect challenging hunting conditions. Hunters will contend with significant cover along the South Platte River. Habitat is thick, not as thick as 2 years ago, but there are a number of thick and overgrown areas. As a result, quail may be difficult to locate and hard to see when they flush.
Walk-In Access & Corners for Conservation
There are around 160,000 acres enrolled in the Walk-In Access program (WIA) this year. We are down a little bit from previous years, but that is mostly due to the fact that one large ranch left the program this year. Colorado has had a relatively large number of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land expirations across the WIA range. We’ve lost a lot of CRP and there’s not much to replace it. One of the bright spots in the Walk-In Access program is the addition of 300 new Corners for Conservation (C4C) areas over the last 3 years. These areas are designed to create excellent habitat for wildlife, including upland game birds, by establishing highly diverse cover on sprinkler corners, including tall native grasses and flowering forbs. Corners for Conservation properties are posted in the 2018 Late Cropland Walk-In Atlas, and in the field are identified with WIA boundary signs and Corners for Conservation Habitat signs.
TIP: C4C Areas developed in partnership with landowners and Pheasants Forever are not specifically identified in the 2018 Late Cropland Walk-In Atlas. If you compare the 2018 atlas with older versions of atlases, however, you will see the new corners.
Help Maintain Strong Landowner Relationships
The WIA program depends on private landowners enrolling property for walk-in hunting. Maintaining good relationships with those landowners and their neighbors is crucial. Here are some guidelines that, if followed, will improve the opportunities for all hunters and contribute to future WIA enrollments:
- WHERE DESIGNATED PARKING AREAS ARE ESTABLISHED, USE THEM. Do not block gates or roads for the landowner or his/her agents who may need to work on the property. Do not park along highways. Do not park in tall grassy or weedy areas where your vehicle’s catalytic converter can cause a fire.
- IF YOU SMOKE, make sure to completely extinguish cigarettes. Do not smoke or extinguish cigarettes in grassy or weedy areas where you could cause a fire.
- DON’T LITTER OR CLEAN HARVESTED BIRDS ON WIA PROPERTIES OR ALONG ROADSIDES. If trash is present, please pick it up.
- DON’T SHOOT NEAR OR TOWARDS HOUSES, farm buildings, livestock or equipment.
- DON’T HUNT IF CATTLE ARE IN, or adjacent to, enrolled parcels.
TECH TIP: 2018 Geospatial Property Maps
Tech-savvy hunters can download Geospatial PDF Walk-In Access maps. The georeferenced maps are compatible with several mobile applications, including Venza’s PDF Maps App, Global Mapper and TerraGo Mobile. For more information and to download your maps, please visit the CPW website. Colorado Parks and Wildlife also provides Walk-In Access property boundaries in our online interactive Hunting Atlas. After opening the Hunting Atlas, look for “Walk-In Access 2018” under the map layers.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife thanks you for hunting Colorado. For more information, see the 2018 Small-Game and Waterfowl Brochure.
2018 Pheasant Forecast by Ed Gorman. Gorman is the Small-Game Manager for CPW. Video by Jerry Neal. Neal is a videographer and information specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.