Saturday marks the start of the regular 2019 Pheasant and Quail Season and will extend through January 31. Scot Moeder with Pheasants Forever Rooster Booster Chapter #504 is looking forward to the weekend.
“There’s a lot of cover thanks to the spring rains,” he said. While the weekend is expected to be warm, which is less than ideal for hunting dogs, the hunt is all about friends, family and tradition, he said.
Among the traditions are hunters breakfasts, and this year the Claflin Lions Club is holding one from 5:30-9:30 a.m. at the Immaculate Conception Church Parish Center at 110 E. Williamson Ave. Hoisington’s Community Breakfast is from 5:30-8 a.m. at the Hoisington Knights of Columbus Hall at 114 N. Main.
For an idea of what hunters can expect locally, Jeff Prendergast, the small game specialist for Region 1 field office of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, weighed in. In August, he takes part in an annual pheasant survey. Beginning in 2012, biologists established routes averaging around 30 miles long throughout the region. In the early morning hours, when the dew is heavy in the fields, birds congregate closer to the drier roadways and take in the grit they need to aid digestion. Each route is surveyed four times, and the number of birds sighted is averaged. That average is compared with previous years to determine what hunters can expect during that year’s pheasant harvest.
“Our detection levels are somewhat low, and are based on birds per mile, not birds per square mile,” Prendergrast said. “We don’t have a good way to predict density at this time, but the survey has been shown to line up with the number of birds taken during the season.”
Barton County is on the edge of two regions, the Smoky Hills and the South Central Prairie. Pheasants in the county are down from last year, likely due to May and June flooding that forced hens to abandon nests resulting in fewer chicks hatched, Prendergast said. The same is true generally for North Central Kansas, but in Northwest and Southwest Kansas, numbers are better and a promising pheasant season is expected.
The outlook for bobwhite quail in the county is better, with numbers similar to last year, but still below those found in the North Central region.
Jason Wagner, the area wildlife manager at Cheyenne Bottoms, said he’s seen high numbers of quail where milo is being cut, both in Barton and Rush counties. As the second half of June brought drier weather, conditions were good around the time quail typically hatch, and they are also more apt to re-nest as long as conditions allow. Quail chicks also had plenty to eat this year.
Prendergast summed it up. Hunters who focus on quail taking pheasants when the opportunity presents will have a more satisfying season locally than those who focus on pheasants primarily.
Important to remember
Limits for the 2019 pheasant and quail season are four pheasants (cock only) per day and eight quail per day (either sex). Hunters can have up to four times the daily bag limit in their possession, so after four days, a hunter can have up to 16 pheasants in their possession. They must have some identifier for sex, either feet or plumage.
Most habitat will be located on private land in Barton County, requiring hunters to get permission ahead of time for a hunt. The county offers a few walk-in hunting areas (WIHA) open to the public for hunting. For a detailed map of these and others throughout the state, visit the KDWPT complete online map here. Other information about bobwhite quail can be found here.
Hunting permits can be found at several retailers around the county and at the Barton County Clerk’s office.