The general pheasant hunting season opened Saturday in Eastern Washington, and hunters should find bird counts similar to previous years.
Decent to good weather earlier this spring made for good conditions when broods were hatching, especially in Region Two (Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties). That is particularly good news in Grant County, which has the highest average pheasant harvest rate from 2008-12.
"A mild winter followed by a favorable spring benefitted wildlife species ranging from deer to pheasants," said Dave Ware, game manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
That is good news coming off the 2012 season during which an estimated 14,950 hunters took 50,453 pheasants. That harvest was down 1 percent from 2011 and down 16 percent from the 2007-11 average, and the number of hunters was down 19 percent from 2011 and down 32 percent from the previous 5-year average.
The largest concentrations of wild birds can be found in Grant County, within the Desert Unit of the state's Columbia Basin Wildlife Area between Potholes Reservoir and the town of George. Dense thickets of Russian olive and cattail associated with Frenchmen and Winchester wasteways and ponds are most likely to hold pheasants, according to a department report.
Region One outlook: Spring conditions seemed to be conducive in precipitation and temperature for reasonable survival of nest broods of game birds. Because of that, wildlife biologists expect the fall hunting season to be average or better. Includes Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla and Whitman counties.
Region Two outlook: Good spring weather should have led to good production. It also appears that high numbers of pheasants made it through the winter and lots of roosters and hens were seen this spring in the district.
Region Three outlook: There is some uncertainty about bird populations because the spring was relatively dry with some poorly timed rains in June. After June, temperatures were extremely high with little to no precipitation. All of that might have affected pheasant hatches and survival. Includes Benton, Franklin, Kittitas and Yakima counties.
Eastern Washington: The season runs through Jan. 12. Limits: Daily bag limit is three cocks with a possession limit of 15 cocks.
Western Washington: The regular season runs from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. through Nov. 30. The daily bag limit is two birds of either sex with a possession limit of 15 birds of either sex. During the extended season, no pheasants will be released. Applies only at Skookumchuck, Fort Lewis, Kosmos, Scatter Creek, Belfair, Whidbey Island (except Bayview) and Lincoln Creek release sites. Open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 1-15. Daily bag limit is two birds of either sex, with a possession limit of 15 birds of either sex.
Licenses: An annual resident adult small-game hunting license is $40.50. A Western Washington pheasant license for resident adults is $84.50. Go to fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov for details and other options.
Nontoxic shot: It is illegal to possess shot other than nontoxic shot when hunting for upland game birds (pheasant, quail, chukar and gray partridge), mourning dove, band-tailed pigeon and on areas where pheasants are released by the department.
Hunter orange: Anyone hunting pheasant with a modern firearm during any upland game bird season is required to wear hunter orange clothing. A minimum of 400 square inches of fluorescent hunter orange exterior clothing, worn above the waist and visible from all sides, is required to comply with this regulation.
New reservation system: Hunters can reserve time to hunt on some private lands recently enrolled in the state Department of Fish and Wildlife's online Hunt by Reservation system.
Go to wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/hunting--access/private--lands to see how it works.
Hunters also can access private lands through the Feel Free to Hunt, Register to Hunt, and Hunt by Written Permission programs.