Buoyed by a cool, wet summer and bountiful breeding habitat, the Kansas upland bird forecast looks very good throughout much of the state, perhaps better than in several years.
The forecast is based on August surveys by rural mail carriers, wildlife biologists and landowners.
In the northeast, as elsewhere in the state, habitat conditions have improved over last year.
Pheasant numbers are up with the exception of a few areas in the western portion of the northeast region. Quail numbers have been below the long-term average for a number of years and it appears they'll be about the same as last year. Prairie chicken numbers will be similar to last year and will yield fair hunting.
In the northwest and northcentral, pheasant hunting will be at least as good as 2003 in these areas. The eastern half of the region will hold slightly higher numbers than farther west. Hunters should look for areas that have quality cover coupled with good food sources.
Quail hunters should find bird numbers a little higher than last year in most good quail habitats in that region. The best quail numbers are always in the eastern part of the region, nearer to the core of bobwhite quail range in Kansas.
Prairie chickens have been expanding their range in that region since the Conservation Reserve Program was initiated. Moderate numbers of lesser and greater chickens occur within this region, with best numbers in the eastern and central counties.
The best hunting opportunities occur where chickens are flying to feed fields in morning and late afternoon.
Beneficial rains have improved habitat considerably. Pheasant numbers in the region look very good, with the numbers increasing from west to east. A few areas in the extreme southwest counties may be slightly lower because of summer hail storms, but overall the region looks good.
Quail prospects also look good. Populations in most areas are slightly better or at least as good as last season, with best potential in the southern two tiers of counties. Prairie chicken numbers in the southwest are similar to last year, with scattered areas showing slight population improvements.
In general, this region has fared well in game bird production and survival. Timely rains have produced more cover although a few areas experienced flooding and may not hold as many birds, especially low-lying areas around large reservoirs.
Pheasant numbers are good to excellent. Even in areas that are usually marginal pheasant range, there appear to be good numbers of birds. Quail hunting is expected to be slightly improved, due to wet weather limiting the extent of pasture burning during the spring.
Counties to the south and west of the Flint Hills are modestly improved, but expect a few patches that suffered continued drought or were hit by hail storms to have fair numbers.
Prairie chicken numbers are good. Because there is a lot of natural food available in grasslands, it may be expected that chickens will be later in coming into grain fields this fall.
This region is the core of traditional quail range although it has experienced a general, long-term downward trend in numbers. Generally, habitat conditions in this area are at a high level, with the exception of some low-lying areas adjoining large reservoirs where flooding has had a negative impact on cover.
Pheasant hunting has never been an attraction although ringnecks may occasionally be encountered in northwestern counties of the region. Quail numbers are improved with the exception of the aforementioned low-lying areas.
Prairie chicken numbers are best in the western counties of the region, which border on the Flint Hills where numbers are improved.