If you enjoy hunting one of the most colorful upland game birds in Utah — the ring-necked pheasant — you have lots of reasons to be excited. The number of wild birds is up this fall, more than 10,000 pen-reared pheasants will be released on public hunting areas, and the hunt on private land will be longer than last year.
The state’s 2017 general pheasant hunt runs Nov. 4–Dec. 3 on both private and public land.
Starting this season, the pheasant hunt on both private land and public land will run for 30 days. In the past, the hunt on private land ran for only 14 days.
Jason Robinson, upland game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says the longer season on private lands will not have a negative effect on the state’s pheasant population. And it will provide more opportunities to hunt. He says in the 1970s — during the heyday of pheasant hunting in Utah — close to 100,000 hunters went afield. Most of them hunted on private agricultural land.
“Biologists were concerned about the pressure the state’s hunters might put on the pheasant population,” he says. “Since then, the amount of farm land has decreased, but so has the number of pheasant hunters. Today, about 20,000 people hunt pheasants. Because there are far fewer pheasant hunters than there once was, we’re comfortable allowing a longer season on private land.”
Robinson says removing male pheasants does not affect the overall population of pheasants that are available the following year.
“Plenty of roosters make it through the hunting season,” he says, “so enough roosters are available to breed all of the hens the following spring. In addition to not having a negative effect on the pheasant population, making the season dates the same — on both private and public land — makes the state’s pheasant hunting regulations much easier to understand and follow.”
More wild birds
Deep snow and cold temperatures in parts of northern and northeastern Utah killed some pheasants this past winter, but the number of chicks born this spring more than made up for the birds that were lost.
“Chick production was likely above average this spring,” Robinson says. “Heavy snowfall followed by a wet spring provided the chicks with lots of vegetation. They had plenty of cover to hide in and plenty of insects to eat.”
More than 10,000 pen-raised birds
In addition to more wild birds in the state, more than pen-reared 10,000 pheasants will be released on 54 public hunting areas during the hunt.
Pheasants will be released before each weekend of the hunt. The one exception is the week of Thanksgiving. That week, birds will be released early in the week so plenty of pheasants will be available to pursue over the Thanksgiving holiday.
The DWR and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife bought the birds from two private bird growers. The birds will be released in areas that have good pheasant habitat and good access for public hunters. “Birds will be placed on wildlife management areas, waterfowl management areas and Walk-In Access areas,” Robinson says.
You can see where the birds will be released, and how to get to those areas, by looking at an interactive, online map. The map is available in the Upland game releases section at wildlife.utah.gov/uplandgame.
On at least 11 of the areas — 10 waterfowl management areas and the Utah Lake Wetland Preserve — you must use nontoxic shot (for example, steel shot) when hunting. Lead shot may not be used.
More information about Utah’s Walk-in Access areas is available at wildlife.utah.gov/walkinaccess.
Also, if you have questions about hunting pheasants in Utah, please visit the DWR’s ‘Common questions about hunting pheasant in Utah’ web page. The page is available in the Upland game hunting section on the DWR website.
Birds released throughout the hunt
If you miss the opening weekend of the hunt, no problem: birds will be released throughout the hunt. “If you hunt after the opening weekend,” Robinson says, “you should still have a great experience and find plenty of birds.”
If you decide to hunt during the opening weekend, know in advance that lots of other hunters will be hunting too. You can still have a good experience, though, by being courteous and respectful to others.
“Ask other hunters where they plan to hunt and try to give each other space,” Robinson says. “Also, if you have a dog, make sure to keep it under control. Please remember that everyone is there to have a good time.”
And make sure to wear plenty of hunter orange.
“Even though it’s not required,” he says, “wearing hunter orange is extremely important, especially when you’re hunting in crowded conditions. You want to make sure other hunters can see you.”
If you have questions about hunting pheasants in Utah, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR’s Salt Lake City office at 801-538-4700.