News of the Week

Nov. 27, 2015
Pheasant Numbers Rising Based on Roadside Surveys
    Oklahoma's pheasant hunting season will open Tuesday, Dec. 1, and hunters planning to pursue this exotic species should find more birds to hunt this year, based on more optimistic results from annual roadside surveys conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
    "There will be a fair number of adult birds to hunt this year in the areas that usually hold good pheasant numbers," said Scott Cox, upland game biologist for the Wildlife
 
Department. "The pheasant numbers are rising slowly. If we have a fairly mild winter and another cool and wet summer, then pheasant numbers should start to rebound like we have seen with the quail population."
    The Wildlife Department conducts two pheasant surveys: a count of the number of crowing male birds heard per mile along 20-mile routes during April and May, and a count of the number of broods seen per mile along 20-mile routes during late August. The surveys are conducted in Alfalfa, Beaver, Cimarron, Ellis, Garfield, Grant, Harper, Kay, Major, Noble, Texas, Woods and Woodward counties.
    Results are reported as an index for all the counties combined, but also for a subset of counties that traditionally has the highest pheasant densities: Alfalfa, Beaver, Cimarron, Grant and Texas counties. The indexes provide insight into the pheasant population over entire regions, and not necessarily for localized areas.
    Results from both surveys this year indicate more pheasants are in the fields than anytime since 2011.
 
Roadside Crowing Surveys (April and May)
  • 13-County Area: Up 118.8 percent from 2014; up 172.8 percent from 2013.
  • High-Density 5-County Area: Up 86.4 percent from 2014; 102.6 percent from 2013.
Roadside Brood Surveys (August)
  • 13-County Area: Up 66.7 percent from 2014; up 84.2 percent from 2013.
  • High-Density 5-County Area: Up 50 percent from 2014; up 71.4 percent from 2013.
    Cox said conditions this past summer were favorable for nesting, and the number of nesting hen pheasants is on the rise. He said good moisture during the summer months in the Panhandle and north-central counties was largely responsible for the improved survey numbers.
    Even though the number of broods seen was higher throughout the pheasant's range, the average number of chicks seen per brood declined to 2.39 per clutch from 2.82 chicks in 2014.
    During crowing count surveys in spring, biologists drive county roads and listen for crowing cock pheasants in search of mates. The number of crowing pheasants heard yields an idea of how many adult males will enter the breeding season. Cox said a higher crowing count index for 2015 was expected because of a mild winter and a cooler, wetter summer in 2014.
    Pheasant hunting season will run through Jan. 31, and the daily bag limit is two cock pheasants only. Residents and nonresidents are required to have an appropriate hunting license, and hunters must wear daylight fluorescent orange clothing when required.
    Areas open to pheasant hunting are Alfalfa, Beaver, Cimarron, Garfield, Grant, Harper, Kay, Major, Noble, Texas, Woods and Woodward counties, as well as that portion of Osage County west of State Highway 18, and the portions of Blaine, Dewey, Ellis, Kingfisher and Logan counties north of State Highway 51. Seasons on public lands may vary from the statewide season. For other information and regulations, consult the "Oklahoma Hunting" guide online at wildlifedepartment.com or in print where hunting and fishing licenses are sold.
 
 
  The ring-necked pheasant was introduced in Oklahoma in 1911. Hunters can pursue cock pheasants in open areas from Dec. 1 to Jan. 31. (Rick Swart/Flickr CC-BY SA2.0)