Oklahoma's two-month pheasant hunting season opens Saturday but, much like the quail season, the forecast is gloomy.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conversation's brood surveys showed a 66 percent decline in the pheasant population from last year, which was a bad year for pheasants as well.
After two years in 2009 and 2010 where pheasant numbers climbed, the population has been on a downward spiral since.
This year's pheasant hunting season in northwest Oklahoma is expected to be one of the worst in recent years.
“Two years of drought has hit pheasants pretty hard,” said Doug Schoeling, upland bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
There were some eyewitness reports of a few broods earlier this summer, but the Wildlife Department's survey didn't show them, Schoeling said.
Still, like quail, there will be pockets of birds that hunters will find in patches of northwest and north-central Oklahoma that received some timely rainfall, Schoeling said.
“Quail hunting has been real spotty,” he said. “I think pheasants are going to be just like that.”
Normally high pheasant producing areas likely still will have birds, although fewer, Schoeling said. Areas that only produced a few pheasants in the past, however, may not have any this season, he said.
“If an area has some cover, it's going to hold some pheasants,” Schoeling said.
Schoeling thinks the best hunting areas probably will be in the northern tier of counties along the Kansas border.
Pheasant season is open through Jan. 31 in the counties of Alfalfa, Beaver, Cimarron, Garfield, Grant, Harper, Kay, Noble, Texas, Woods and Woodward.
Pheasant hunting also is open in a portion of Osage County (west of SH 18 only) and portions of Blaine, Dewey, Ellis, Kingfisher and Logan counties (north of SH 51 only).
The daily limit is three roosters.