If you like to hunt pheasants and quail, this might be the perfect fall to give the state’s Walk-In Access areas a try.
It looks like pheasant and quail numbers are up in Utah.
Justin Dolling, upland game and migratory game bird coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says lots of rain this past spring and early summer gave Utah’s pheasants and quail exactly what they needed—good nesting cover (which makes it harder for predators to find the birds) and plenty of insects for pheasant and quail chicks to eat.
When the state’s pheasant and quail hunts open on Nov. 5, don’t be surprised if you see some younger birds. Pheasants and quail nest in April and May. But if their first nesting attempt isn’t successful, they’ll nest again in early summer.
“Many of the birds’ first nesting attempts probably failed because of all the rain,” Dolling says. “But bird numbers appear to be up from last year, so it looks like the second nesting attempts were successful.”
Biologists don’t have long-term survey data for pheasants and California quail. But they do have long-term data for Gambel’s quail. And surveys conducted this past summer in the Mohave Desert in southwestern Utah—which is the only place Gambel’s quail are found in the state—indicate the number of birds is up.
In 2010, the highest number of Gambel’s quail and chukar partridge biologists saw at the two water holes they surveyed was 66 birds.
This past summer, the highest count was 90 birds. “And the birds were scattered more than they were last year,” Dolling says. “To have 90 birds come to the two waters holes, compared to 66 during a much drier year, indicates Gambel’s quail are doing really well.”
Best places to hunt
Dolling says marshes near Great Salt Lake and Utah Lake are some of the best places to hunt pheasants in Utah. “Both of these areas have good numbers of birds,” he says.
Other good areas to try near the Wasatch Front include eastern Box Elder County; along the Bear River and near Cutler Marsh in Cache County; western Weber County; small, scattered areas in western Davis County; and areas near Nephi.
Away from the Wasatch Front, Uintah and Duchesne counties in northeastern Utah and areas in central Utah south of Price, including areas near Huntington and Cleveland, are good places to try.
Northeastern Utah is the best place to hunt California quail in the state. Private land, from Duchesne east to Vernal, harbors good numbers of birds.
“You’ll usually find quail in the same place you find pheasants,” Dolling says.
Gambel’s quail are found in only one area in Utah—the Mohave Desert in southwestern Utah. And that’s good because there’s plenty of public land in the desert.
You might have to travel awhile to get there. “But, if you can spend a couple of days in the area,” Dolling says, “you should have a good experience.”
To find Gambel’s quail, Dolling suggests walking rolling hills and drainages in the desert that have cactus and mesquite plants on them.
“It’s really helpful to hunt with a dog,” Dolling says. “But make sure you place boots on your dog’s paws so your dog isn’t stuck by thorns.”
Walk-In Access areas
One of the challenges to hunting pheasants and California quail in Utah is finding a place to hunt. Much of the land the birds are found on is private land.
Fortunately, Utah’s Walk-In Access program is opening some of this private land to public hunters.
“I’d encourage you to visit our website and learn more about the state’s Walk-In Access areas,” Dolling says. “Several of them offer good pheasant and quail hunting.”
You can learn more about the Walk-In Access areas—and see which ones have pheasants and quail on them—on the Web at http://go.usa.gov/kmG.
More information about the Walk-In Access program itself is available at wildlife.utah.gov/walkinaccess.
Wildlife Management Areas
The DWR manages several wildlife management areas in Utah. Some of these WMAs have pheasants and quail on them.
In addition to the pheasants that are already on the WMAs, some of the WMAs will receive some additional pheasants before Nov. 5.
To see which WMAs will receive the extra pheasants, visit http://go.usa.gov/9vS. A list of the WMAs should be available at the Web page by Oct. 31.
You can learn more about Utah’s WMAs by reading the “Access to Wildlife Lands in Utah” book. The free book is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/publications.
Another option is getting written permission from a private landowner to hunt on his or her property.
Dolling encourages you to be polite and understanding if a landowner doesn’t give you access to his or her property. “But if they do give you access to the property,” he says, “you’ll not only end up with a good place to hunt; you might end up with a new friend.”
Dolling says you should not wait until the morning of the hunt to approach a landowner about hunting his or her property. “You need to get this permission several days before the hunt begins,” he says.