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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Pheasant numbers up, a little

STILLWATER, Okla. – The numbers are promising, at least up from last year, giving Oklahoma pheasant hunters something to look forward to when the season opens Dec. 1.

Dwayne Elmore, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist said the best areas for pheasant hunting are northcentral, northwest and the panhandle.

“Reports indicate pheasant numbers are up in some areas of the state compared to last year, but it’s still not a banner year as last year was very poor,” he said. “Expect spotty hunting.”

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) performs brood count surveys in August to determine how many young pheasants survived the summer. Relief from the multiyear drought and mild summer temperatures improved the habitat of pheasants, leading to a brood count 20 percent higher than last year.

"These brood count surveys are the primary means we use to help us understand the annual population status of pheasant and to give us an idea of what the hunting season may be like," said Scott Cox, ODWC upland game bird biologist. "And thankfully, the results are up this year."

Expectations should be tempered, however. While the numbers this year are higher than last year, the population is still down from traditional levels.

“The excessive heat and lack of rain during 2011 and 2012 greatly reduced the number of game birds in Oklahoma,” Elmore said. “While 2013 was wonderful, it takes more than one year to bounce back to quality hunting.”

Pheasant season runs Dec. 1 - Jan. 31 in Alfalfa, Beaver, Cimarron, Garfield, Grant, Harper, Kay, Major, Noble, Texas, Woods and Woodward counties. Also, the 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 allow hunting.

The daily bag limit for pheasants this year is two cocks, with a possession limit of four after the first day.

“Only male pheasants can be legally shot, and males breed with many females,” Elmore said. “Thus, only a few males are required for breeding each year.”

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