Upland bird hunting prospects not encouraging

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State wildlife biologists are telling hunters that pheasants in Eastern Washington like will be hard to find this fall.

A cool, wet spring typically wreaks havoc on nesting success and spring of 2011 was exceptionally wet.

This spring, call counts in the prime pheasant habitat of southeast Washington showed a 7 percent decline from 2010, according to Joey McCanna, upland bird specialist for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

While the Palouse is the No. 1 area of the state, McCanna said the Columbia Basin — notably Grant County — could produce decent hunting.

Hunters on state pheasant-release sites are required to use non-toxic shot, even in Eastern Washington.

Here is a summary of the upland bird hunting prospects for Eastern Washington issued by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Southeast Washington — Few pheasant broods have been observed in Walla Walla, Columbia, Asotin and Garfiled counties. Chukar production was good in 2010, but the wet spring may have hurt chick survival this summer. While few chukar broods have been observed, the sightings show brood size may be increasing.

Quail numbers appear about average.

Whitman-Lincoln counties — Chick production was poor for pheasants. Also, most of the land here is owned privately, so getting permission to hunt is necessary.

Chukars along the Snake River breaks of Whitman County appear similar to 2010. Good numbers of gray partridge have been seen in Whitman and Lincoln counties.

Quail hunting is expected to be poor. Late broods have been noted, but survival usually is lower for late broods.

Benton-Franklin counties — Few pheasant broods have been observed. The best habitat is in northern Franklin County at Windmill Ranch Wildlife Area and Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch. Birds also can be found around Paterson on the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge.

Few chukars or gray partridge are found here in a good year.

Lots of quail broods have been observed around state wildlife habitat areas.

Grant-Adams counties — The biologists here are a bit more optimistic than elsewhere in Eastern Washington regarding pheasants. Hunting will be best within the Desert unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area complext between Potholes Reservoir and the community of George.

Mixed bags of wild and released birds will be found in the lower Crab Creek, Gloyd Seeps, Quincy and Dry Falls units.

Quail hunting is expected to be good. Summer conditions were favorable for survival of the chicks.

Most chukars are in the Coulee Corridor areas between Banks and Lenore lakes and long the Columbia River breaks north of Vantage. A few gray partridge are in the dryland wheat portions of Adams County.

Yakima Valley — Surveys by Yakama tribal biologists include below average pheasant production and lower numbers of wild birds.

The cold spring and early summer eliminated most early quail broods, but tribal counts indicate late nesters have done well.

State biologists are seeing pretty good numbers of quail and expect hunting to be better than in 2010.

Chukars and gray partridge have been rebuilding in the past few years. The late hatch was very good and overall birds numbers have increased.

Douglas-Chelan counties — A very poor year is expected. Numbers have been declining in both counties, then this spring made matters worse.

Okanogan Valley — Quail numbers appear a bit better this year.

Klickitat County — Populations of quail, plus chukar and gray partridges, are anticipated to be moderate to poor based on reports from landowners.

Upland bird hunting in eastern Klickitat County is dominated by hunting clubs with very limited access. Most of the land is private and hunters will want to seek permission before the season starts.