State wildlife officials aren’t gushing about upland bird hunting prospects in Eastern Washington, but the season opening Saturday might not be a bust either.
Here’s a summary of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s outlook for pheasants, chukars, gray partridge and quail on the east side of the Cascades:
Walla Walla, Columbia Garfield, Asotin counties — Production of wild pheasants is classified as good. Although the spring was wet and cold, temperatures moderated during the time most game birds were hatching their clutches.
Whitman, Lincoln, Spokane counties — The wet spring resulted in low production of pheasant chicks. Game farm birds will be released at the traditional sites.
Thirty new locations are enrolled in the hunter access program.
Quail, gray partridge and chukar partridge prospects look similar to 2011, with poor spring weather affecting the hatch. Some good brood numbers of gray (Hungarian) partridge were noted in Whitman and Lincoln counties.
Most of the chukars in this area are found along the breaks of the Snake River in Whitman County.
Benton, Franklin counties — Observations in July and early August of pheasants indicated good production. The winter was mild and above average rain in May and June led to plentiful cover and insects.
The best habitat is in north Franklin County on and surrounding the Windmill Ranch and Mesa Lake wildlife areas plus the Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch. Some pheasants likely can be found at the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge near Paterson on the Columbia River.
Game farm birds will be released at Big Flat and Lost Island habitat management areas along the Snake River. New this year is Toothacker HMU in Benton County southeast of Kennewick along the Columbia.
A fair to good quail season is anticipated.
Adams, Grant counties — Wild pheasants will be about as plentiful as last year.
The winter was not extreme and lacked long periods of snow cover, but the rain in June and July probably hurt nesting survival.
While many hunters feel release sites are the only areas to find pheasants, game farm birds made up 20 percent of less of the harvest in Grant County.
The best hunting areas are in the Desert unit of Columbia Basin Wildlife Area, along with lower Crab Creek, Gloyd Seeps, Quincy and Dry Falls units. Frenchmen’s and Winchester wasteways and ponds likely will hold birds.
Large coveys of quail will be hard to find by mid-season on public lands. Hunters should try looking at shrub cover a considerable distance away.
Chukar and gray partridge are at low numbers and most taken incident to hunting pheasants or quail.
Yakima, Kittitas — There are few wild pheasants outside of the Yakama Indian Nation. Tribal biologists found more birds than in 2011, but still below average.
Idle land is being coverted from bird habitat to crops as grain prices increase.
Sunnyside Wildlife Area will get the majority of planted birds this fall.
Quail counts conducted by the Yakamas found record numbers of birds, up 144 percent from 2011. There have been observations of large broods of early- and late-hatch birds.
Chukar populations also are on the increase and might be reaching a peak of the 10-year cycles the birds seem to experience. Wenas, L.T. Murray and Colockum wildlife areas all have decent chukar populations.
Okanogan County — Late broods of quail and partridge appear to have had successful nesting.
For quail, try hunting the Indian Dan, Chilliwist and Sinlahekin wildlife areas. Sinlahekin and Chilliwist also have partridges along the steep hills near the Similkameen River.