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Montana 2011 Pheasant Outlook

By: by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Pheasant hunting opportunities will vary again this year across the state, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials. The general pheasant hunting season opens Saturday, Oct. 8.

"Statewide pheasant hunting opportunities are expected to be spotty throughout Montana this year with average pheasant numbers in some portions of the state and below average numbers in most other areas,” said Rick Northrup, FWP game bird coordinator.

The past two winters, and a long, cool, and very wet spring, have negatively impacted game birds, and tempered biologists' expectations for this year's pheasant season.

Pheasant hunters can expect to see significantly fewer pheasants in many prime hunting areas compared to recent years. For example, in eastern Montana, a major portion of prime pheasant habitat likely had winter losses and reduced spring pheasant production.

This year's very wet spring conditions also caused hens to make multiple nesting attempts. That means there will be many young birds with limited coloration until later in the season. Hunters need to be cautious in sorting out young roosters from hens.

On the positive side, unusually heavy precipitation through most of the summer generated exceptional grass cover across much of the state and good insect production, which is important for chick survival.

Pheasants should be broadly distributed throughout this excellent cover, so finding the birds will be more challenging for hunters too.

Northrup reminded pheasant hunters to arrange for hunting access to private lands well in advance of their hunt, and if possible to bring along a well-trained hunting dog.

For more on Montana's pheasant hunting season see the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov. Go to the Hunting tab and select the Hunt Planner.

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