Pheasant Season Opens December 1 in Oklahoma
With deer, quail, and several small game seasons in full swing across Oklahoma, sportsmen may wonder if it could get any better — it can. Dec. 1 brings with it yet another hunting opportunity — pheasant season.
“From our surveys and reports from the field it looks like this pheasant season will be similar to last year’s season, and that is good news for hunters because many of them experienced a very memorable season,” said Doug Schoeling, upland game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
According to Schoeling, there are two main factors that determine how many pheasants will be available for hunters to pursue this season — how many adult birds survive the winter and how many young birds survive in the spring and early summer.
The Wildlife Department keeps tabs on these two critical factors through two different surveys.
First, biologists conduct the annual Crow Count Survey, which provides an idea of how many adult birds survived through the winter. In late April and early May, biologists drive county roads and listen for crowing pheasants. These 20-mile surveys are conducted in Alfalfa, Beaver, Cimarron, Ellis, Garfield, Grant, Harper, Kay, Major, Noble, Texas, Woods, and Woodward counties.
In the Panhandle the crow counts were up 19 percent and in the other ten counties the crow counts were up 25 percent.
“The Crow Count Surveys reflect the fact that a strong proportion of cock pheasants survived through the ice and snow of the winter months and were looking for mates this spring,” Schoeling said. “But this is just the first piece of the puzzle. To have a great pheasant season we also need to see strong reproductive success and that is why we conduct the Annual Brood Survey.”
The Brood Survey conducted in late August helps biologist determine how many pheasants were produced during the nesting season. Observers count the number of pheasants observed and classify the size of young birds to provide an index of pheasant abundance (number seen per 20 mile route) and reproductive success.
The brood survey is conducted in the same counties as the Crow Count Survey. The survey showed a 64 percent decrease from last year in the number of young pheasants in the Panhandle and 49 percent decrease in the other 10 northwest and northcentral counties. According to Schoeling, the decline can likely be attributed to the weather conditions during the spring and early summer, particularly in the panhandle, because of the low amounts of rainfall early in the nesting season.
According to Wade Free, northwest region wildlife supervisor, Panhandle pheasant hunters can still look forward to another good season.
“The pheasant population has been very strong in the Panhandle the past couple of years and with good carryover from last year, hunters can expect another good year,” Free said. “While it may not be as good as the last two years it could still be one of the better seasons we have had over the last ten years.”
Pheasant hunters in the rest of the state also have plenty to look forward to according to Free.
According to Schoeling, there is only one way for pheasant hunters to really learn about pheasant populations in their area.
“While we work hard at these surveys each year, the best way for hunters to find out if there are pheasants is to get out there after them,” said Schoeling. “The great thing about pheasant hunting is that it is a sport you can enjoy with friends and family – in fact the more the merrier.”
To see figures from the 2008 Crow Count and Brood surveys, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
Pheasant season in Oklahoma runs Dec. 1 through Jan. 31 (only in open areas) and offers hunters a chance at a popular gamebird that, though not native to Oklahoma, thrives in northern portions of the state. The ringneck pheasant was first introduced into Oklahoma in 1911, and the colorful birds prefer cultivated farmland habitat mixed with weedy fencerows and overgrown pastures common across northcentral Oklahoma and the Panhandle.
Hunters should consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” for open counties and wildlife management areas. The daily bag limit for pheasants is two cocks, with a possession limit of four after the first day and six after the second day. Evidence of sex (head or one foot) must remain on the bird until it reaches its final destination. When the deer gun and the holiday antlerless deer seasons (in open zones) overlap with pheasant season, all pheasant hunters must wear either a hunter orange cap or vest.
Before going afield, be sure to pick up a copy of the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” available at all hunting and fishing license dealers or log onto wildlifedepartment.com. Resident and non-resident hunters must possess a valid hunting license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit or proof of exemption. Beginning this season, the non-resident five-day hunting license is valid for hunting pheasant.