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Jerome, ID


Date: September 16, 2003
Contact: Kelton Hatch
(208) 324-4359

Upland game bird number strong

JEROME - A wet spring followed by a warm weather helped produce one of the best crops of birds the Magic Valley has seen in the past 10-years.

"Things just happened perfectly, " said Randy Smith, Fish and Game Regional Wildlife Manager. "Weather conditions from April through June were nearly ideal for nesting and early brood rearing. Overall it appears that 2003 will be one of the best upland bird hunting years in a long time."

Bird hunters will be able reap the benefits this weekend with many of the bird seasons opening.

Here is the forecast and season dates for many of the game birds in the region.

Sage grouse (Sept. 20 and closes Sept. 26, south of the Snake River in Area 2, and Oct. 12 north of the Snake River in Area 3)
Spring lek surveys indicated an increase in grouse populations south of the Snake River and relatively stable numbers north of the Snake. Field reports from around the region suggest good production that should result in some of the best sage grouse hunting in the past 10 years.

Chukar (Sept. 20 through Jan. 15)
Last year was one of the better chukar seasons in recent memory and 2003 is shaping up to be another good one. Field reports indicate good production in the Bennett Hills and Bruneau/Jarbidge canyons. Surveys conducted at Brownlee Reservoir in late August revealed the second highest chukar count since 1987.

California quail (Sept. 20 through Dec. 31)
This year's favorable weather and habitat conditions have also resulted in above average quail production. Hunters should find good quail numbers along the Snake River and its tributaries west of Twin Falls.

Gray partridge (Sept. 20 through Jan. 15)
Field reports indicate an increase in gray partridge from last year in the foothills and in areas where sagebrush and cultivated lands are intermingled.

Sharp-tailed grouse (Oct. 1 through Oct. 31)
Sharp-tailed grouse declined in the Rockland and Curlew valleys in 2001 and 2002 but field reports suggest numbers have improved with a good hatch this year. While sharp-tail numbers will not be as high as during the late 1990s, hunters can expect to find a few more birds.

Pheasants (Oct. 18 to Nov. 30 in Area 2, Minidoka and Cassia counties east; and to Dec. 31 in Area 3, the remainder of Southwest Idaho)
While pheasant numbers remain at relatively low levels compared to 20-plus years ago, August surveys suggest the highest pheasant populations in the Magic Valley since 1996. The number of pheasants observed on August 2003 surveys (0.31 birds per mile) was higher than last year (0.12 birds per mile) and slightly higher than the 10-year average (0.27 birds per mile).

The local alfalfa harvest was still deadly to nesting hens but spring rains improved alternate nesting cover and insect production that benefited the local hatch and brood survival.




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