September 4, 1996 in Sports

Numbers Higher For Bird Hunters

Fenton Roskelley The Spokesman
 

Wildlife biologists are confirming what bird hunters have suspected. Most upland birds, they’re saying, did so well during the nesting season that populations are double what they were last year.

Pheasant and chukar seasons this fall and early winter won’t be as good as those in the 1980s, biologists say, but they’ll be much better than last year’s.

Chick counts by Washington officials last month indicated there are twice as many chukars this year as in 1995. And pheasant chick counts in the Columbia Basin reveal gunners will see more than twice as many of their favorite birds this fall as they did last year.

Helicopter counts in both southeast Washington and in the Basin show there will be enough chukars on the talus slopes this fall for good, perhaps even excellent, shooting.

Wildlife biologist Pat Fowler reported that officials, riding a helicopter over long-established routes in southeast Washington last week, counted 1,940 chukars, compared with 853 over the same routes last year.

Fowler said 18 birds were counted in each group, compared with 9.9 last year. There were 176 chukars per square mile, as against only 78 per mile in 1995.

Big concentrations of chukars were observed in the 10-Mile drainage and along the Snake River for 2-1/2 miles above the drainage.

Fowler said wildlife officials saw numerous chukars along the Schumaker Grade, a popular area with hunters.

Columbia Basin regional wildlife manager Mark Quinn reported 2,405 chukars were counted in aerial surveys last week in Grant and Douglas counties, compared with 1,839 along the same routes last year.

Although the chukar population in southeast Washington, one of the top partridge-producing areas of the state, apparently is more than double that of last year, it still isn’t as large as that of 1987, when 2,930 birds were counted from a helicopter.

This year’s population seems to be about normal, or perhaps slightly larger than normal. That’s good news for scatter gunners, most of whom gave up hunting chukars last year after a couple of forays along the steep slopes of the Snake and Grande Ronde drainages and along the Columbia River and adjacent chukar areas in the Basin.

The fact that the chukar population apparently is back to normal after a couple of dismal seasons likely will encourage thousands of hunters to turn out for the opening of the early partridge season in southeastern Washington.

The early season will open Sept. 21 in Asotin and Garfield counties and parts of Whitman and Columbia counties. The bag limit will be six chukars and six Hungarian partridges. The rest of eastern Washington will be opened to partridge hunting, as well as to pheasant and quail shooting, on Oct. 11.

Biologist don’t try to count Hungarian partridges from helicopters. Most Huns, unlike chukars, thrive on relatively level farming country, although some live in the shale rock areas chukars love.

However, it’s probable the Hun population, like those of chukars and pheasants, is larger than last year’s.

Idahoans can start shooting partridges and quail Sept. 21. The Gem state has more generous bag limits than Washington. Hunters can kill eight partridges a day and have 16 in possession; they can bag 10 quail a day and have 20 in possession.

Although partridges are popular with thousands of Washington hunters, they’re not as popular as pheasants. However, because pheasants have been hard to find the last few years, particularly in the Columbia Basin, many hunters have given up on them after a couple of hunts early each season.

Hunters have been so disappointed the last few years that they’ll be keeping their fingers crossed as they load their dogs into their vehicles and head for their favorite spots on Oct. 11.

They won’t be convinced the pheasant population is up considerably from those of the last couple of years until aster they’ve worked through a few draws and harvested corn fields.

Wildlife official Jerry Hickman of Spokane said August surveys in Lincoln, Spokane and Whitman counties indicated there are more and larger pheasant broods this year than last. He reported officials came up with an average of 5.1 chicks per brood, as compared with 2.1 last year.

That would indicate the pheasant population in the Spokane region may be double that of last year. Keep in mind, though, that last year’s population was one of the smallest on record.

Quinn reported this year’s pheasant population in the Basin is 126 percent larger than in 1995. Although the population is more than double last year’s population, it’s a fraction of the populations of the 1960s and 1970s. The Basin, as the result of clean farming practices, is no longer one of the country’s leading pheasant producers.

Biologists attributed increases in partridge, pheasant and quail populations to three factors: The mild 1995-96 winter, which resulted in high survival of adult birds; early spring rains, which created good cover, and excellent weather during nesting seasons.

, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Fenton Roskelley The Spokesman-Review

You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Fenton Roskelley The Spokesman-Review


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