DWR Press Release
Utah’s general pheasant hunt opens Nov. 5
If it’s been years since you hunted pheasants, it’s time to grab your gun and head afield. More than 10,000 pheasants will be released on 56 public hunting areas during Utah’s upcoming pheasant hunt.
The hunt opens on Nov. 5. But you don’t have to hunt that day to get in on the action—pheasants will be released before each weekend of the hunt.
The one exception is the week of Thanksgiving. That week, birds will be released early in the week so plenty of pheasants will be available to pursue over the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Division of Wildlife Resources and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife bought the birds from a private bird grower. The birds will be released in areas that have good pheasant habitat and good access for public hunters. “Birds will be placed on wildlife management areas, waterfowl management areas and Walk-In Access areas,” says Jason Robinson, upland game coordinator for the DWR.
You can see where the birds will be released, and how to get to those areas, by looking at an interactive, online map. The map is available in the Upland game releases section at www.wildlife.utah.gov/uplandgame.
On at least 13 of the areas—12 waterfowl management areas and the Utah Lake Wetland Preserve—you must use nontoxic shot (for example, steel shot) when hunting. Lead shot may not be used.
More information about Utah’s Walk-in Access areas is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/walkinaccess.
Also, if you have questions about hunting pheasants in Utah, please visit the DWR’s ‘Common questions about hunting pheasant in Utah’ web page. The page is available in the Upland game hunting section at www.wildlife.utah.gov/uplandgame.
Birds released throughout the hunt
Utah’s general pheasant hunt runs Nov. 5 – 20 across most of the state. However, on state and federal land, the hunt runs Nov. 5 – Dec. 4.
The birds will be released by DWR biologists, members of two sportsman’s organizations—Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and The National Wild Turkey Federation—and those who participated in Utah’s day-old pheasant chick adoption program. Since pheasants will be released throughout the hunt, you don’t have to hunt on the opening weekend to find birds. “If you hunt after the opening weekend,” Robinson says, “you should still have a great experience and find plenty of birds.”
(In addition to the birds Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife will release jointly with the DWR, the sportsman’s group is also releasing additional pheasants on public land in Utah.)
If you decide to hunt during the opening weekend, know in advance that lots of other hunters will be hunting too. You can still have a good experience, though, by being courteous and respectful to others.
“Ask other hunters where they plan to hunt and try to give each other space,” Robinson says. “Also, if you have a dog, make sure to keep your dog under control. Please remember that everyone is there to have a good time.”
And make sure to wear plenty of hunter orange.
“Wearing hunter orange is extremely important,” he says, “especially when you’re hunting in crowded conditions. You want to make sure other hunters can see you.”
How to find birds
If you decide to hunt on private agricultural lands, please remember that you must have written permission from the landowner before hunting on his or her land.
No matter where you’re hunting in Utah, Robinson describes what perfect pheasant habitat looks like:
· The center of the area will have a field of wheat or corn that provides the birds with food. The wheat or corn field will be surrounded by stiff, stemmed grass that provides pheasants with good nesting cover.
· Outside the stemmed grass, you’ll find a strip of sparse grass with lots of forbs mixed in. (Forbs are any herb that is not grass or grass like. Forbs are an important food source for pheasant chicks.)
· On the other side of the sparse grass, you’ll find thick, woody cover, or a wetland with cattails. This cover protects pheasants during the winter.
“The type of habitat I’ve described provides pheasants with everything they need to eat, hide, breed and raise young,” he says. “Even if an area doesn’t have all of these features, it can still hold birds. But the more an area matches this description, the better chance you’ll have of finding birds.”
Pheasants are excellent at hiding. Hunting with a trained bird dog can often help you find them. “If a pheasant has cover to hide in,” Robinson says, “you can be standing only a foot or two from a bird and not know it’s there. A good bird dog can make a huge difference in finding hidden birds.”
You can still find pheasants without a dog, though. Robinson suggests the following tactics:
· Walk slowly. Take your time.
The biggest mistake many pheasant hunters make is walking too fast. Simply slowing down, and stopping and standing still from time to time, can cause more birds to flush. “Pheasants will often hide and wait for you to walk past them,” Robinson says. “Slowing your pace down, and stopping and standing still from time to time, makes birds that are close to you nervous. In many cases, they’ll think you’ve spotted them. That’s when they’ll try to get away by flushing into the air.”
· Driving and blocking.
A group of hunters is needed to execute this maneuver. One or two hunters are quietly placed at the end of a field to “block” any pheasants the remaining hunters (the drivers) push to the blockers. Then, the drivers enter the field on the opposite side from the blockers, and start walking towards the blockers.
Pheasants that are pushed by the drivers will often run to the end of the field, see the blockers and then hold tight until continued pressure from the drivers causes the birds to flush. When this happens, all of the hunters—blockers and drivers—can usually get shots.
“If you’re going to try this tactic,” Robinson says, “it’s absolutely vital that every hunter in the group knows where the other hunters are. It’s also vital that each hunter wears plenty of hunter orange.”
· Walking ditch banks.
This is a good strategy if you’re hunting alone or with a friend.
If you’re hunting with a friend, place your friend on one side of the ditch bank and you on the other. Then, walk together down the bank.
Robinson says it’s important to walk to the very end of the ditch bank, fence row or whatever cover you’re hunting. “Pheasants would much rather run than fly,” he says. “You might be pushing a pheasant ahead of you and not even know it. But once you reach the end of the cover, the pheasant won’t have any other place to hide. At that point, the bird will usually flush.”
If you have questions about hunting pheasants in Utah, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR’s Salt Lake City office at 801-538-4700.