Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Upland Game Hunters should find good Hunting in Utah this Fall and Winter.


Hunters should find more ring-necked pheasants in Utah this fall.
Photo by Brent Stettler

Dave Olsen upland game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says a wet, warm spring—with limited spring snowfall—provided great conditions for upland game chicks.

"An upland game chick eats mostly insects during the first 30 to 40 days of its life," Olsen says. "The warm rains really improved upland game habitat in the state. And that habitat allowed insect populations to flourish, so the chicks had plenty to eat."And the state received very little late-spring snowfall this year, so it appears chick survival was pretty good this past spring."

Utah's upland game hunts started Aug. 22 with the white-tailed ptarmigan hunt. They won't end until Feb. 28, 2010, when the cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare hunts wrap-up. Olsen provides the following preview for Utah's upland game hunts:



Chukar Partridge
2007 and 2008 were tough years for chukar partridge in Utah. Hot, dry conditions caused chukar numbers to plummet. But plenty of rain this past spring has improved the vegetation on most of Utah's rangelands. The rain has also provided plenty of water sources for the chukars. As a result, chukar populations have rebounded.

"The state's chukar populations aren't all the way back, but they're doing much better," Olsen says. "Hunters should see more chukars this fall."



Hungarian Partridge
Hungarian partridge have gone through the same struggle chukar partridge have—2007 and 2008 were tough years for the birds, but their populations have rebounded this year.

"'Huns' are found almost exclusively on private land," Olsen says. "Before you hunt, you must get written permission from the person who owns the land you want to hunt on."



Forest grouse (dusky and ruffed)
Dusky and ruffed grouse can be a little harder for biologists to get a read on: their populations are spotty, and they're harder to track.

"Forest grouse seem to have responded well to the improved habitat conditions," Olsen says. "Hunters who are familiar with the birds and the areas in which they live should have good success."




Ring-necked pheasant
Ring-necked pheasants are getting harder to find in Utah because their habitat continues to decline. However, there are still areas around agricultural fields in the state that harbor good numbers of birds. And these areas should provide good action again this year.

"Pheasants did pretty well this year in the areas that still have good habitat," Olsen says. "Most pheasant populations are found on private land. Make sure you have written permission from the landowner before hunting."



Cottontail Rabbits
Cottontail rabbits generally follow a population cycle that runs for about 10 years. Hunting can be fast and furious when rabbits are at the top of the population cycle.

Currently, most of Utah's rabbit populations are on the lower side of the cycle, but some of the populations are showing improvement.

"Even though you may not see rabbits running across the road like you did a year or two ago, there are still plenty of rabbits in Utah to hunt," Olsen says.

To find success, Olsen suggests brushing up on the type of habitat rabbits prefer. And when you go rabbit hunting, make sure you take someone with you. "Cottontail rabbit hunts can be great outings for families and youth groups," he says. "They're also a great way to introduce young people to hunting."



Snowshoe Hares
Olsen says snowshoe hares are a Utah upland game species that most hunters don't pay much attention to. That could be a mistake.

"If you have a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes, and you want to enjoy some quiet winter solitude, consider going on a snowshoe hare hunt," Olsen says. "Hunting snowshoe hares isn't always easy. But it can be relaxing and a lot of fun."

You'll usually find snowshoe hares in areas that have plenty of pine trees. Looking for their tracks and trails they leave in fresh snow is one of the best ways to find them. Look for their tracks along low-hanging pine limbs, and near logs and under-story vegetation. The low limbs and log-covered coverts provide good cover for snowshoe hares to loaf in during the day.
You'll have plenty of time to hunt snowshoe hares this season. The snowshoe hare season begins on Sept. 12 and runs until Feb. 28, 2010.



Gambel's quail
You'll find Gambel's quail in the deserts of southwestern Utah. Olsen says they've responded well to the improved habitat conditions this year, and hunting should be good.



California quail
Olsen says California quail populations are doing great in Utah. Unfortunately, most California quail populations are near urban areas where hunting isn't allowed. However, those who scout for the birds can usually find California quail in huntable areas on the foothills or in brushy areas in the bottom of valleys.

When hunting California quail, make sure you remain at least 600 feet from homes and other buildings. And remember that you must have written permission from landowners before hunting on private land.


Reminders
Olsen has three upland game hunting reminders for you this fall

Take a kid hunting
Utah's upland game hunts, especially the cottontail rabbit hunt, are a great way to introduce kids to hunting. "Taking an animal from the field, cleaning it, preparing it and then sharing it at the family table helps all of us stay contacted with the cycle of life," Olsen says.


Respect private property
If you want to hunt on private property, you must obtain written permission from the person who owns the property. After you obtain permission, take care of the landowner's property; leave it in better shape than you found it.



Take notes
Every spring, the DWR does a random survey of upland game hunters to learn more about the number of days they spent hunting and the number of birds, rabbits and hares they took.

"If you jot down some brief notes after each hunting trip, you'll be able to provide us with good, accurate information," Olsen says.


Season Dates to Remember

Chukar Partridge

• Season dates: Sept. 26, 2009–Feb. 14, 2010
• Areas open: Statewide.* The following areas will be closed to general public hunting on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2009 to facilitate youth chukar hunts: Morgan and Summit counties, the Henefer-Echo WMA; Tooele County, the Carr Fork WMA; Uintah County, the RT Thacker Walk-in-Access property; Carbon County, the Gordon Creek WMA; and Millard County, the Pahvant WMA. These areas will reopen to general public hunting on Sept. 6.
• Bag limit: 5, Possession limit: 2 bag limits
• Footnotes: Antelope Island is closed to upland game hunting.

Cottontail Rabbit
• Season dates: Sept. 12, 2009–Feb. 28, 2010
• Areas open: Statewide*
• Bag limit: 10, Possession limit: 2 bag limits

Forest-Grouse (Blue and ruffed)

• Season dates: Sept. 12–Dec. 31, 2009
• Areas open: Statewide*
• Bag limit: 4, Possession limit: 2 bag limits
• Footnotes: Limits singly or in the aggregate

Hungarian partridge (General season)
• Season dates: Sept. 26, 2009–Feb. 14, 2010
• Areas open: Statewide*
• Bag limit: 5, Possession limit: 2 bag limits

Pheasant (General season)

• Season dates: Nov. 7–Nov. 22, 2009
• Areas open: Statewide*. The following areas will be closed to general public hunting on Saturday, Nov. 14 to facilitate youth hunts: Box Elder County, the Douglas/Sorensen walk-in access area; Duchesne County, the Mallard Springs WMA; Emery County, the Huntington WMA; Tooele County, the Carr Fork WMA; Millard County, the Pahvant WMA. These areas will reopen to general public hunting

on Nov. 15.*
• Bag limit: 2, Possession limit: 2 bag limits
• Footnotes: Only males may be harvested. No 8 a.m. restriction on opening morning. The Goshen Warm Springs WMA in Utah County is closed to all hunting.

Pheasant (Extended season)
• Season dates: Nov. 7–Dec. 6, 2009
• Areas open: CAUTION: Not all counties are open for the extended season. Only the following areas are open: All state and federal land in Carbon, Duchesne, Emery, Grand, Juab, Millard, San Juan, Sanpete, Sevier, Tooele and Uintah counties (including private land leased by the Division subject to restrictions and closures imposed by administering agencies). Also, see above closures for youth hunts on Nov. 14.*
• Bag limit: 2, Possession limit: 2 bag limits
• Footnotes: Only males may be harvested. No 8 a.m. restriction on opening morning.

Quail (California and Gambel’s)
• Season dates: Nov. 7–Nov. 22, 2009
• Areas open: Box Elder, Carbon, Davis, Grand, Juab, Kane, Millard, Piute, Salt Lake, San Juan, Sanpete, Sevier, Tooele, Utah and Weber counties. All of Emery County except the Desert Lake WMA, which is closed. Also, see closures for youth hunts listed under general pheasant hunt.*
• Bag limit: 5, Possession limit: 2 bag limits
• Footnotes: No 8 a.m. restriction on opening morning.

Quail (California and Gambel’s—extended season)
• Season dates: Nov. 7–Dec. 31, 2009
• Areas open: Duchesne, Uintah, Daggett and Washington counties. Also see closures for youth hunts listed above under general pheasant hunt.*
• Bag limit: 5, Possession limit: 2 bag limits
• Footnotes: No 8 a.m. restriction on opening morning.

Quail (Scaled)
• Season dates: Closed
• Bag limit: Closed

Snowshoe hare

• Season dates: Sept. 12, 2009–Feb. 28, 2010
• Areas open: Statewide*
• Bag limit: 5, Possession limit: 2 bag limits
*Excludes closed areas and all Native American trust lands statewide

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