This will be a bumper fall for pheasants, particularly in the lake and the plains states and on the West Coast. A solid block of states, including Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Wisconsin report ringnecks at a record high, with the nationwide harvest this fall expected to exceed 7 million. On the West Coast—California, Oregon and Washington—where a series of droughts had previously reduced pheasant populations, the outlook has improved and good gunning is again expected in this region. Texas and Hawaii also report pheasant increases. In the East, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia report ringnecks are generally as abundant as last year, with population rises predicted in Delaware and New Hampshire offset by slight declines in Pennsylvania and Indiana. Even in New York, which last winter suffered its heaviest snows in 80 years, local reports indicate large hatches of birds, with a high percentage of young surviving to maturity.
The best quail gunning in a decade is expected in the southeast and central states. Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida all produced record quail crops last year, and this year's counts indicate that 1961 's populations are even higher. "If the increase continues unchecked," says one Georgia plantation owner, "disease and lack of food may become serious problems. As it is, we now have more birds than we can control." Elsewhere, light snow and good weather during spring nesting periods contributed to recoveries in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and Ohio, where breeding stock suffered major setbacks during the severe winter of 1959-60. Increases are also predicted in Colorado, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. Eighteen states report quail populations this season are at least as good as last year's, and only four—Nevada, Arizona, West Virginia and New Jersey—expect somewhat fewer birds.
A 7- to 10-year propagation cycle among ruffed grouse is expected to reach its height this season. New England, New York, Pennsylvania, the lake states, Washington and Oregon anticipate the best hunting in 10 years. Seventeen states report increased populations, with 11 anticipating at least as many birds as last year. Dusky, sage and sharp-tailed grouse populations are also good throughout their range. Nevada and New Mexico expect slight decreases in over-all grouse crops, while severe weather in New Hampshire and Connecticut were responsible for declines in these states.
Fifty years ago the wild turkey, like the antelope, was close to extinction. Heavy logging and lumbering operations west of the Rio Grande and widespread trapping, snaring and poaching in the Southeast nearly eliminated the bird from its entire range. In less than 50 years, however, careful habitat control, protection of breeding birds and strict enforcement of hunting laws have restored the turkey as a major game bird. This year Eastern wild turkeys, along with growing flocks of the Merriams, the important species in the West, will be hunted in 23 states, with an expected harvest of 100,000 birds. Best hunting prospects are in the South, where major gains arc reported in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. Populations in Texas are steady, and up elsewhere in the West. Optimistic reports also come from the East, where Vermont's flocks show gains.
Among the game birds introduced to the U.S. in the past three decades, the chukar partridge is easily the most successful import. Challenging to hunt and good to eat, the chukar flourishes in dry, rocky terrain where most other game birds cannot survive. In Nevada hunters have taken over 30,000 in a season—all descendants of 5,000 birds stocked experimentally in the '30s and '40s. More recent plantings in Colorado, Washington and Hawaii continue to gain. Idaho and Montana have good chukar crops this season. Throughout the bird's expanding range only California expects somewhat fewer chukars than last year.
OTHER GAME BIRDS
North Dakota's mild winter and relatively light snowfall contributed to an enormous crop of Hungarian partridge, partial balm for that state's poor duck hunting prospects. Equally good reports on Hungarian partridge come from Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin, where the birds have maintained their excellent 1960 levels. Prairie chicken forecasts from New Mexico and Oklahoma are also optimistic.