The 1990 Utah pheasant hunt will be better than it was last year, which wouldn't be hard to do. The 1989 hunt was the worst in 42 years.
This year hunters should, at least, see more pheasants. Whether they can hit what they see is another matter. Statewide counts show an increase in numbers.The hunt will open at 8 a.m. and will remain open through Nov. 16. The limit remains two roosters daily, with no more than four in possession after the first day.
According to Jay Roberson, upland game manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, last year hunters averaged .46 bird per hunting day, and only 1.6 birds over the 14-day season . . . "Which is the lowest success figure we've recorded since 1948."
This year he is predicting slight improvement "if the weather is half way decent. In some areas there won't be a change, but there will be in other areas."
A mild winter and good spring greatly contributed to the improved numbers.
Roberson did, however, point out that in some areas production was lower than it should have been.
"It was a good winter and we should have carried over a lot of birds. One reason we didn't was possibly because of predators. Studies have shown that predators have been on the increase in recent years," he said.
Upland game biologists are predicting improved hunting in the Uintah Basin areas in northeastern Utah, and in Weber, Box Elder and Utah counties. Numbers will be the same or slightly down in southern and southeastern areas.
Weather, of course, will play a major role in weekend hunting, more with respect to hunting pressure than to its effect on the birds.
"If it's real bad, then the birds will stay in tighter to cover. Other than that, it shouldn't bother hunting success that much. It will, of course, keep some hunters from going out," he added.
Following is a brief rundown on the five regions around Utah.
Northeastern - Pheasant numbers are up. Pheasant observed per mile along established roadside routes is higher than it has been for the past five years, although not as high as was seen prior to 1984. Brood counts have also shown good production. The hunt should prove to be slightly better than the past few years, yet still below the long-term average.
Southeastern - Hunting will be fair in what limited pheasant habitat areas there are in the region. Production has been reported to be fair. The best hunting will be in the agricultural areas of western Carbon and Emery counties and near the town of Green River and Bluff.
Northern - Region-wide, populations remain below long-term averages. The forecast is for poor hunting in Cache and Davis counties, with slightly improved conditions in Box Elder and Weber counties. Expect the best hunting in agricultural areas adjacent to river corridors and wetlands. Pheasants have started to reappear in wetland areas around the Great Salt Lake. Expect populations in these areas to gradually increase as habitat conditions favorable to pheasants improve.
Central - The pheasant population appears to be about the same or slightly larger than in 1989. Utah County counts decreased in numbers per mile and increased in average brood size. The 1989 counts were 1.5 birds per mile and 4.7 birds per brood. This year it was 1.3 birds per mile and 5.0 birds per brood. The Tooele County route produced one brood with two chicks. This is down from the one brood with four chicks in 1988. Sanpete County was expected to have fewer birds.
Southern - Conditions will be similar to last year, which is a continued downward trend in pheasant number.