It wasn't quite what was expected. Hunters had hoped to get in more shooting on the opening of the Utah pheasant hunt Saturday. And, if not more shots, they had at least hoped to see more birds.
At this point it appears most hunters didn't see or shoot at birds opening day. The overview of the first of 14 days of the hunt was that hunting was slow.Whether or not it was slower than last year won't be known until after the hunt. Upland game officials are hoping it was not. The 1989 Utah pheasant hunt was the worst in 42 years. Hunters averaged only .46 bird per day of hunting.
Most of the reports coming in Saturday indicated that: 1. Hunting was poor; 2. there weren't many birds; 3. that hunting was extremely tough for what birds there were; 4. that a brisk wind that blew in the morning slowed down the dogs and kept birds grounded; and 5. that it was cool outside.
As one hunter told a group of friends, "It was better last year, but then I don't know if I just got into 'em last year."
Hunting was, in fact, expected to be better in some parts of the state this year. Spring and fall pheasant counts by officers with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources indicated that overall numbers were up in some counties - Weber, Box Elder and Utah, among them.
Along the western shores of Utah Lake, hunting pressure was low. Most of the pressure was around the southern tip near Goshen and Genola, and around fields along the eastern shore.
In the Tooele area, hunting pressure was higher this year, but success was called fair to poor.
Those hunters that purchased trespassing permits in the Erda area north of Tooele had better hunting. A random count showed success was about a bird per hunter.
In the center of Utah county, pressure was reported to be about average, this despite reports of better hunting in the area. Hunting did, in fact, turn out to be better than last year.
Near Lake Shore in Utah County, pressure was about average but hunting didn't hit that level. It was one of the poorer areas. Another poor spot was Sanpete County.
Over in the Uinta Basin area, another of the expected "hot spots," Ron Stewart, information officer for the DWR, felt that the cold wind kept hunting cold.
"It kept the birds in tight cover," he said, "and made it hard for the dogs to find the birds."
He also said he expected higher hunting pressure . . . "Then I noticed the `no hunting' signs. These were areas that were open last year that land owners closed this year," he said.
Overall, he added, he felt hunting was slow.
Hunting in the Manti area was slow. Conservation officer Brad Bradley said pressure and success was down. "I think they would have been lucky to have 1/2 bird per hunt. Pressure was down because there aren't many birds, it was cold, and a lot of the land here is posted," he added.
Verl Hanchett, CO in the northern region, said hunting there was slow. "I think I only checked five birds all day," he said. "But I do think there are a few more birds around this year."
Some of the best hunting was reported in the Springville area. One officer said he figured success was running about one bird per hunter.
Around Delta, expected to be one of the hot spots, CO Dave Smith said hunting was poor.
"Some hunters had good hunting, others had poor. It wasn't what I expected. In talking with people here they all said they were seeing more birds this year. I don't know where they went," he said.
About 70 percent of the pheasants shot over the season are taken on the first three days of the hunt.