I’ve never believed that the public huntng areas were a great pheasant hunting resource. However, the records do show that many public areas have been a reliable source of pheasants. Gray Lodge, Sacramento Wildlife Refuge, Delevan and Colusa to name a few.
The most enjoyable pheasant hunting I can recall on a public area was at Lower Klamath – yes I did bag one there.
Grizzley Island can produce well. I’ve jumped a lot of roosters while duck hunting there. I’ve also been frustrated attempting to duck hunt surrounded by pheasant hunters on the berms.
In the south, San Luis NWR has occasionally held enough pheasants for a few good hunts. Most of the successful pheasant hunters I know, have good or inside information about the location of pheasants on the refuges.
On good years there are other opportunities at many of the marginal refuges. A friend of mine claims to have killed a pheasant at Spenceville WA.
Although I’ve hunted pheasants at Gray Lodge, Delevan and San Luis, I remember killing one pheasant at Gray Lodge and shooting at a handful, but the hunting has been interesting and challenging.
I’ve heard some interesting stories about hunting the closed zones at Gray Lodge and Sacramento refuges – in fact at times the hunting can be so good that it’s dangerous.
Coming up with a good explaination why the pheasant population isn’t better on the public areas would be about like explaining the problems of the big three auto makers. However, I do have a little insight – some first hand and some is second hand, but from reliable sources.
Managing for pheasants on purpose is expensive. Most successful pheasant management in the past has been by accident – a byproduct of other activites that just happened to produce pheasants.
The brood strip progam I mentioned in pevious posts is labor intensive. On private land it just means you spend more time on pheasants. On public land it means you need more money and that’s the big problem. Not everybody believes it’s the way to go.
California has no money and the USFWS has no interest in making pheasants. Believe it or not, public land is not in short supply, but money for management of public land is. Seldom do managers of public land put the energy and effort into properly managing for pheasants. Managment for waterfowl is much easier and there is dedicated money from duck stamps.
Another factor is that managers at the various refuges are semi autonomous in their decision making and if the refuge manager is interested in pheasants you’ll get some – on the other hand, if he’s not – you’ll have none.
And, not all biologists agree on how to manage for pheasants anyway. Combine that with the other factors especially that pheasants are a non-native species that doesn’t do well in the dry California weather and you have a problem.
All this is exacerbated by the fact the the number of pheasant hunters is in serious decline. Who, other than pheasant hunters, cares about pheasants?!!