Pheasants on the Public Areas


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?!!

2 thoughts on “Pheasants on the Public Areas

  1. Rich. You are on fire. In just a few posts, you’ve done more to address the pheasant situation in California than any DFG publication or any of the outdoor writers and publications in the state in the past 5 years. Big thank you.

    You’ve mentioned a couple of times now that “the number of pheasant hunters is in serious decline.” Just curious where that statement comes from. I don’t dispute it as hunting numbers tend to mirror the availability of game (look at all the turkey hunters we have now in CA and what happened to all the deer hunters in the state?!)

    I would take issue with your first sentence. I’ve found the pheasant hunting on our public areas to be quite good. There have been plenty of days when I’ve gotten skunked, but I’ve almost always had opportunities to get a bird or two and have always seen birds, even in poor production years.

    It’s just different on the public areas — more a solitary game, best pursued, in my opinion, with a single hunter and a dog, perhaps two hunters and two dogs at the most. The state areas don’t lend themselves to the big groups, lots of birds, block and walk, social hunting that is fun and successful on private land or in other states. Because so many of our public areas are managed for waterfowl, Labs excel in these watery environs and edges where you find many roosters. Pointing dogs and traditional upland hunters, I think, are at a disadvantage, though dedicated ones certainly take their share of birds.

    You have to work very hard on the public areas for birds, all-day outings, for a shot or two, but there are dedicated pheasant hunters I know who take birds every time out. It’s not easy — but incredibly rewarding when you do get your birds. It’s a different style of hunting and certainly not for everybody. That’s why the private sector, read pheasant clubs, have filled the pheasant niche pretty successfully. But that’s another blog conversation.

    Sorry to hog the blog, but I get fired up when we start discussing pheasants.

  2. Always nice to hear from a pationate hunter. You can make a difference.

    I have no statistic to validate my claim that the number of pheasant hunters is in decline.

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