I always get several calls from bird hunters in the fall asking how the upland game bird hatch was this past spring. Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks does surveys hoping to form a prediction for grouse and pheasant quantities but they do footnote the survey results with the fact that many things can affect the birds…and that is true!
Central Montana covers thirteen counties and most offer some pretty good quantities of upland game birds. With the variety of terrain we have, we also get a nice mix of weather patterns in different areas so my favorite prediction for fall bird hunters is that it can vary widely, even 50 miles down the road.
Overall, we have had some good hatches and a mild enough spring so we should have decent quantities of birds.
MT FWP is predicting that Region 4 (primarily the same area as Central Montana) will have average numbers of Gray (Hungarian) Partridge. No formal surveys are done for Huns but weather and habitat were decent this past spring for the hatch. The same goes for grouse in the region.
We’ve had fewer acres of land in CRP (conservation reserve program) so this could lead to some decline in pheasants. MT FWP feels that the Conrad and Lewistown areas will have good quantities though. On a recent drive in the Conrad area I’ll second that…I had to dodge several along the roadside.
Opening day for most of our upland game birds was September 1. Pheasant season always opens later and the 2015 opener for the longtailed bird is October 10.
So much for predictions – if you are out with your bird dog and shotgun you’ll likely have a good day enjoying the fall weather and scenery. Here’s wishing you a good harvest!