Pheasant opener this weekend

It could be a rough pheasant hunting season this year.
The season opens Saturday, November 12, and runs through January.
However, there might not be much to hunt.

“It’s going to be a little rough this year,” Josh Melby, the local wildlife officer for the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, said. “It’s pretty spotty over all of northeast Colorado. Yuma County probably has the best birds in the state.”
He explained the certain pockets, such as around Eckley and in the Wray-Vernon area, received enough moisture at the right time to create good hatching cover.
However, overall the prolonged drought continues to take its toll on the local pheasant population. Already stressed from four years of drought, this year’s heat and wind exacerbated the situation. Melby noted the winter wheat fields mostly did not provide good cover this past spring, and other dryland fields, such as milo and corn, struggled in the conditions.
“There was not much cover to lay nests in the fields,” he said. “(The eggs) just burn up.”
Area lodging usually is booked full every year for at least the opening weekend, and usually into the following weekends. However, local operators report that reservations are down as word has got out it might be tough to find much success this pheasant season. One local hotel was full for the weekend as of earlier this week.
Still, Melby said he expects a good push of hunters for at least this weekend, but it likely will slow down after that.
There is plenty of walk-in access ground available to hunters, with some having pretty good cover on it, Melby said. If wanting to walk fields not part of the walk-in access program, hunters are reminded to ask the property owner for permission first, and to respect those properties that have “No Hunting” signs posted. Melby will have extra help on hand this weekend to make sure everything goes smoothly.

As for the future of the area’s pheasant population, Melby expressed optimism. He said history shows there it always goes in cycles, with several good years followed by a downturn thanks to dry conditions.
“It will come back real quick,” he said of the pheasant population, but we have to have a change in the weather pattern,” Melby said. “We need more rain.”