The lack of snow cover throughout most of the winter, current habitat conditions and an abundance of food mean pheasants have fared well throughout most of their range in Montana.
That’s according to Ryan Williamson, Region 6 upland game bird biologist for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. While no firm prediction about the breeding season can yet be made, Williamson said if the mild winter continues and spring conditions play out favorably, it should be a good breeding season.
“We often get late winter and early spring snow events that can delay nesting (as witnessed in the spring of 2011 and a little in 2013), but as of now, the winter shouldn’t have had a huge impact on the birds’ bodies or habitat conditions,” he said.
Last year’s favorable weather generated some of the best habitat conditions in Montana in a long time, but while the quality improved, it’s the overall quantity that has upland game managers and hunters concerned.
“The largest impact right now on the landscape is the huge decrease in CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) acres across the state, particularly across northern Montana (Hi-Line),” Williamson said. “The CRP loss since 2010 is just over 1 million acres for the state, with more than 500,000 acres in the last year (2012-2013).”