Upland bird hunters will likely see average to below-average numbers of upland game birds this fall in most parts of the state with the mild winter benefiting many species, but the hot, dry summer likely hurting survival of young birds that can boost populations when conditions are better.
Upland bird seasons opened late August and will remain open through mid October, depending on the species. You can see what seasons are open and upcoming in the 2021 Upland Game, Turkey and Furbearer Seasons and Rules.
Hunters should also be aware there are several significant changes for the 2021 hunting season that may not be reflected in printed brochures, so they should double check online before they start hunting.
Here are some of the changes hunters should be aware of for 2021.
Sage-grouse tags required
Sage-grouse and sharp-tailed grouse requirements for the 2021 hunting season require the purchase of a new tag for sage-grouse hunting and a separate permit just for sharp-tailed grouse hunters, along with a hunting license.
The sage-grouse tag, which is required for all sage-grouse hunters and has limited availability, is $22.75 for residents and $74.25 for nonresidents. The sharp-tailed grouse permit will be required only for people hunting those birds – not sage-grouse – and will cost $5.75 for residents and $17.75 for nonresidents.
To see what sage-grouse tags remain available go to the online license and tags sales webpage. You must log on to see what’s available, or you can check with a vendor or call a Fish and Game Regional Office. New stocked pheasant areas
Pheasant hunters will have two new places where Fish and Game stocks pheasants for hunters, one in the Southeast Region and another in the Salmon Region.
The addition means there will be 24 pheasant stocking sites throughout the state when the season opens, and Fish and Game plans to release over 37,000 pheasants for hunters in 2021.
Hunters age 18 or older must have a valid Upland Game Bird Permit to hunt all properties where Fish and Game stocks pheasants.
“Pheasants are the most popular game bird species for upland game hunters in the state,” said Jeff Knetter, Upland Game and Migratory Game Bird Coordinator. “Hunters and supporters of pheasant hunting asked us to expand the pheasant stocking program to include additional properties, and we are doing that.”
For more information go to pheasant stocking webpage.
Later start date for nonresident pheasant hunters
Nonresident pheasant hunters will have a five-day delayed season opener for general 2021 pheasant seasons. Delayed opener will not apply to youth pheasant season because of expected lower youth participation and to allow resident adults to hunt with nonresident youth, such as grandchildren. Youth seasons for all zones will be Oct. 2 to Oct. 8.
Because of Idaho’s mixed terrain, elevations, weather and habitat, upland game bird hunting will vary across different regions. Here’s what has been provided by wildlife managers for southwestern Idaho.
Spring and early summer conditions were good-to-excellent for brood production for all upland birds. Quail had good production and should be similar to last year. Chukar also had good production, and average over winter survival. There may be locally abundant pockets of chukar in places where chukar over wintered well.
Pheasant numbers along established brood routes are down. However, larger flocks have been observed around the Treasure Valley where there is good over winter habitat. Forest grouse should be good to excellent this year. Overall, upland hunting should be fair-to-good with scattered pockets of abundant birds.