Upland game bird outlook for fall

Upland game bird hunting can take hunters to some of the most scenic spots in the state of Idaho during the fall.

Idaho is a big state with a diverse mix of habitats, elevations and climates, and the state contains a variety of upland game birds. Upland bird populations can vary tremendously on an annual basis, and their health and numbers typically depend on favorable weather conditions, which are often very localized.

That means upland game birds are tough to forecast on a statewide basis except to say there’s ample opportunity for upland hunters to pursue a large variety of birds across a variety of landscapes.

“Like many other years, hunting can vary widely geographically, but from a statewide perspective, I’m optimistic about this fall,” said Jeff Knetter, upland game and migratory game bird coordinator. “Spring weather conditions were more wet than average, which often times means excellent brood-rearing conditions.”

To provide an idea of what’s available this hunting season, Fish and Game’s wildlife biologists in each region have compiled an update of what they’re seeing and hearing on the ground with bird populations, so hunters can get a look at their favorite areas and quarry.

To learn about upland game bird hunting rules and seasons, and more information, see Fish and Game’s Upland Bird Hunting guide on its website: idfg.idaho.gov

To find places to hunt upland game, check out the Hunting Access webpage, which includes Fish and Game’s Wildlife Management Areas and Access Yes! Properties.

Southwest Region

Spring and early summer conditions were excellent for brood production for most upland birds. Quail, chukar and gray partridge had good carryover survival after a good production year. Chukar, gray partridge, and quail production should be good to excellent with great harvest conditions this fall. Pheasant numbers along established brood routes are down, but production was excellent.

Preliminary indications are that Dusky grouse had very high carry over survival (lots of adults in harvest) with good brood production. Ruffed grouse had excellent production; most ruffed grouse harvested in Southwest Idaho thus far have been juvenile birds. Sage-grouse are down compared to last year and had poor nest success due to heavier than normal spring rains during peak hatch. Overall, upland bird hunting, except sage-grouse should be good to excellent with scattered pockets of abundant birds.

Pheasant

• Trend from last year (2018): Stable

• 10-Year Trend (2010-2019): Down

• Pheasants had fair over-winter survival following good to excellent production during 2019. Favorable spring and early summer precipitation contributed to good hatch during 2019. Pheasant hunting should be good to excellent around the Treasure Valley in 2019.

Greater Sage-grouse

• Trend from last year (2018): Down

• 10-Year Trend (2010-2019): Stable

• Males counted during 2019 lek surveys were down across Owyhee County. Nest success during 2019 was also poor due to heavier than normal rains throughout peak hatch. Hunters can expect to find sage-grouse near water sources. Popular hunting spots include the area around Big Springs and Riddle. Area 1 – north of the Mud Flat Road is CLOSED to sage-grouse hunting in 2019.

Chukar

• Trend from last year (2018): Up

• 10-Year Trend (2010-2019): Stable

• Chukar hunting should be good to excellent thanks to high carryover survival and good production. Chukars can be foundnear Brownlee and Arrowrock Reservoirs and Owyhee Canyonlands.

Gray Partridge (Hun)

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• Trend from last year (2018): Stable

• 10-Year Trend (2010-2019): Stable

• Gray partridge numbers were excellent last year and should have high carryover survival. Hunters can expect to find gray partridge in the uplands near agricultural fields and in sagebrush/mountain brush near water sources. They are also locally abundant in areas that recently burned. Gray partridge are mostly found in Gem, Washington, and Adams counties.

California Quail

• Trend from last year (2018): Stable

• 10-Year Trend (2010-2019): Stable

• Quail production was good to excellent this year. Quail appear to have overwintered well in the Treasure Valley. Quail can be found in areas with green-leafy shrubs, forbs, and berries near perennial water sources.

Mourning Dove

• Trend from last year (2018): Down

• 10-Year Trend (2010-2019): Stable

• Dove production appears to be fair to good, but dove numbers were down along established upland bird survey routes. Dove season runs through October 30. Daily bag limit is 15 and possession limit is 45.

Forest Grouse

Ruffed Grouse

• Trend from last year (2018): Up

• 10-Year Trend (2010-2019): Stable

Dusky Grouse

• Trend from last year (2018): Up

• 10-Year Trend (2010-2019): Stable

Spruce Grouse

• Trend from last year (2018): Up

• 10-Year Trend (2010-2019): Stable

• Forest grouse had good production this year, especially ruffed grouse. Dusky grouse had high carryover survival and can be found in the transition zone between sagebrush and mountain shrub communities and open slopes in pine forests. Spruce grouse can be found in areas dominated by dwarf huckleberry and both Douglas fir and spruce forests. Ruffed Grouse can be found along drainages dominated by green, leafy shrubs and aspen forests. Forest grouse hunting should be good to excellent this year.

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