Unfortunately, changing the landscape hasn’t helped pheasants in eastern Washington.
According to The Spokesman Review, eastern Washington’s pheasant harvest was among the lowest on record in 2013. Hunters and wildlife managers are hoping for an increase in 2014.
The good news is that several thousand acres were recently seeded with forbs (broad leaf plants) in southeast Washington, in hopes of improving habit. The climate has been beneficial for the upland birds the past few years and is also expected to be mild once again this winter, which will help with pheasant production. The downside is that coyotes are claiming as many upland birds, or more, than the hunters.
If you’ve even driven through the major highways of Eastern Washington, you’ll see that the majority of farm owners have their crops growing directly on the shoulders of the roads. Windmills have been installed upon the hilltops as well.
While farmers are always looking for a way to make some extra income, this isn’t helping the population of upland birds. Many of the smaller farmers are out of business and have sold their farms to larger corporations. With this being said, the number of famers in Eastern Washington has declined alongside the number of upland birds. The small farm operations didn’t have enough land to provide for their families, so they had no choice but to sell to the larger corporations.
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Once upon a time, you’d find idle fields in Eastern Washington, while driving only a few miles. Nowadays, rarely do you see anything idle and bare. Most of the dirt, which may have once been a weedy ridge, is now being used for production of crops.
If you’re an avid upland bird hunter, you may have to spend a few extra dollars and look to a guided hunt where they raise and release pheasants, quail, and other upland bird species. Even though this isn’t in line with the true definition of hunting, it provides more opportunity for those hunters that have an obsession.