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Thread: Pheasant, Quail, and Dove Report Texas County, Panhandle of OKlahoma (LONG)

  1. #1
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    Pheasant, Quail, and Dove Report Texas County, Panhandle of OKlahoma (LONG)

    First of all, let me introduce myself. I'm a rancher in the Panhandle of Oklahoma. I also do a small guide service to pay for Christmas each year, and I am going to try to give bits of advice (remember the cost ), information, and reports on birds in my area. I will try to venture in the Southwest, and western Kansas for some additional views.

    Unfortunately, I don't make it much more north than Garden City, Kansas, or much more east than Dodge City, Kansas so my information is pretty limited. I also do quite a bit of fishing and will try to throw a bit of information about fishing lodges, hunting trips, and similar information, as I test it.

    Pheasants.

    Wow, what can a guy say? Ridiculous comes to mind. The conditions in the Panhandle of Oklahoma have been perfect since late March with the exception of one small localized hail storm. Temperatures stayed mild and moist for the area through the first of July and turned hot and dry just when we were getting worried about the grasshopper population. As I hoped, the hoppers really exploded in the second half of July. Even with some pretty significant rain storms and a bit of spotty hail, we still have a very solid and viable population for pheasants and quail.

    This week I have seen pheasants no more than 6 inches tall to roosters starting to turn from pullets to adults. With the massive population already in place, the stupendous amounts of food available for the birds, I don't think these younger birds will have difficulty laying enough fat on to make it through the winter. In fact, pheasant depredations have severely injured some of our sunflower populations already. I was talking to my farm manager, and he said that some of the fields that border heavy pheasant nesting areas are missing up to 2 TOWERS of planted seeds on the side of the circle bordering the nesting areas. Thats approximately 60 yards into the field that the pheasants have found and eaten planted sunflower seeds and buds. This has NEVER happened including the 2005 season when we had approximately 40 hunters on opening day and harvested 160+ birds in less than 2 hours and had to call the day before 10:00 am. From what I've seen and if nothing happens between now and the first of December, this could be our best pheasant population EVER.

    Couple of things. Corn looks wonderfull. Wheat was wonderful. Sunflower acres are going to be down in the general area, but we are planning on planting lots of sunflowers as they are a transition crop for us. Now, you might be wondering why this is relevant. Ok...here goes nothing.

    In the past decade or so, pheasant populations in the panhandle have skyrocketed. I believe that 2 things have changed that have signicantly improved populations. 1. Minimum tillage farming practices. This leave much more cover on the ground. It also allows any unharvested seed to remain on TOP of the soil, rather than incorporated. Basically, the birds have more cover during severe weather and more cover to hide from predetors and more grain to eat while sitting in the more cover warm and safe from predetors. 2. Sunflowers. All the sunflowers grown in the area are for oil production. Oil production seeds are just full of...you guessed it, oil. What that really means is the seed is just a giant fat factory. I'd be like you and me grazing on lard all afternoon. It helps the birds to loose less flesh during severe weather conditions and better maintain flesh thoughout the winter. Basically, they get fatter, stay fatter, and survive better going into the spring mating and laying season. And pheasants absolutely love sunflowers.

    Now...back to us having sunflowers and others in the area not having them. First, some things that people need to understand about pheasants. They are not like quail. They do not stay in an approximate 40 acre area. They act more like turkeys and kind of roam to food and where people tend to leave them alone. They to move from point A if pressured or food reserves get low and move to point B until the same thing occurs. What WILL happen if there is enough birds is that Birds at point C move to point A when bothered and birds at point A go to point B and birds at point B move to C, effectively meaning that a field or location can remain productive throughout the entire season (even if the birds are "spooky"). This doesn't happen very often since we generally have more habitat than birds. This year it looks like we could be in the scenario where birds are moving into the spots just vacated by other birds. A round robin effect.

    One wildcard in this scenario is sunflowers. Generally, sunflowers are planted pretty much all over our country. Not major acres, mind you, but with enough regularity that a hunter didn't really have to "hunt" to find a sunflower field to use. This year, it sounds like there will be in general less sunflowers in the area than in the past. I don't know if that includes our neighbors or just in the area as a whole. NOW...IF our neighbors plant less sunflowers, I can see this being a nice bonus for us. The birds tend to prefer sunflowers over other grain sources. If their only choice for sunflowers is my land, then we SHOULD have even more than our fair share of birds. It may not work out that way, but it could. The negative for this is that in general, I would expect less birds to survive winter in the AREA. And like I stated earlier, if next winter, all the lands surrounding mine have less birds, they will flow to the areas of least resistance. We'll see how it all plays out over the next 15 months.

    Quail

    With as much as I had to say about pheasants, I have very little to add about quail. The hopper population has exploded nicely which always is very important for our quail chicks. The weather has been good except for the hail storm. The storm itself was pretty localized and the hail wasn't too heavy or too big. I'm hoping that not too many chicks were killed. Now...I haven't been able to really get out and hunt for quail in quite a while. I've been asking my cowboys and their reports have been very discouraging. I don't know if I just got lucky earlier this summer and ran into a lot of birds one day or if my cowboys are out at the wrong time of day and in the wrong areas of my land to run into many quail...but I'd go with my cowboys 9 times out of 10. They're out in it on every square inch of the property 6 days out of the week...which bodes poor.

    Anyway, I'll try to go out and look for some quail in the near future and figure out what I can from then.

    Dove

    The dove population is very nice this year. Well, really it usually is right now. We have a pretty large population of birds and they usually hang around until the first cold rain...which may be coming any day since this stupid tropical depression is potentially rolling my way. It probably wouldn't make much difference since it seems like every year a nice cold rain plows through prior to Sept 1st. The storm seems to push everything south and the land is devoid of doves for a week or two. Then corn harvest gets in full swing and I don't get back out to hunt doves.

    Anyway, even though doves are not as high on people's hunting list, many like myself view dove season with the same anticipation that most view opening kick off of college football season...The Start of a New Year.

    Thanks and feel free to ask any questions you need to.

  2. #2
    Administrator oucorry's Avatar
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    pheasant

    oklaboy,
    Thank you for the good news on this years pheasant hunting. I'm really looking foward to this year's hunting. We usually hunt around the Guymon area. Can you tell me anything about that area. And might also be interested in booking a hunt with you. Can you give me some more details on cost and stuff like that? Thank you very much

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by oucorry View Post
    oklaboy,
    Thank you for the good news on this years pheasant hunting. I'm really looking foward to this year's hunting. We usually hunt around the Guymon area. Can you tell me anything about that area. And might also be interested in booking a hunt with you. Can you give me some more details on cost and stuff like that? Thank you very much
    Guymon is where I live and specifically where I am looking around. The birds are just great and provided we don't have some type of horrendous ice/snow storm prior to Dec. 1, the hunting should be great.

    I'm pretty much completely booked in 2007. I have Dec. 11 - 13th and Dec. 18 - 20th open in Dec. I'm completely open in January, but well...it's January.

    I get $75/day/hunter for pheasants in Dec and $50/day/hunter in January. In the past after we've limited on pheasants, we go chase some quail, but after last winter's ice storms, I just don't think that we're going to be able to shoot many quail. I might be able to arrange for some prairie dog hunting if you're interested.

    Chris

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