Upland Bird Forecast - Magic Valley Region

Magic Valley Region

2022 Conditions –

Summer and winter droughts the past several years have negatively impacted upland game bird nesting success and brood recruitment, but conditions this year are a step in the right direction to reverse that recent trend. Anecdotally, Fish and Game biologists are reporting average to good numbers of quail and gray partridge in localized areas compared to recent years. Pheasants are below recent and long-term averages due to continued habitat loss. No surveys are conducted for forest grouse. These species are somewhat buffered from drought and other unfavorable conditions because forbs and insects tend to persist longer in these higher-elevation habitats. Numbers this fall will likely be near or above average. 

With hot and dry conditions this summer, it is possible birds will be concentrated around water and food sources, leading to the perception of increased abundance. The mix of both good and bad conditions for upland game birds over the past several years makes it difficult to predict numbers this fall; however, in general, it is expected that game bird numbers have increased from 2021 and near the 10-year average.

Pheasant

  • Trend from last year (2021): Down
  • 10-Year Trend (2013-2022): Down
  • Pheasant numbers have remained relatively low in the Magic Valley Region since the mid-1980s because of changes in farming practices and resultant loss of habitat. Pheasant stocking will continue at Niagara Springs WMA and on Bureau of Reclamation Tracts F27 and F28 in Minidoka County. Hunters might also want to obtain a Wildlife Tracts map from the Magic Valley Regional office that shows the locations of 284 tracts of public land with nearly 33,000 acres that provide upland bird hunting opportunity.

Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse

  • Trend from last year (2021): Stable
  • 10-Year Trend (2013-2022): Stable
  • Spring lek surveys and anecdotal information suggest sharp-tailed grouse numbers have experienced a small decrease during the past decade. However, populations remain strong and currently provide liberal hunting opportunities. The best hunting is typically in or near fields enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. Fields with a forb component (e.g., alfalfa) are typically the best. If conditions are dry, hunters should expect early movement of grouse up into mountain shrub communities (serviceberry) and to areas where green forbs can still be found. Land enrolled in the Access Yes! program in Cassia, Power and Oneida counties provide ample access to hunting areas. You can get a guide to Access Yes! properties at Fish and Game offices and at many license vendors. The guide can also be viewed on the Fish and Game website at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/ifwis/huntplanner/accessyesguide.aspx

Chukar

  • Trend from last year (2021): Stable
  • 10-Year Trend (2013-2022): Stable
  • No chukar surveys are conducted in the Magic Valley Region, but early reports from around the region suggest hunters should find similar numbers of birds compared to last year.

Gray Partridge (Hun)

  • Trend from last year (2021): Stable
  • 10-Year Trend (2013-2022): Stable
  • No surveys for gray partridge occur in the Magic Valley Region. Anecdotal information suggests hunters will likely find similar or slightly improved numbers of birds compared to last year.

California Quail

  • Trend from last year (2021): Stable
  • 10-Year Trend (2013-2022): Up
  • During the past several years, quail hunting has been good in the Magic Valley Region. This year’s crop should be similar to last year. Hunters should expect to find areas with abundant quail along the Snake River and its tributaries west of Twin Falls. Most quail are found on or near private property, be sure to ask permission first.

Forest Grouse (Dusky, Ruffed, Spruce)

  • Trend from last year (2021): Stable
  • 10-Year Trend (2013-2022): Stable
  • No forest grouse population surveys are conducted in the Magic Valley Region, but anecdotal reports from field personnel and early reports suggest a good hatch, with numerous hunting opportunities in both the northern and southern portions of the region.