2016 Upland Game Bird Population Trends – Upper Snake Region

2016 Conditions – Winter conditions in 2015-2016 varied from near average (east of Interstate 15) to slightly above average snow depths (west of Interstate 15).  Snow levels did not last long likely allowing for good carryover. Spring moisture was good with near average temperatures foreseeably favoring hatched birds. However, a hot and dry summer in 2016 may have affected brood survival. These factors combined with few severe weather events during the nesting season should equal a fair upland bird season in the Upper Snake Region this year. 

Upland Game Bird Trend from last year
10-Year Trend
Pheasant Stable Stable

There are no surveys conducted for pheasant in the Upper Snake and last year’s harvest data indicates declines in both hunters and harvest. The Upper Snake Region continues to stock approximately 2,500 pheasants per year on Mud Lake WMA, Market Lake WMA, and Cartier WMA. Areas that hold pheasant in the Upper Snake have reported many good sized broods. Pheasant hunting should be average to slightly below across the Region this year.

Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse

Stable Stable

There was lek monitoring completed in numerous areas across the Region suggesting sharp-tailed grouse numbers have remained relatively stable over the last five years in normal attendance numbers. Nesting conditions were great but brood-rearing conditions were less than optimal this year. Sharp-tailed grouse populations are strong and provide liberal hunting opportunities (Oct. 1–31; 2-bird daily bag). The best hunting is typically in CRP fields that have green alfalfa and/or other forbs, and in more native sagebrush-steppe habitats. If CRP fields are relatively dry, hunters should expect movements of sharp-tailed grouse up into areas where green forbs can still be found (mountain shrub communities). The Tex Creek WMA experienced a large wildfire in mid-August consuming the majority of sharp-tailed grouse habitat. This is a very popular place to hunt sharp-tailed grouse and this year it is likely going to have extremely low bird densities and low success rates. surveys suggest that sharp-tailed grouse numbers have remained relatively stable over the last 10 years.  However, the last few years have indicated declines in some localized areas. In 2014, the conversion of CRP fields resulted in some inactive leks in localized areas, particularly in the Arbon and Rockland valleys.  These field conversions may affect fall distribution.

Chukar Stable Stable

Chukar numbers remain low in the Upper Snake and harvest data over the last five years suggest stable numbers. No chukar surveys are conducted in the Upper Snake Region. However, big game winter surveys conducted in 2015-2016 observed good chukar covey numbers on south facing slopes where these birds occur. numbers remain low and in only a few localized areas in the Southeast Region.

Gray Partridge Stable Stable

There are no surveys conducted for gray partridge in the Upper Snake, but harvest data over the past five years suggest numbers have been stable. A few reports from landowners indicate normal broods observed.

Forest Grouse (Dusky, Ruffed, Spruce) Stable Stable

No surveys are conducted for forest grouse in the Upper Snake, but harvest data over the past five years suggests relatively stable numbers. Sportsmen reports give a general trend for both ruffed and dusky grouse numbers and the early reports are variable, which likely indicate numbers are likely stable and hunting should be average across the Upper Snake Region.