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Upland Game Bird Season starts Saturday with quail and pheasant
new vlc pheasant pic
Pheasant - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

The 2020 Kansas Upland Game Bird season starts Saturday with regular quail and pheasant, while the regular greater prairie chicken season begins the following weekend, Nov. 21. Pheasant, quail and prairie chicken hunting season runs through Jan. 31. Hunters can look forward to a promising harvest this year, according to summaries released by Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KWPT).

This is good news for Barton County’s hotels, restaurants and other businesses affected by tourism, said Christina Hayes, director of the Great Bend Convention & Visitors Bureau. Hotel occupancy has been down during the pandemic but there has been a good upswing with hunting and guests are being welcomed with open arms.

“Jason Wagner from Cheyenne Bottoms has reported very great hunting numbers, mainly because people seem happy to be getting out and doing something,” Hayes said.

“The hotel numbers have not been high by any means, but hunting and construction have been filling the rooms,” Hayes said. “The (businesses) are thankful for all of that. They are also very much making sure it is safe and clean to stay for visitors and are willing to work with all groups of visitors.”

Mary Anne Stoskopf with Rodeway Inn & Suites in Hoisington said they are anticipating a great weekend for the opening of pheasant season. “The hotel offers a game cleaning station for successful hunters and Hoisington’s new dog park is just outside the hotel, which makes it a great place for waterfowl and game hunters to stay,” she noted.

Stoskopf said the Rodeway Inn also saw a boost in occupancy this fall because the water in Cheyenne Bottoms brought many duck and geese hunters to the area.

Statewide summaries (from KWPT):

Heavy rainfall in 2019 made for good residual nesting cover across much of the state coming into 2020. However, Kansas entered a long dry spell across most of the pheasant range early in 2020 with below average rainfall from February through May. This dry pattern broke in June with several scattered storm events across the northwest and central regions of the state. The timing of this rain was critical for producing brood cover for hatching pheasant chicks as well as copious amounts of insects.

Continued rainfall through July maintained good habitat conditions and improved conditions in the southwest. Opportunistic brood reports from department staff and others suggested that brood sizes were up this year, as well as seeing considerably more broods; however, summer brood survey results have estimated that there was a decrease in the overall pheasant abundance.

Roadside counts in the northwest remained similar to last year while numbers decreased through the rest of the state. Given the precipitation patterns through June were erratic, combined with the opportunistic reports, hunters will likely find that densities will vary widely on the landscape this season. Despite declines, Kansas continues to maintain one of the best pheasant populations in the country and the fall harvest should again be among the leading states. The highest densities this year will likely be in the Northern High Plains region of northwest Kansas.

Kansas continues to support above-average quail populations. The peak nesting for quail is later than pheasants, and they are more likely to make multiple nesting attempts. This allowed quail to take advantage of the summer rainfall better than pheasants and led to production levels that were higher or stable across most of the state.

The bobwhite whistle survey in spring 2020 saw a significant increase, while the roadside survey index was the same as 2019. The only region showing notable declines was in the southeast, which has not maintained the above average densities like the rest of the state. Kansas maintains one of the premier quail populations in the country and harvest will again be among the highest this year. The best opportunities will be found in the central regions, with plenty of quality hunting scattered in the remaining regions.

Kansas is home to both greater and lesser prairie chickens. Both species require a landscape of predominately native grass and benefit from a few interspersed grain fields. Lesser prairie chickens are found in west-central and southwestern Kansas in native prairie and nearby stands of native grass established through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Greater prairie chickens are found primarily in the tall grass and mixed-grass prairies that occur in the eastern third and northern half of the state.

Greater prairie chickens have expanded in number and range in the northwestern portion of the state while declining in the eastern regions. Hunting opportunities will be best in  the Northern High Plains and Smoky Hills Regions this fall, where populations have been either increasing or stable and public access is more abundant. The Southwest Prairie Chicken Unit, where lesser prairie chickens are found, will remain closed to hunting this year. Greater prairie chickens may be harvested during the early prairie chicken season and the regular season with a two-bird daily bag limit in the Greater Prairie Chicken Unit.

All prairie chicken hunters are required to purchase a $2.50 Prairie Chicken Permit available at This permit allows KDWPT to better track hunter activity and harvest, which will improve management activities and inform policy decisions.

Smoky Hills Region Summary (from KWPT):

After a slight increase, the spring calling surveys remained above average but pheasant counts from summer roadside surveys declined. Total regional harvest was highest in the Smoky Hills last year, but success rates were lower than the other major pheasant regions. With reduced densities, success rates may decrease again in this region. Given its size and variability, this region will still be important to pheasant hunters and be a major contributor to the overall harvest. The northwestern portion of the region had the highest roadside densities this year.

The spring whistle survey increased this year, while roadside surveys remained the same. After large increases in the roadside survey last year, stable numbers maintained the region as having the highest roadside index for quail in 2020. Total regional harvest in 2019 was the highest in the state with good hunter success rates.
Hunters in the area are becoming accustom to the high densities experienced across the region in the past few years, making birds relatively easy to find; however, targeting edge habitat and weedy areas with nearby shrubs will be the most productive. Densities appear best in the north half of the region but several other areas across the region produced good estimates as well.

Prairie Chicken hunting opportunities in the region should remain good. Production was likely improved with good residual cover and spring counts remain relatively good. This region includes some of the highest densities and access in the state for prairie chickens. Greater prairie chickens occur throughout the Smoky Hills where large areas of native rangeland are intermixed with CRP and cropland. The best hunting will be found in the central portion of the region, but several other areas support huntable densities of birds in appropriate habitat. Lesser prairie chickens occur in a few counties in the southwestern portion of the region within the closed zone.

Additional reporting by Susan Thacker.