This weekend marks not only the much anticipated Big 12 Championship gridiron rematch between Texas and Oklahoma, it also marks one of the more interesting hunting season openers on the calendar.
That’s because the 2018 Texas pheasant hunting season begins its Dec. 1-30 run in the state’s Panhandle region.
According to the 2018 Pheasants Forever (www.pheasantsforever.org) forecast for the Lone Star State, mixed results are likely to greet hunter orange clad wingshooters trailing along behind their bird dogs.
“Most of the Panhandle experienced a severe drought from October 2017 through April or May of 2018, with many areas receiving less than one inch of moisture during that time,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department district leader Calvin Richardson in the PF.org news release.
That’s disappointing since Richardson and PF both note that last year’s Panhandle pheasant harvest was actually fairly robust in the region with more than 48,000 roosters taken.
In fact, according to the PF forecast, that’s the highest Texas pheasant harvest since the 2010-11 season and well above the 10-year average harvest of 43,000 pheasants per season.
“The dry spring conditions were only exacerbated by hotter than normal temperatures in May, with numerous days creeping over 100 degrees,” Richardson also noted.
But there is a glimmer of upland bird hunting hope, thanks to the summertime weather maps.
“(By) mid-summer, conditions had improved somewhat, following a few thunderstorm events in late May and June,” said Richardson in the PF report. “The two driest areas that have caught very little moisture over the past 10 months are the central Panhandle and the counties west of Lubbock.”
While the state’s annual pheasant surveys have taken place only in recent weeks, Richardson was hopeful earlier this fall that there would once again be fair pheasant numbers in the Panhandle.
“With very dry conditions early on but improving conditions over the summer, we anticipate some nesting success and similar bird numbers this fall compared to last fall,” the TPWD biologist noted in the PF forecast.
And since that summertime moisture likely improved both insect and seed production, that should be good news for any Panhandle pheasant broods that did hatch.
“Even with only fair pheasant numbers last year, we received some reports of some really good hunting days for folks with ideal habitat (areas with irrigated grain crops adjacent to good cover such as rank, weedy playas or CRP),” Richardson noted in the PF report.
“The playas that are supporting good cover this year will be worth checking out during December.”
Especially for those looking to see a German short-haired pointer do it’s God-given work once again, not to mention shouldering an aging side-by-side shotgun as a surly cock pheasant bird rolls out of the Panhandle’s brushy cover to the loud cry of “Rooster! Rooster! Rooster!”