WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

September 08, 1998
Contact: Madonna Luers, (509) 456-4073

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Eastside pheasant hunting changes enhance season

Changes in opening day and shooting hours, an expanded pheasant release program and great wild-bird prospects promise to make for a memorable eastern Washington pheasant hunting season.

Pheasant hunting opens Oct. 10, while the general deer hunting season opens Oct. 17. In the past, the two hunts haves shared opening dates with waterfowl hunting, which opens Oct. 3 this year. This year's varying dates allow hunters to enjoy opening- day opportunities in all three seasons.

Pheasant hunting will begin at 6:25 a.m. (a half-hour before sunrise) in eastern Washington, instead of noon, as in the past.

"No one could remember why the opener was traditionally at noon, much less why we should continue it," explained Dave Ware, WDFW upland game program manager. "So we changed the shooting hours to be consistent with other hunting seasons."

About 18,000 farm-raised rooster pheasants will be released in eastern Washington throughout the season this year. That's twice the number that were released last year when the program started with funding from the Eastside pheasant enhancement stamp.

The $10 stamp is required for everyone hunting pheasants in eastern Washington. The funds are dedicated to pheasant management, with most of the money paying for the release of roosters. Information and maps of lands where roosters will be released are available at WDFW offices in Yakima, Ephrata, and Spokane.

Pheasants will be released for the youth hunt Sept. 26 and 27. That event is open to hunters under 16 years of age accompanied by a non-hunting adult at least 18 years of age. Pheasants will not be released on the Oct. 10 general opener but will be released periodically during the first eight weeks of the season.

Hunting for wild pheasants should be good this year, based on good carryover of brood stock from last year's mild winter and good production this summer. Pheasant numbers are up considerably in almost all areas of eastern Washington. Production in the Columbia Basin was up 200 percent over 1997. The Palouse region has seen successive increases of 177 percent in 1996 and 216 percent in 1997. In the Yakima Basin the increase is 50 percent over last year on the Yakama Reservation and 24 percent off reservation.

The statewide pheasant harvest in 1997 was up nearly 40 percent over the previous five-year average and WDFW biologists expect this year's harvest to be even better.

The best hunt areas are the Palouse country along both sides of the Snake River in Columbia, Garfield, Whitman and Walla counties; the irrigated portion of the Columbia basin (Adams, Grant, and Franklin counties), and the irrigated portion of the Yakima basin (Benton and Yakima counties).

"With the prediction of a hard winter coming in 1998," Ware said, "hunters won't want to miss one of the best years in a decade for hunting upland game birds." Those planning to hunt on private lands should make access arrangements well in advance of the opener, Ware said.

"If you wait until the morning of the opener," he cautioned, "you're not likely to get a positive response from landowners, especially at 6 a.m.!"