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
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
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
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
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.!"