Upland bird hunters will find a mixed bag this fall.
While spring was favorable across much of southern Idaho, persistent drought may have impacted brood survival in some areas. Northern Idaho, on the other hand, experienced an abnormally cool and wet spring, which may have affected nesting success. However, early reports from hunters suggest this fall will be promising for wingshooters.
While weather certainly impacts game bird populations on a yearly basis, the quantity and quality of nesting habitat is critical to maintaining Idaho’s game bird populations for the long-term. Game birds require adequate undisturbed nesting cover to successfully hatch a nest and then abundant broadleaf plants and insect populations to successfully raise chicks to adult size.
Overall populations can change significantly from one year to the next. This phenomenon is tied to their basic biology. Game birds are very productive and short lived, with the largest portion of the population at any given time consisting of young birds of the year. When weather and nesting conditions are favorable, populations are able to respond and increase rapidly. On the other hand, when conditions are not favorable, dramatic population declines can result.
Because both weather and habitat conditions are critical to the abundance and survival of game birds, hunting success will vary widely this fall, as Idaho is an extremely geographically diverse state.
Fish and Game monitors upland game bird population across the state by conducting brood route surveys each August. Beginning at sunrise, department biologists drive slowly along designated, 20-mile routes and count the number of birds they observe. Each brood route is surveyed three times during the month using standardized methods when weather conditions are optimal for observing game birds.
Results of these surveys are then compared with results from the previous year and the previous 10-year average, which generally offers a fairly reliable indicator of the actual game bird population. It is important to note that our outlook reflects the best available information on the relative abundance of upland game birds among the regions of Idaho and cannot be used to predict hunting conditions or local population densities at any single location within the state.
For the 2012 upland game bird outlook by species and management region, view the following links: