Assuming that North Korea doesn’t somehow attack our nukes that are scattered across Montana and North Dakota, scorching the entire breadbasket of our country, this fall is shaping up to be decent. Most of bird hunters that have to ride out the winter near the 40th parallel hope for a winter where at least some of the birds survive to nest in the spring. The imported birds fare the worst, the natives always survive to some extent.
Winter was long and fierce in parts of Idaho, NE Montana and Central North Dakota. When you see snow in December that is knee-deep and lasts until March, it is amazing that any birds survive. Chukars and Huns are expected to be down from last season in Idaho, but early pheasant numbers in North Dakota appear to be more than just huntable numbers.
Drought has hit parts of the west from Nevada to Montana to North Dakota hard this summer. Typically, Huns do fairly well in the drought years. Pheasants nest just fine also, but there tends to be a lack of good cover to hunt come mid-October. And, landowners aren’t as receptive to knocks on the door when they just had a miserable fall harvest or worse yet, major fires on their acreage.
Quail numbers were good in 2016 from Arizona to Texas and it appears that this fall will also be above average. Ruffed grouse cycles are trending upward, near the peak, in the Lake States of MN, WI and MI. When there are more ruffs in the woods, there are also more hunters. I will take that trade-off.
Start planning accordingly. While there are always pockets void of birds and honey holes teeming with them, overall, the forecast is mostly sunny.