The region is gearing up for the opening the Pheasant Season this weekend, and chances for a good hunt look promising, though nice weather will help the birds spread out instead of bunching up.

Local hotels are booked full, local businesses are gearing up for the onslaught of hunters, and the first day of the hunting season will conclude with the Yuma County Pheasants Forever Banquet at the Irrigation Research Foundation site north of town. Also, check for specials being planned for area establishments inside this edition.

Officer Josh Melby of the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife graciously provided a preview of what should be a fun hunting season.

Pheasant hunters should expect to find good bird numbers across northeastern Colorado, including Yuma County, this weekend. There are a number of factors that contribute to the success hunters will have, including over-winter survival, nesting conditions, hailstorms, and winter cover.

Last spring Colorado Parks and Wildlife conducted spring crow counts to determine the pheasant population, or winter survival, going into the nesting season. The counts this spring were well above average for all of northeastern Colorado.

This translates to a high potential for great hunting in the fall if the birds have suitable nesting conditions. Nesting conditions this spring were mixed and slightly down due to cold temperatures during the nesting season.

In Yuma County, we received above-average moisture this spring but temperatures were too cold for nesting so most hens were able to only raise a brood with an average of 4-6 chicks. On a good nesting year they will average 8 to 12 chicks. Luckily, we had a lot of hens out there this spring to make up for the smaller brood sizes. Unfortunately, we did have widespread hail across the area and a few areas of drought which did impact survival in some areas. In summary, conditions were good enough that pheasant numbers are expected to be well above average for the area, which is good news for the hunters.

Hunters that are looking for land to go chase roosters on, shouldn’t have much trouble finding it this year. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has roughly 160,000 acres signed up in the small game walk-in access program. These properties are private land that is leased by CPW and is open to all small game hunting. With the moisture we received in late summer the habitat conditions are ideal, so hunters should find lots of cover to walk.

Included in these properties are 400-plus acres of irrigated sprinkler corners that have been added over the last three years as a part of CPW’s Corners for Conservation Program. This program pays landowners to convert the corners from crops to a beneficial grass mix for wildlife. The Yuma County Chapter of Pheasants Forever Chapter has planted close to 100 of these corners over the last two years, that are ready for hunters to enjoy this fall.

On a side note, the Yuma County Chapter will be holding their annual banquet on Saturday November 9, starting at 5:30, at the Irrigation Research Farm north of Yuma. If you can, go to the banquet and support them so they can continue to do great work across the county.

Lastly, hunters are reminded that hunting is a privilege and they should take care to hunt responsibly in order to ensure the future of the hunting tradition. Yuma County Wildlife Officer Josh Melby will be out patrolling along with a number of other officers and wants to remind hunters to make sure they are following a few simple rules. All land, unless posted as public hunting, is private and requires landowner permission (even if it is not posted) to hunt. Hunters that enter private land without permission will be cited and will receive enough points to go up for suspension on their hunting and fishing privileges.

In addition, hunting and alcohol never mix so be sure to wait until after the hunt because it will be strictly enforced. When hunters are parking to hunt a field, make sure to find a place well off the road and never park in tall grass because you are likely to come back to a vehicle that is on fire.

There are still lots of farmers that are working hard to get their crops out of the field and a vehicle parked in the road or blocking an access road creates a hazard for them. Be courteous and make sure to give them lots of extra room and never hunt a field where they are actively harvesting. Many of the fields that have been harvested will have livestock on them. Please avoid any areas with livestock to prevent startling them and possibly pushing them through the electric fence.

Make sure to respect the land and leave it cleaner than you found it and pack out all trash including the bird carcasses if you’re lucky enough to harvest some.

By following these guidelines if will help to keep really good habitat enrolled for public hunting in future years. If landowners have problems or if hunters see violations, you are encouraged to call Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648 or call Yuma County Wildlife Officer, Josh Melby at (970)-630-4415.