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Expect a hunt similar to last year's

Every year it's the same story: Don't expect an easy hunt, don't expect to see many birds, and don't expect anywhere near the success of hunts 20 years ago.

Expect the same this year.Not much has changed in a year. There is still too little habitat, therefore too few birds. Still, between 35,000 and 40,000 hunters are expected out Saturday for the opening of the pheasant and quail seasons.

Based on success figures from past years, about half of the hunters will get a bird and a few of those will get the limit of two roosters. The other half will, as they always do, enjoy the day, beating the bushes and occasionally taking a shot.

Dean Mitchell, upland game manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said spring reproduction was average to slightly above average in most parts of the state.

In some areas, biologists are reporting significantly increased pheasant populations where "excellent pheasant habitat remains."

Overall, he said, this year's hunt will be comparable to last year's.

"The best habitat is still found on private lands," says Mitchell. "Hunters can no longer expect to go afield and have access to private lands on the opener without talking to the owner. Hunters need to invest some time before the hunt to find an area and get permission."

The DWR released 400 ring-necked pheasants on select wildlife management areas this week. Mitchell said the pen-reared birds will provide more opportunity for Utah hunters. Hunters harvesting the banded birds are being asked to report the band number to a DWR office.

California quail populations are scattered throughout the state. Main concentrations are found within urban areas along the Wasatch Front, east into the Uintah Basin, and southeast into the Carbon and Emery County areas.

Gambel's quail are found in the Mohave Desert habitat of Washington County in the southwestern corner of the state and along Utah's southern border.

The hunt will run through Nov. 16 throughout most of the state, except in Utah County where it will close Nov. 7. Some state and federal lands will remain open through Nov. 30. A brochure put out by the DWR called "State of Utah Upland Game and Waterfowl Hunting Areas," lists those areas.

A new book, "Utah: One Source Game Bird Hunting Guide," by Allan Hash, a former state wildlife biologist, could prove beneficial to hunters. The book shows '97 bird reproduction data, bird distribution maps, hunting area maps, a species summary, '96 harvest reports and hunting tips.

Along with pheasants and quail, it also covers other upland game species and waterfowl. The book costs $10. For information call 1-888-426-3443.