Yet another dismal season for the wild pheasant hunt

Many hunters liked it better when there was more separation between seasons and more length to some of them.

This hunter holds his trophy — a wild pheasant. The wild roosters have been a rare sight this season.

This hunter holds his trophy — a wild pheasant. The wild roosters have been a rare sight this season.

Many hunters liked it better when there was more separation between seasons and more length to some of them.

A complicating factor was when they added two weeks to the pheasant season — at the end — four years ago.

There once was a civilized time when deer season in many parts of the province was from mid-September to the end of November and pheasant season ran from mid-October to mid-November.

Now, part of four weeks of the six-week season in pheasant country is also deer season, when no owner in his right mind will be running a hunting dog.

That is particularly the case if you like to hunt the big country near the Red Deer River and the 600,000 acres of Eastern Irrigation District (EID) grazing lands, also prime areas for deer hunters.

Speaking of those magnificent EID lands, in a recent column I wondered what would happen to someone found hunting there without the permission slip issued from the EID office.

EID Wildlife Projects Manager Rick Martin has emailed me the answer: “The permission slip is not a requirement. We provide these slips to people who request them, as there are many people who feel more comfortable having written permission . . . As long as visitors follow the access guidelines and obey signage as posted, they are welcome to access district grazing lands.”

“Over the last several years,” Martin adds, “we have monitored hundreds of vehicles during hunting season and have found the compliance rate of our guidelines at over 95 per cent, which is not perfect, but it shows that the vast majority of people are co-operating.” All of which is a great comfort to me, because it would be a tragedy if the public lost access to this vast outdoors recreation area.

This has probably been the second or third worst pheasant season I can recall in my more than 60 of them. Many readers from various parts of Alberta’s upland country are of like opinion. The lone exception is a report from Kelsey Kure: “All the roosters (we got) were wild, but we wore out the boot leather getting them. We were hunting south of Lethbridge and in Milk River country. But bird numbers were way down as far as we could tell. The drifting snow last winter may have been the culprit. I guess all the brush and cattails and heavy cover was drifted in, allowing coyotes and exposure to take its toll. Fewer hens were flushed and the old long-tails were not getting up either. The birds we did get were this year’s, or last, not older birds.”

Kelsey adds comment on the first season of the three-year trial of the Recreational Access Management Program in the area he was hunting. “We hunted some RAMP properties and found it too ironic that all the places we used to hunt with open access were in the program. No new landowners signing on? But the huge maps and website made it easy for the blue and white plates from the west to take advantage of our few remaining wild pheasants. The condition of the RAMP cover was poor as the cows got their part of the deal, too, and any remaining cover was trampled by the masses. No money should change hands for some of the areas we saw.”

So perhaps my pheasant season is over, and I should concentrate on deer. Kelsey Kure does not have that problem, having taken his white tail buck on the second Sunday of the season, and plans on returning to the “land of the dinosaur” to hunt wild roosters, probably across the Red Deer from where I generally hunt.

Amazingly, considering the state of the economy in the area, the 20th annual Brooks Pheasant Festival grossed between $60,000 and $65,000, just slightly less than the 2008 event, according to that same Rick Martin who is also a festival committee member. In addition to many uses, including purchase of land open to pheasant hunters, the festival also invests considerable money in the EID’s award-winning Partners in Habitat Development program which has made impressive gains in creating, improving and maintaining wildlife habitat on private land.

All things considered, including the usual late summer in November which erases tracking snows before they even get started, I may just have to re-consider pheasants and get down to Brooks and area, Sundays through Tuesdays when the deer season is closed, to bag one of those late season wild roosters that are as big as turkeys.

In a previous column I mentioned a new Asian restaurant, the Wasana, in south Brooks. Friend Neil Waugh and I finally tried the place recently. He had Thai Green Chicken Curry, which he pronounced excellent. I had a big bowl of Thai Tom Yum Kai soup which was so hypnotically superb — better than the many versions I have had in bigger places — that the mere memory is drawing me back to Brooks for another bowl or two.

Bob Scammell is an award-winning outdoors writer living in Red Deer.